The night Melanie Melanson
disappeared, she was in the woods at the edge of an unlovely industrial park, hanging out with friends.
She was a freshman at Woburn High, an occasionally troubled almost-15-year-old being raised by her grandmother, Big Irene, and her aunts. They all adored her, and she adored them right back. Even her alcoholic parents came through sometimes: Her father was about to take her shopping for a leather jacket for her birthday. She had plenty to go home to.
On that Friday night some 20 years ago, the kids, about a dozen in all, drank and smoked and messed around the way teenagers often do. For all anyone knows, they spent the hours talking earnestly about the future.
Melanie's future ended that night. There has been no trace of her since Oct. 27, 1989. Her grandmother died without knowing what had become of her. And though her aunt, Maryann Masciulli, would still rush to the location of even the unlikeliest supposed sightings, she knows this in her heart: Melanie was murdered.
The kids who gathered in these woods the night Melanie disappeared graduated, grew up, and had kids of their own. At least one of them knows something.
Initially, police thought Melanie might have run away. She had before. But in the past, she would eventually call to let her aunt know she was OK. She didn't call this time. She had no extra clothes with her.
And the two boys left in the woods with her at the end of that night initially told conflicting stories. Each said the other was the last to see Melanie.
One of them told police he had left Melanie standing alone at the head of the trail in the early hours that Saturday. He didn't give her a ride home on his motorbike, he said, because he had only one helmet.
She was only about a mile from home.
Detectives brought dogs and police recruits to the woods to search for her.
Detectives still visit the two men who saw Melanie last. Neither they, nor any of the people who surrounded her that night, have come forward with information that might lead to her remains.
That's all Masciulli wants now.
"She deserves to be found," she says, sobbing. "She deserves a decent burial."
After two decades, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone is beginning a new push to find Melanie. Today, on the edge of the woods where Melanie was last seen, Leone, Woburn police, and Masciulli plan to ask, again, for somebody to do the right thing. They're offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads them to her remains.