Alan Edward Dean, convicted of the 1993 murder of Melissa Lee, professes his innocence in the courtroom during his sentencing Wednesday, April 24, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Alan Edward Dean, convicted of the 1993 murder of Melissa Lee, professes his innocence in the courtroom during his sentencing Wednesday, April 24, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Bothell man gets 26 years in cold case murder of Melissa Lee, 15

“I’m innocent, not guilty. … They planted that DNA. I’ve been framed,” said Alan Edward Dean, as he was sentenced for the 1993 murder.

EVERETT — Today, Melissa Lee would have been 46 years old.

For 31 years, the cold case “haunted” law enforcement, who could provide her family with no answers as to who killed the 15-year-old girl and dumped her body off a bridge at Mukilteo’s city limits, according to prosecutors.

“My sister has been gone longer than she lived,” Lee’s sister Kelli Littlejohn said in court Wednesday. “I only have years of memories with Melissa, but unfortunately we are reduced to only saying: ‘I wonder what she would be like today.’”

Melissa Lee

Melissa Lee

On Wednesday afternoon, Superior Court Judge Millie Judge sentenced Alan Edward Dean to 26⅔ years in prison for killing Lee. About a month ago, a jury convicted Dean, now 66, of first-degree murder. The trial lasted eight days. Jurors deliberated for under three hours before returning a verdict of guilty as charged.

At trial, Dean appeared emotionless and did not testify. But at sentencing Wednesday, Dean leaned forward in his wheelchair and exploded in rage, claiming that he was innocent, that he was framed and that the state “murdered” his daughter.

“I’m innocent, not guilty, no one ever came forward after 30 years,” Dean said. “I didn’t go near that girl. They planted that DNA. I’ve been framed, I don’t care what you people say.”

He didn’t explain further what he meant about his daughter. The trial was delayed multiple times after Dean’s arrest in 2020, due to findings about his mental health.

Deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson said in court Wednesday that Lee’s death traumatized her friends and family.

“Instead of engaging in the typical life that she should have been enjoying since 1993, Melissa Lee has been imprisoned, forever, in a grave,” Matheson said.

The defense presented an alternate theory that an ex-boyfriend played a role in Lee’s slaying. On the witness stand, the ex withstood questions about putting a “hit” on Lee.

With the help of DNA evidence, jurors were persuaded Dean was the killer.

On April 13, 1993, after meeting Lee through a phone chat line and going on a couple of dates, Dean broke into her home on Filbert Road north of Bothell. She was alone that night. He kidnapped the girl, then sexually assaulted and strangled her. Passersby found her body off the Edgewater Creek bridge the following evening.

Using clues in Melissa Lee’s journal, Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives tracked down Dean and questioned him in the early 1990s, but did not have enough evidence to make an arrest. At the time of the killing, he was 35.

Decades later, advances in DNA technology helped experts create a family tree from a small amount of blood and semen on Lee’s clothes — a relatively new technique in cold case investigations known as forensic genealogy. Research by renowned genealogist CeCe Moore led authorities to a familiar family name: Dean.

The next challenge for investigators was to figure out a way to collect Dean’s DNA, to confirm the DNA from the crime scene matched the suspect. Investigators spent months outside of his Bothell home, waiting for him to leave behind some sample of DNA they could compare to the crime scene evidence.

In July 2019, undercover detectives posed as representatives from a gum company, court documents said. They asked Dean to try a new flavor for a survey. After he finished chewing, the detectives asked him to spit the gum back into a Dixie cup.

“You’re not here to collect my DNA, right?” asked Dean. He refused.

But in April 2020, Dean ashed a cigarette and left it on the ground outside his house. Investigators rushed to pick up the cigarette butt.

After confirming the DNA from the saliva was an apparent match, detectives arrested Dean. For the next three years, it was unclear if he would stand trial. In two different instances, judges found he did not have the mental capacity to understand the case against him or to assist in his own defense. Dean spent two years in a state psychiatric hospital.

In February 2023, Judge Miguel Duran found Dean competent to stand trial but noted “concerns” with his competency evaluation, Dean’s defense attorney Daniel Snyder wrote in court documents.

