Author Topic: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton  (Read 147220 times)

Desespere

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Melissa Jane Letain
Age: 24
COD: Strangled
DOB:
Date last seen: February 13, 1987
Location last seen: Edmonton, AB
Date found: February 14, 1987
Location found: Genesee, AB

Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton - Melissa was last seen leaving work at a popular West Edmonton Mall hair salon where she worked as a hair stylist. She was carrying Valentine's gifts for her boyfriend. It is believed someone abducted her from the walkway leading to her apartment which was right across the street from WEM.

Her body was found the next day 75km SW of Edmonton under the Genesse Bridge on the ice of the North Saskatchewan River. She was spotted by a 14 year-old boy and his friends. An autopsy revealed she died of asphyxiation, ligature strangulation. The killer used a hangman's noose made of 7 coils which is a deviation from the standard 13 coils. He used what looks like standard 1/4" yellow nylon rope.

Items of Melissa's never recovered was a CN Trucking key chain (those clear rectangular acrylic keychains) with a single key, a woman's gold tone watch with a rectangular face, a blue leather or leather looking woman's wallet and a green clutch purse with a gold clasp.

The video showed a flash of a witness description issued of Melissa's killer. The description said: White male, 6' tall, slim to medium build, dark hair swept back at the sides, dark pants and what appears to be a black and grey jacket, bottom half black (or dark) and the top half grey (or light).

Melissa was recovered from the middle of the ice under the Genesee Bridge. The killer abducted her and threw her body off the bridge onto the ice below. The Genesse Bridge is on Highway 770 which leads to the Genesee power generating station. Back in the day, I heard, Genesee used to provide rental housing for their employees. I don't remember what year they stopped doing that, but I think in 1987 it was the case.

Wabamum Lake is the big lake one can see Genesee borders. This lake is often not frozen in parts because the water spoils from the plant is heated when it's dumped into the lake. Ducks stay in that part all year. I wonder if the killer thought the ice would be thin enough, due to heating, and Melissa would go through.

Melissa's friend said in the video he thinks it's someone known to Melissa. He is not a suspect. There is DNA profile retrieved in about 1997 and it's being put or has been put into the database. I really have no clue how this database works.

This is all the information I could get from the video. There is more information about Melissa and the people who knew her and found her at this link provided in another thread:

http://edmonton.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20081022/edm_unsolvedmurders_feature_081022/20081022/?hub=EdmontonHome#TopVideoAn

modified to add: February 13 was a Full Moon.  :'(
« Last Edit: April 07, 2009, 07:02:10 PM by Desespere »

Chris

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Re: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton
« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2009, 09:16:13 PM »
I know which bridge that is, I just looked it up. You drive west on highway 16A to the Carvel exit and head south on 770. Eventually, you cross the river.

If I am not mistaken, there is a HUGE power plant there too so it seems unlikely that area provided any privacy. I could be wrong though, it could have been a different bridge, but there is a lake called Genesse right there too.

bestcho

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Re: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2010, 02:06:49 PM »
I was the lead diver that unfortunate day. my task was to collect her and any evidence that may be in the area. The murderer obvoiusly thought he was dropping her body into open water on the river. In fact, there was water flowing on top of a thin layer of ice. Her torso was partially frozen into that thin layer where much of the evidence was found. Although evidence was limited, there were a few things to mention. It appeared she was strangled and sexually assaulted. it did not appear that she was hung. numerous garbage bags were located immediately beside her but the RCMP have never released the description of their contents so it is not known if they are related. a bic lighter was also found next to her but there was no indication that she smoked. there were also rub marks on the railing of the bridge.  Indicating that there was likely only one killer. I have been trying to find additional info to try and refresh my memory with limited success. it should be noted that there was an unusual fact. Assuming that the vehicle she was in, was travelling from Edmonton, it would have been travelling in a southwest direction. The river there runs in a northerly direction. Whats unusual about this is the killer would have had to stop his vehicle then remove her body , and carry it accross the bridge to the south side railing before lifting it over. Hardly something a panicked and new killer would do.   It would seem then, that he had done this before. As I recall there were also vehicle paint chips recovered which probably would have identified a make and model of vehicle.

bestcho

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Re: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2010, 02:39:32 PM »
Although there was running water around Melissa, she was not totally submerged. much of her clothing and personals were frozen into the ice. A great amount of time was spent by us to collect even the smallest fibres in the ice. With todays science, I think there would be a good chance that DNA is recoverable. The RCMP officer that I used to deal with on water related cases is now retired so I am kinda out of the loop. I still have an interest though, as after all the situations that I worked on, tis is the only unsolved one

haunted

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Re: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2010, 02:50:35 PM »
Welcome bestcho.

