‘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.

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