10 years later, questions linger about Debra Melo’s disappearance
Investigators still pursuing 2000 case
File photo.Ten years after she vanished, the disappearance of Debbie Melo of Taunton remains an open case in Bristol and Norfolk counties.
Lisa Bul/The Patriot Ledger.Richard Whalley of Taunton stands on Route 18 in Weymouth holding a poster with a picture of his missing sister Debbie Melo on it trying to keep people looking for her, on the 5th anniversary of her disappearance in 2005. Melo is still missing.
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By Lane Lambert
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Jun 18, 2010 @ 07:49 AM
WEYMOUTH — Debra Melo and her husband Luis Melo were in the middle of an argument on the afternoon of June 20, 2000, when she asked him to stop the car and let her out.
Luis Melo says he pulled onto the side of Route 18, near the old South Weymouth Naval Air Station, and watched the 30-year-old wife and mother walk away.
No one has seen her since.
Ten years later, the Taunton woman’s disappearance remains an open case in Bristol and Norfolk counties. The Bristol County District Attorney’s Office is investigating it as a homicide.
But no fresh leads have turned up since Bristol DA Samuel Sutter revived Melo’s case in 2007. With little more than Luis Melo’s account to go on, Sutter is again urging the public to call his office’s tip line at 866-765-8307.
“Any little piece of information can break open a case, even if it’s 10 years old,” Sutter’s spokesman Gregg Miliote said.
Miliote noted that the office has solved nine cold cases since 2007, one of them from 1986.
Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating’s spokesman David Traub said the county’s investigators check all new leads, and share any information with Bristol County and with Taunton and Weymouth police.
The Melos together managed a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in Braintree. At the time of Debra Melo’s disappearance, Luis Melo told police they were arguing about money and that he let her out of the car and drove off believing she would return home later. He told police that he changed his mind and returned to the spot, but she was nowhere in sight.
Police said Melo did not report his wife missing for 24 hours. Along with extensive air and ground searches in Weymouth, Taunton and other locations, police also searched Melo’s house and car.
Questions about Luis Melo lingered, especially after he failed a lie detector test, but police stopped short of calling him a suspect.
Debra Melo’s mother, Marilyn Gagnon, said the couple’s 14-year marriage had been “rocky.” Debra had filed a restraining order against her husband in 1996, but withdrew it after 14 days.
Luis Melo didn’t join Debra’s family and friends for any of their vigils, Masses and informal searches. He hasn’t made public comments about his missing wife in years, and couldn’t be reached this week by The Patriot Ledger.
Debra Melo’s mother, Marilyn Gagnon, couldn’t be reached this week, either. Melo’s brother, Richard Whalley, died in 2008. He had led an awareness campaign about his sister’s disappearance.
Luis Melo moved on with his life – though not without further incident. In 2003 he was arrested for domestic assault on his then girlfriend, Samira DeOliveira, and was given one year’s probation.
In 2006 he divorced Debra on grounds of abandonment and married DeOliveira.
Lane Lambert may be reached at email@example.com.