I wonder if the retired officer whom you used to work with, might still have connections?

Being that involved, I can totally understand why you have a vested interest in the solving of this crime.

bestcho

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Re: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2010, 03:23:53 PM »
it stuns and frustrates me that with the technology available today, that our politicians seem to take such a come-by-chance attitude toward cold cases. How many others are dying because new evidenciary practices are not being used for a national/international data base that may identify suspects. The status quo seems to be hit and miss at best.

Chris

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Re: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2010, 05:42:15 PM »
bestcho... thanks for the info. That is itneresting observation that this killer might have done it before due to the obvious lack of panic.

I am under the impression though, that bodies dumped in rivers are almost alwasy found? I might have gotten that from CSI though so I am probably wrong.

Wouldn't that river eventually have carried the body thru Edmonton? Makes you wonder if that was part of the plan, who knows.

Hope the evidence you folks got then, can lead to a conviction now.

bestcho

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Re: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2010, 08:20:01 AM »
Chris, thanks for responding. In fact, thank you all for responding. In answer to your query, yes, most unfortunates are recovered. There are many many variables to  weigh when discussing and /or investigating water related deaths. For instance, type of water, movement of water, size of person, clothing, ingested material(food,drink,alcohol, etc) Temperature (air & water), time of year, cause of death as well as others. While I am more than willing to discuss these matters with anyone interested, the details can sometimes be rather disturbing to some.
I would be happy to give anyone interested, the Readers Digest version if they have specific questions. For the full monty however, you may consider trying to locate a book that to this day is considered to be the bible of underwater investigation. Although written nearly twenty five years ago its still the "go to" book. If you find it however, be prepared to, at least be shocked. Not the kind of book and pictures that you bring out at the dinner table.

Underwater Investigation
Written by Corporal Teather
RCMP Vancouver

bestcho

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Re: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton
« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2010, 09:07:16 AM »
Chris,

In respone to your a  question regading whether her body would have made it to Edmonton had it been dropped in open river water. Unfortunately, there is no exact answer to that question. But I will try to give you a synopsis. The Gennessee bridge crosses the North Sask river about 65 miles from Edmonton. upstream from that bridge is the Brazzeau dam. because it is a dammed river, water levels can and do change quite drastically. From a slow wandering river from Jan to May to a fairly nasty one june thru Aug depending on the spring thaw from the mountains. It is though, a fairly cold river. Generally speaking, the colder the water, the less movement of particulates and bacteria. In warm water, bacteria (decomposition) occurs faster. than in cold water. in non-moving water, that rate is somewhat more predictable. The problem with moving water, is that the unknowns such as speed of the water, depth, branches/trees, bottom covering(rocks,pebbles,sand,grass etc) and the topography all change the movement of a body. Additionally, what the person had to eat/drink also come into play. Gassy foods or alcohol can increase the internal gasses inside the stomach and digestive system. This changes the speed at which a body decomposes and/or floats,sinks or refloats days or even weeks later. As a rule, once a body starts to sink, it will sink all the way to the bottom. It will not suspend at a mid-levels or "hover". Once on the bottom, all the above, will come into play and the body may or may not refloat. As the vast majority of Alberta lakes are shallow (less than 50 feet deep) the likelyhood of refloating is good because the water temp is fairly warm, and the heat from the sun will make it through the first thermocline. As the body decomposes gas is created within the body, it bloats, then refloats. In rivers however, if the movement is sufficient, the body, once it sinks, will tend to roll. This doesn't allow gasses to build within the body as the gas is expelled by the rolling motion. As such, the body will stay on the bottom. It will continue to roll if the current is sufficient until it either completely decomposes or it gets caught by rocks, branches, or he water gets too shallow. There are large sandbars at Devon and just east of Edmonton. These generally slow or stop bodies from going further. there is the odd exception though. I hope I didn't totally confuse you with my partial  explanation.






















