"Beware of pretty faces that you find, a pretty face can hide an evil mind."
It was the 28th of April 2004. A Wednesday. William "Bill" McGuire was having a great day. He lived with his wife Melanie and their two boys in an apartment in Woodbridge, New Jersey, United States. Bill and Melanie married in 1999 and Bill worked hard to be in a position to purchase a house so that they would have more space for the boys. He worked as a computer program analyst for a college in Newark and Melanie worked as a nurse for a medical practice in Morristown. That day, the 28th of April, Bill's hard work paid off and he closed on the purchase of their first home.
William McGuire and Melanie McGuire
Bill started to get everything in order straight away. Later that same day, at 5.37pm, he called the gas company to transfer their account to the new house. He then called two of his friends, he called one of them at 5.44pm and the other at 5.59pm to tell them the good news about the new house. He was so excited and couldn't wait to move in. The seller of the house called Bill later that night. Bill didn't answer and he didn't call back. That was unusual as Bill had eagerly retuned all their calls promptly throughout the entire transaction as he was so keen to secure the deal. Bill made no further calls that night, either via his personal phone or his work Blackberry. Nobody heard from Bill at all after about 6.10pm that night and the next day, Bill did not show up to work. He was missing.
On the 5th of May, a fisherman called John Runge of the Virginia Beach Police Department. He reported that there was a suitcase floating in the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. John told 48 Hours:
"I opened the bag up, unzipped it, noticed that there were trash bags, black colored trash bags in the suitcase. Once I peeled the trash bags back I saw a pair of human legs from the knees down."
A few days later another suitcase washed up on the shores of Fisherman's Island and a third suitcase was found by another fisherman. Inside the second suitcase, there was a white male's torso which had been severed from the waist down. The head and arms were still attached. The third suitcase contained more body parts.
Police did a sketch of the victim to try to establish who the victim was and they discovered it was Bill McGuire.
Melanie and Bill McGuire
Police notified Melanie. According to Melanie, the last time she saw Bill was the night of the 28th of April. She claimed that even though they just bought a new house, they had an argument later that night. Melanie said that the argument was due to a dryer sheet as she always used them and Bill hated them. He was so annoyed that he slammed her up against the doorway and shoved the dyer sheet in her mouth and slapped her across the face.Melanie locked herself in the bathroom with one of the boys. Melanie said that Bill packed his bags and left and that was the last time she saw or heard from him. She filed a Restraining Order against him two days later. Just over three weeks later, Melanie filed for divorce. Bill had not been in touch with her or the boys since that night, the 28th, and Melanie did not report him missing to the police.
An Autopsy determined that Bill was shot in the head and torso with a .38 caliber gun. The medical examiner found two bullets in the torso, and separate entrance and exit bullet wounds to the head and the chest. The body had been cut into three sections, drained of blood, wrapped in garbage bags, and packed into three matching suitcases.
There was a blanket wrapped around Bill's torso and that blanket was the same type of blanket that was used at the medical practice where Melanie worked. That made police, who were already suspicious of Melanie's version of events, question her even further. But Melanie claimed there was a side of Bill that nobody knew much about. Melanie claimed he was a violent man, a man who liked to gamble in Atlantic City and she suggested that police should look there to find his car and she believed they would find out why he was murdered by focusing their investigation on Atlantic City, Bill's gambling and people he was involved with.
Police found Bill's car in Atlantic City but believed that Melanie knew a lot more details than she was willing to share. They searched their apartment, Melanie's car and their storage unit but no evidence was found to suggest that a murder had taken place there or that a body was dismembered and no murder weapon was found. But as they looked deeper into Melanie's life, they discovered something. Melanie had purchased a Taurus .38 special revolver. And she bought it a mere 48 hours before Bill went missing. Melanie claimed she bought it because Bill asked her to buy it for him.
Bill and Melanie McGuire
The revolver wasn't the only secret that Melanie had. Police discovered that she was not the perfect mother and wife after all. She was having an affair with her boss, Dr Brad Miller. He too was married with children but they were involved with each other for more than two years. Things had gotten so intense and serious between them that they discussed getting married.
Police spent time building up a case and gathering numerous items of evidence and in June 2005, Melanie was arrested and charged with Bill's murder. In October 2005, a State grand jury indicted her on four charges: first-degree murder, second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, second-degree desecration of human remains, and third-degree perjury. A year later, a State grand jury returned a second indictment charging her in eight additional counts related to the anonymous communications received during the investigation. The Court consolidated the two indictments for trial.
It was the Prosecution's case that while Bill was a family man and wanted a nice house to live in with Melanie and the two boys, Melanie did not want that. She wanted to end her marriage so that she could be with Dr Miller. The purchase of the new house forced Melanie to try to change the course of her life. She did not want to move into a new house with Bill. So that night, the 28th of April, Melanie drugged and incapacitated him and then shot him.