Dean had no prior felony convictions. From 1977 to 2007, police arrested Dean on a variety of charges, leading to eight misdemeanor convictions.

In 1985, Dean fled Arizona after being arrested on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Dean, who was then 28, allegedly provided a runaway 13-year-old girl and her friend with marijuana that seemed to be laced with something, then had sexual contact with her, court documents said. Formal charges were never filed in the case.

Another woman reported that in the the early 1990s Dean gave her alcohol until she passed out at his apartment, according to court records. Dean allegedly raped her and would not let her leave the apartment for days, the woman reported. Dean was never charged in that case, either.

Dean had an offender score of zero, making his standard sentence 20 to 26⅔ years in prison under state guidelines.

Snyder argued for 20 years behind bars, writing he planned to appeal the conviction. Snyder said Dean’s health has steadily deteriorated since his arrest, and any sentence within the standard range will likely be a life sentence.

Former Everett detective Bob Johns, one of the original investigators on the case, said Wednesday that detectives at the time feared a serial killer murdered Lee, as the Green River Killer had yet to be caught.

Johns said he used to peer into the ravine where Lee was found, thinking about how they were failing and what they were missing.

On the witness stand last month, Lee’s mother Sharon remembered her teenage daughter as a “handful” — she smoked cigarettes and would talk to older guys on phone lines. She also liked nice clothes and never left the house with a hair out of place. On Wednesday, Lee’s family described her as someone with an inherently kind heart, frequently giving the clothes off her back to homeless people and taking care of baby animals.

“I pray to the court to put Alan Dean away, forever,” Sharon Lee said.

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486; jonathan.tall@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @snocojon.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

Grayson Huff, left, a 4th grader at Pinewood Elementary, peeks around his sign during the Marysville School District budget presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State OKs Marysville plan with schools, jobs on chopping block

The revised plan would mean the loss of dozens of jobs and two schools — still to be identified — in a school district staring down a budget crunch.

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

The Trestle’s junction with I-5 is under evaluation (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to give feedback on the US 2 trestle and its future

Often feel overwhelmed, vulnerable and on shaky ground? So is the trestle. A new $17 million study seeks solutions for the route east of Everett.

John Pederson lifts a flag in the air while himself and other maintenance crew set up flags for Memorial Day at Floral Hills Cemetery on Friday, May 24, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Volunteers place thousands of flags by veterans’ graves in Lynnwood

Ahead of Memorial Day, local veterans ensure fellow military service members are never forgotten.

Brian Hennessy leads a demonstration of equipment used in fire training at the Maritime Institute in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
‘Ready to go full sail’: Maritime Institute embarks at Port of Everett

The training facility offers Coast Guard-certified courses for recreational boaters and commerical vessel operators.

George Beard poses for a photo outside of the the Stanwood Library in Stanwood, Washington on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
From sick to the streets: How an illness left a Stanwood man homeless

Medical bills wiped out George Beard’s savings. Left to heal in his car, he got sicker. Now, he’s desperate for housing. It could take years.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Lawsuit says Snohomish County deputies not justified in Sultan shooting

Two deputies repeatedly shot an unarmed Sultan man last year, body camera video shows. An internal investigation is pending.

An airplane is parked at Gate M9 on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. (Jordan Hansen/The Herald)
Good luck to Memorial Day travelers: If you’re like me, you’ll need it

I spent a night in the Chicago airport. I wouldn’t recommend it — but with flight delays near an all-time high, you might want to pack a pillow.

toon
Editorial cartoons for Friday, May 24

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Cascade’s Mia Walker, right, cries and hugs teammate Allison Gehrig after beating Gig Harbor on Thursday, May 23, 2024 in Lacey, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Seniors Wilson, Tripp power Cascade softball past Gig Harbor

The pair combined for three homers as the Bruins won the Class 3A state softball opening-round game.

The original Mountlake Terrace City Council, Patricia Neibel bottom right, with city attorney, sign incorporation ordinance in 1954. (Photo provided by the City of Mountlake Terrace)
Patricia Neibel, last inaugural MLT council member, dies at 97

The first woman on the council lived by the motto, “Why not me?” — on the council, at a sheriff’s office in Florida, or at a leper colony in Thailand.

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.