It was October 27, 1989, and 14-year-old Melanie Jo Melanson had many reasons to be excited. Her birthday was in just 5 days, and the teenager was about to have her braces removed. It was also Friday and she planned to start her weekend early. Melanie and her best friend, Carmen Gonzalez left before the last bell, eager to attend a party later that night.

Melanie lived with her grandmother and her aunt Mary Ann in Woburn, Massachusetts. Since she knew her grandmother wouldn’t approve of a late-night party fuelled with drugs and underage drinking, Melanie told her she was spending the night at her friend Laura’s house next door.

Tragically, a simple night of fun and teenage rebellion resulted in a 32-year nightmare that continues to this day; Melanie never came home.

Her grandmother became frantic when she dropped by next door and learned Melanie’s story had only been a cover. She called all of Melanie’s friends but no one claimed to have seen or heard from her. It was at that point she called the police and reported her granddaughter missing.

The party took place in the woods behind an industrial park near Henshaw and Washington St. one mile from Melanie’s home. The area is surrounded by cemeteries, fields, and lakes and was known as a teenage hangout.

Melanie was last seen at the opening of the trail to the woods with two boys

Melanie was last seen with Eugene (Gene) Bertini and his best friend, James (Jimmy) Treska at the opening of the trail at 2 am.

Jimmy said he offered Melanie a ride home but she declined in an effort to spend more time with her crush, Gene. Meanwhile, Gene said he couldn’t give her a ride because he drove a motorcycle and only had one helmet. He said he rode off and saw Melanie walking in the opposite direction.

Roughly a dozen teenagers attended the party and for years, many refused to cooperate with the police. The case quickly went cold, offering no closure for Melanie’s loved ones.

In August 1992, a mysterious caller submitted a tip suggesting authorities search nearby Walker Pond claiming they would find a submerged car containing Melanie’s remains. Divers conducted two searches but found nothing.

In 2009, a tip directed authorities to Middlesex Fells Reservoir. The caller identified themselves as a “former friend” of Gene and Jimmy. Three years later, authorities searched a 2,500-acre wooded area behind a now-closed Kraft Food Plant near the site of the party. Unfortunately, both searches proved to be fruitless.

In 2015, authorities searched a home after cadaver dogs led them to the backyard; some sources claim the home once belonged to Jimmy’s father, a retired Woburn police officer. Once again, no evidence was recovered.

“We have reason to believe that more than one person over the years has not only concealed Melanie’s body but may also be involved in further concealing it or even moving it.” — Woburn District Attorney Gerry Leone, 2009

An age-progression photo of Melanie at 42

Loved ones described Melanie Jo Melanson as having a heart of gold. Her parents and grandmother have since passed but Melanie’s remaining loved ones continue the fight for justice. Although they believe she is likely deceased, they will never stop looking until they bring Melanie home. If you have any information, contact the Woburn Police Department at 781–933–1212.

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