Twenty-seven years after 15-year-old Melissa Lee was kidnapped, strangled and thrown off a bridge, authorities in Washington are confident that DNA technology is bringing her justice. Alan Edward Dean, 62, was taken into custody Monday evening in connection with the death of Melissa, officials said.
He was booked into Snohomish County Jail on investigation of first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping.
“We never gave up hope that we would find Melissa’s killer,” Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney said in a statement.
Melissa was last seen alive in April 1993. She was home alone as a friend who was supposed to stay the night never made it there. Melissa spoke to her mom from the home phone around 9:30 p.m. that night, but when her mom returned after midnight, Melissa was nowhere to be found.
The front door was ajar, the living room table was askew, an ashtray had fallen to the floor and a glass of milk was spilled, authorities said.
Her mom reported her missing that evening, and the following day, Melissa’s body was found in a ravine. Authorities determined that she died by strangulation, and ruled it a homicide.
Dean was questioned by authorities around that time, as his contact information was in her address book under the name “Michael.” He was 35 at the time, and told detectives they dated briefly. It is not clear if Melissa did in fact know him in that capacity, officials said.
But the DNA evidence on a cigarette found at the scene eventually led investigators to Dean.
The case is still under investigation, and authorities urge anyone with more information to contact the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office tip line at 425-388-3845.