Sheriff to review McGhee mystery

Published 5:55 am Wednesday, March 23, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
There is no new information in the case of a missing local woman, Melinda McGhee, but a Thursday meeting may give the Escambia County Sheriff's Department a new starting point.
"The purpose of the meeting is to answer any questions that the family has about the investigation and to maybe generate some public interest back into the case," Capt. Chuck McMullen with the ECSD said in a prepared statement. "The date was selected since Melinda was reported missing on March 24, 2003. It has been two years now and we still have not found her."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation will meet with the Sheriff's Department to review old evidence and interviews and determine if there is anything that may have been overlooked.
The FBI is not typically involved in cases that may involve a murder, but Sheriff Grover Smith enlisted the help of Congressman Jo Bonner and Sen. Jeff Sessions to get the FBI to open the case.
"If we have a lead outside the state of Alabama because they have opened a case they can send an investigator in on it," Smith said. "Normally they don't become involved in a murder case."
The Sheriff's department has enlisted help from every source it could in the hopes of solving the possible murder of McGhee.
"With this case we called the Escambia County Florida Sheriff's Department and the Mobile Sheriff's office and asked them to review our case and asked them if there was anything we should have done that we didn't," Smith said. "We followed up with those things and then we and also (questioned) the FBI and ABI (Alabama Bureau of Investigation) and followed up on their suggestions. This case has never been inactive. It's hard to keep investigators motivated, but this case will not stop until Melinda comes home or her murderer is on death row."
The department has been treating the case as a homicide due to evidence although a body has not yet been found.
"We're working it as a homicide," Smith said. "It will be two years this Thursday. There has been a lot of coffee shop talk about any number of things, but unless we find her we do not know. We still believe that someone out there saw something that could help us solve this crime once again we would ask them to come forward."
Smith said that people come in almost everyday with leads and each one is investigated. None of the leads have panned out, however.
"We have leads every day that get run down," Smith said. "On several occasions we have had people going through a divorce who implicate their spouse. We have to check out every one of those in case there was an involvement."
As of now the department has nothing new to announce.
McGhee disappeared from her home on March 24, 2003 after an all-night nursing shift in Bay Minette.
"She worked 12-hour nights at Bay Minette at the Nursing Home," Smith said. "At seven or eight that morning she called her mother to tell her that she was going home to sleep."
Her husband worked days at Masland Carpet and was already at work when his wife returned home. He picked up their children from school that afternoon and returned to the house to find Melinda missing.
"That afternoon he went home with the kids and one of the children went ahead of him inside," Smith said. "The child came back out and said there was blood. He (the husband) went in and saw signs of a struggle and called the sheriff's office."
Since that time the department has interviewed hundreds of people in the hopes that they could shed new light on the case.
"What we're going to do is meet with all our people and we're going to review everything we've done on this case; all the evidence and see what we may have missed," Smith said. "We will re-interview people if we need to. We are going to review and determine what needs to be done next."
Smith hopes that at the very least this meeting will generate public interest in the case in the hopes that someone will come forward.
"We are going to out it back to the public again because I am sure someone has information that could break this case," Smith said. "They saw something or heard something and they need to come forward."
If you have any information regarding this case, you are asked to call the Escambia County Sheriff's Office at 368-4779.

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