bestcho

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Re: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2010, 11:16:07 AM »
In a recent discussion, I mentioned to someone that when looking at crime scenes, photos, videos, etc. we often focus on the obvious. That is human nature. News types and camera men are aware of this and tend to centralize what it is that they want us to see. Here is a small tip to help you would-be sleuths. We all too often look for the obvious, or for what our minds and/or preconceived notions are thinking what should be there. Here's the tip. Try and clear your mind of those notions and look for those things that either aren't there or those things that just don't belong there. Everyone has at one time or another, dropped something on their bedroom floor, spent hours scouring the floor, with no luck, only to find that item later when NOT looking for it. That's the point. The difficulty of finding something you are not looking for especially when you don't know what that might be. For example. A number of years ago, I was asked if I might be able to locate an overturned jet boat in a river. Two separate amateur groups had searched for it with no success even though numerous people knew exactly where it had gone down. Within a short period, I located it by not looking for a jet boat, but by looking for something that was out of place or shouldn't have been there. I found it by seeing a part of something that was out of place. It just shouldn't have been there.
You have all seen hundreds of well meaning volunteers out searching a small area looking for a small child with no luck, only to have someone weeks later in the same spot while out casually walking their dog. Automatically, we think, "how could so many people have missed that". There's the point. someone found something because they weren't looking for it, they merely noticed something odd or out of place. Hope that helps you all a little bit . Good hunting!!

Chris

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Re: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2010, 01:10:38 AM »
You know that is a good point. Indeed that is great advice.

whodidit

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Re: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2010, 12:43:33 PM »
Hello everyone, this is my first time on here. This case seems to come up in the back of my mind from time to time. About a year after the murder I met one of Melissa's sisters through a mutual friend who was her roomate at the time. We had gone out for supper and a few drinks and that is when I heard the story from her sister. I have never forgotten the pain and devastation that was so apparent that evening. It also turns out that I worked on the same jobsite as Melissa's boyfriend a year prior to the murder.
For whatever reason, I've gained a renewed interest in this case and that's why I'm here.
I have read whatever I can find on the net, which isn't a whole lot but from what I've read about the case so far I do not personally believe for one minute that this was a random act or the work of some serial killer travelling all over North America, doing his thing.
This guy knew Melissa and I think he had an emotional connection to her on some level, perhaps an infatuation or obsession, which she may or may not have been aware of.
This guy could perhaps have been a client of Melissa's who became obsessed with her through regaular contact at the hair shop, it could've been someone working in the mall that she had regular interaction with, such as a place where she regularly went for coffee, lunch etc or perhaps a member of the mall security staff or whatever other regular exposures to a certain individual there may be. I'm just throwing this out there.

Chris

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Re: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2010, 12:51:30 PM »
Quote
I do not personally believe for one minute that this was a random act or the work of some serial killer

I agree with your opinion. Had to have been someone she would have had normal, even if casual, contact with on a regular or semi regular basis.

I am surprised that no suspect has been identified yet.

whodidit

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Re: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2010, 01:05:03 PM »
To me, the most telling thing is the Hangman's noose. It shows planning, pure and simple. I've made a hangman's noose before and to do it well and neatly which it appears to be in the pictures, takes time. The rope has to be procured, the knot tied etc. Do the seven coils mean something? who knows. Maybe he ran out of rope before getting to thirteen coils, maybe he didn't know about the standard thirteen coil noose or maybe the seven was in fact very significant to his sick mind.
The fact that the murder happened on Valentine's day (more or less) has got me curious. That's a day for lovers. Pure coincidence? or again the signs of a sick and obsessed mind? I don't know.
I think the guy is an outdoorsy type, he has some knowledge of ropes, he seemed to know where the river was not frozen in the dead of winter, he was probably quite familiar with the bridge and fairly comfortable with stopping on it and dumping the body over without being seen.  I don't agree with Bestcho's asessment about being so calm and experinced that he actually took the time to stop in the other lane and carry her body across to the other side of the bridge. I believe he crossed the bridge in his vehicle, travelled down the road a bit to check for traffic, turned around and came back to the bridge, vehicle facing back towards Edmonton. The other way would've been to vulnerable for him, travelling out of his comfort zone instead of back to it, had he been seen
« Last Edit: August 02, 2010, 01:20:26 PM by whodidit »

whodidit

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Re: Melissa Jane Letain - February 13, 1987 - Age 24 - Murdered - Edmonton
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2010, 01:39:57 PM »
The location where the body was dumped and the instrument of murder (noose) are in my mind, secondary components. They were both planned and thought out. The primary object of this guy was Melissa. I don't think anybody would focus on buying the rope, making a noose and then think about where the river might be un frozen and THEN go look for some random victim nearby a mall where the risk of getting caught would be far greater than let's say just waving a fifty dollar bill in front of some prostitute who would gladly get into the car without any kind fo a struggle. With the DNA profile in place, I would venture to guess that the police have eliminated any jilted boyfriends or close friends and so on.
They need to focus on people that were farther removed from Melissa yet close enough that some form of emotional connection was present. The emotional connection here is key, without it Melissa would be just another complete stranger and be of no interest to the murderer.
I'ts coming up to a quarter century here, I say it's time the cops blow the icing sugar off the files and get to work on this before any of the potential witnesses die from old age!