‘93 slaying hangs over mother’s life

BOTHELL — Melissa Ann Lee spoke with her mother on the phone the night she disappeared.

She was at home. Three hours later, when her mom returned from work, the 15-year-old girl was gone.

The front door was open. There were signs of a struggle inside the Bothell house.

The next day a couple spotted Melissa’s body in a brushy ravine under the Edgewater Creek Bridge near Mukilteo.

She was strangled to death.

The killer has never been arrested.

Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives included the 1993 homicide in the state’s first deck of cold-case playing cards. Melissa is featured on the King of diamonds.

Since May, more than 3,000 decks of the playing cards have been handed out in prisons and jails around the state.

Inmates are being offered a $1,000 reward for information that leads detectives to arrests in unsolved homicides and missing-persons cases dating back four decades.

Cold-case playing cards have been successful in Florida, where homicide detectives have made a handful of arrests based on information they received from inmates who saw the playing cards.

Investigators in Snohomish County are hoping for similar success.

Detectives identified a suspect in the months after Melissa’s slaying but weren’t able to make an arrest.

“We just never got enough evidence to prove who killed her,” sheriff’s Sgt. Gregg Rinta said.

That suspect hasn’t been ruled out.

Melissa’s family offered a $10,000 reward after the girl’s slaying. They posted ads in local newspapers urging people to step forward with tips.

“I can’t go on with my life with this hanging over me,” the girl’s mother, Sharon Lee, told The Herald in 1994. “It’s like it’s there every single day, every single night. I want somebody to be caught, not only so Melissa can be at rest, but so I can be at rest.”

Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or hefley@heraldnet.com.

About this series

Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives created the state’s first deck of cold-case playing cards. Each Sunday for a year, The Herald is publishing a story about a case featured on one of the cards. To see the 52 cards, go to www.heraldnet.com.

Anyone with information about unsolved homicides or missing persons cases is asked to call 800-222-TIPS (8477). A reward of up to $1,000 is offered.

Tips also can be left on the sheriff’s tip line at 425-388-3845. Callers may remain anonymous, although tips have been more successful when callers speak with detectives, police said.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A big decision for Boeing’s next CEO: Is it time for a new plane?

As Boeing faces increased competition from Airbus, the company is expected to appoint a new CEO by the end of the year.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Mukilteo Speedway name change is off to a bumpy start

The city’s initial crack at renaming the main drag got over 1,500 responses. Most want to keep the name.

Two workers walk past a train following a press event at the Lynnwood City Center Link Station on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Trains up and running on Lynnwood Link — but no passengers quite yet

Officials held an event at the Lynnwood station announcing the start of “pre-revenue” service. Passengers still have to wait till August.

Nedra Vranish, left, and Karen Thordarson, right browse colorful glass flowers at Fuse4U during Sorticulture on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
A promenade through Everett’s popular Sorticulture garden festival

Check out a gallery of the festival’s first day.

Left to right, Everett Pride board members Ashley Turner, Bryce Laake, and Kevin Daniels pose for a photo at South Fork Bakery in Everett, Washington on Sunday, May 26, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Second Everett Pride aims for even bigger rainbow of festivities

Organizers estimated about 3,000 people attended the first block party in Everett. This year, they’re aiming for 10,000.

Pride flag vandalism raises concerns on Whidbey Island

Reports of theft involving LGBTQ+ pride-themed displays have increased around South Whidbey.

The I-5, Highway 529 and the BNSF railroad bridges cross over Union Slough as the main roadways for north and southbound traffic between Everett and Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Highway 529 squeeze starts now between Everett, Marysville

Following a full closure for a night, starting late Sunday, Highway 529 will slim down to two lanes for months near the Snohomish River Bridge.

An emergency overdose kit with naloxone located next to an emergency defibrillator at Mountain View student housing at Everett Community College on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
As deadly overdoses decline, Snohomish County builds on what’s working

Opioid-related deaths have decreased 20% compared to this time last year. Local health officials say there’s “still much work to do.”

Police blocked off southbound I-5 near Marine View Drive in Everett after an “incident” blocked the roadway on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
None injured in shooting that closed I-5 south in Everett

The shooting shut down traffic on the freeway Wednesday near Marine View Drive, causing a major backup.

Edmonds City Council members answer questions during an Edmonds City Council Town Hall on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds begins process to join South County Fire

To avoid a lapse in services, the city will likely come to voters in April asking for their final approval.

A man led police on a high speed chase through north Snohomish County on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)
New public database answers Snohomish County’s pressing crime questions

Prosecutor Jason Cummings hopes the database can give a better understanding of the local criminal justice system.

PUD employee Kyle Tucker opens part of the breaker system at the Jennings Park Substation in Marysville, Washington on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
With eye on growing county, PUD replaces aging Marysville substation

The $8.4 million project north of Jennings Park is expected to be finished in October. It’s one part of a 10-year PUD plan.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.