This month’s missing persons case is going to be a rough one. Before we get into things, I just want to give a trigger warning for domestic violence and child sexual abuse. We won’t get into too many details, but those topics will be touched on briefly. With that heads up in mind, join me in examining the strange disappearance of Rachel Mellon, and the even stranger behavior of those who were closest to her. Let’s explore.
Who Is Rachel?
In 1996, Rachel Marie Mellon was in the 7th Grade at Ward Middle School in Bolingbrook, IL. She stood at 5 feet tall and weighed between 60 and 80 pounds. She had black hair and hazel eyes. By all accounts, she was a smart and happy girl who loved learning. Her favorite subject in school was science, and she had an interest in recycling and helping the planet. It seemed like she was doing well for the most part, except for one red flag that popped up. Prior to her disappearance, Rachel had run away from home, staying with a friend. I could not find how long she stayed away from her home for, but I do know that she returned home voluntarily. We can’t take this incident to mean too much, but it does likely signify that Rachel was experiencing some troubles at home – with her mother, stepfather, or both.
On January 31, 1996, Rachel stayed home sick from school. She wasn’t seriously ill, but rather suffering from a sore throat and likely relishing the idea of a day off – we’ve all been there. She was last seen wearing a pink sweatshirt with yellow sweatpants, and red slippers. She had been playing video games with her stepfather, Vincent Mellon, when she fell asleep on the couch. According to Vincent, she was still asleep on the couch when he left to walk the dog at around 2:30 PM. He specified that he did not lock the door when he left. He was gone for about a half an hour, arriving home shortly after 3:00 PM.
Here’s where things start to get strange. Vincent claims that when he got home, he noticed that Rachel had moved from the couch and was no longer in the house. Police claim that he did not check on her, though it is not known what evidence they have to support this. Rachel was not reported missing until 5 PM, which is when her mother returned home from work.
The pillows and blankets that Rachel was using for her nap on the couch were missing, but little else was. The temperature outside was below zero (-20 Fahrenheit by some reports), but the only clothes that went missing with Rachel were the ones she was wearing at the time. No outerwear such as coats, mittens, boots, or hats were missing. Personal items were also left behind, most notably her purse and her walkman. Another notable item that was left behind was Rachel’s diary, in which she detailed instances of being touched and kissed by her stepfather.
The case, unfortunately, ran cold as the police followed up on tips and leads. In 2000, a grand jury was convened when new interest was sparked after America’s Most Wanted brought more attention to Rachel’s disappearance. During this renewed investigation, Vincent gave blood, semen, and saliva samples to investigators. He also took at least one lie detector test, which he failed.
And that brings us to today, unfortunately. Rachel Marie Mellon is still missing without a trace of her in the years since her disappearance. The case is ice cold. Let’s take a look at the theories.
There are three main theories I’ve come across or developed during the research for this post. Let’s start with the theory the police began with but eventually debunked. The original working theory put forth by investigators was that Rachel had been taken away from the home by family members and perhaps obscured her to protect her from the abuse she had written about in her journal. However, no plane or bus tickets were found in her name. As time wore on and her bank account remained untouched, along with the fact that Rachel had not contacted her mother or biological father, the police dismissed this theory.
The second theory is that Rachel left the house and succumbed to the elements. I was on the fence about including this theory, as I have very little information about the neighborhood Rachel went missing from. It is possible that Rachel left the house for some reason, got disoriented, and tucked herself away somewhere, waiting for help. That, or she fell into one of the many bodies of water that dot the Bolingbrook landscape. An extensive search of the area was conducted, but remember Rachel was missing for nearly two hours before she was even reported missing. That’s a lot of time for something to happen.
The third theory, and by far the most popular online, is that Vincent Mellon had something to do with Rachel’s disappearance. It is important to remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but…things do not look good when we add them up here. We have Rachel’s journal, detailing instances in which Vincent touched her inappropriately and kissed her. We have a documented history of domestic violence in Vincent’s past. We have the failed lie detector test he took in 2000. And, perhaps most compelling, he had scratches on his body on the day of Rachel’s disappearance. He explained them away as being the result of working on his car, but the timing is extremely suspicious.
Maybe Rachel was going to tell someone about what she’d written in her diary, and he hurt her to keep her quiet. Maybe she left the house of her own volition. Maybe her illness worsened and she left in a disoriented state. All we have are maybes at this point. And until new evidence arises or someone with information comes forward, that’s all we will have.
If you have any information about what happened to Rachel Marie Mellon, please contact the Bolingbrook Police Department Missing Persons Unit at 630-2268620. Detective Mark Revis is investigating. Reference case number: 96-2670, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Case #NCMC814151, and National Crime Information Center #M916161162.