It was the Prosecution's case that Melanie planned Bill's murder. They called State Police computer expert, Jennifer Seymour, to testify. Jennifer told the Court that she examined computers owned by the McGuires and on a personal computer used in their apartment, she found internet Google searches for:
"undetectable poisons," "state gun laws," "instant poison," "gun laws in Pennsylvania," "toxic insulin levels," "fatal insulin doses," "fatal digoxin doses," "instant undetectable poisons," "how to commit suicide," "how to commit murder," "how to purchase hunting rifles in NJ," "pesticide as poison," "insulin as a poison," "morphine poisoning," "how to find chloroform," "insulin shock," "neuromuscular blocking agents," "sedatives," "tranquilizers," "barbiturates," "nembutal," "pharmacy," "chloral hydrate," "chloral and side effects," and "Walgreens."
The searches took place between the 11th of April and the 26th of April 2004.
The Prosecution told the Court that police took special note of the search for "chloral hydrate" as that drug was found in Bill's car.
The Prosecution called James Finn to testify. He knew Melanie from nursing school and he liked her but she never felt the same. They were just friends. In mid April 2004, Melanie emailed James and told him she was having problems in her marriage and asked him about owning a gun. James told her about the requirements for buying a gun in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Just two days before Bill went missing, Melanie bought a Taurus .38 caliber revolver at a gun shop in Palmer Township, Pennsylvania. The sales receipt from the gun shop also showed an item sold for $9.95. The owner of the gun shop testified that two types of ammunition in the shop were listed for that price, wad-cutter and round-nose Ultramax bullets.
The gun was never found.
The State's forensic experts testified that the bullets recovered from Bill's body were .38 caliber wad-cutter bullets. Based on ballistics markings, they could have been fired from guns produced by six or more manufacturers, including Taurus.
The Prosecution also submitted evidence that one of the bullets recovered from Bill's body was covered with greenish-brown fiber strands. It was their case that the fibers were polyester fill and they believed the gun was covered with a pillow so that there would be no sound when fired. Bill's sister, Cindy Ligosh, testified that the McGuires had green throw pillows that had not been recovered by police.
It was the Prosecution's case that Melanie drugged Bill with chloral hydrate. Police found that drug in Bill's glove compartment in his car and they believed that Melanie left it there along with a syringe. The syringe was similar to ones used at the Morristown medical practice where Melanie worked. The prescription for the bottle of chloral hydrate was in the name of a woman who was a patient of Dr Miller at the Morristown medical practice.
The prescription was filled at 8.32 a.m. on the 28th of April 2004. It was filled at a Walgreens pharmacy in Edison. That day, Melanie dropped off the boys at their daycare facility at 8.20 a.m..The Walgreens pharmacy in Edison is 1.5 miles from the daycare facility and would take around 8 minutes to drive there from the children's daycare facility.
Dr Brad Miller
The prescription had been ordered by Dr Miller on a prescription pad from the Morristown medical practice but he denied prescribing it and a handwriting expert testified that the writing was not his. It was not unusual for Melanie to sign some of his prescriptions. The patient whose name was on the prescription testified that she had appointments with Dr Miller in March and April 2004, but she never received a prescription for chloral hydrate.
The Prosecution believed Melanie forged the prescription and collected the drug after dropping the boys at daycare.
They believed that that night, she gave it to Bill in a drink. When Bill was unconscious, Melanie then used a cushion or a pillow to muffle the sound of gunfire and shot him dead.
Melanie told Dr Miller she had driven to Atlantic City late on the night of the 29th of April to look for Bill and his car. She said she found the car in the parking lot of the Taj Mahal Casino but moved it to the Flamingo Motel to annoy him.
She told him she then took a cab back to the Woodbridge-Edison area and then took another cab back to Atlantic City to collect her own car. She made two later trips to Atlantic City to look for Bill and to check on the car in May (the 2nd and the 18th). This was despite the fact that she claimed she was so afraid of Bill that she needed to take out a Restraining Order.
In Atlantic City, the police recovered surveillance footage from the Flamingo Motel. It was not clear enough to identify who was on it but it showed somebody parking Bill's Nissan Maxima at 12.40 a.m. on the 30th of April 2004. It also showed a second car which, according to the Prosecution, was similar to Melanie's car.
The Prosecution also told the Court that Melanie's activities relating to an EZ Pass charge were unusual given the charge was for less than $1. Melanie called customer service at EZ Pass and insisted that two charges on her account for the 2nd of May and the 18th of May near Atlantic City were incorrect. Customer service refused to remove the charges.
The Prosecution argued that no other EZ Pass records were found for travel to Atlantic City even though they knew Bill's car was driven there was due to Melanie paying tolls in cash to avoid there being a record. They believed she wanted the other two charges removed so there would be no record of her movements.
The Prosecution claimed Melanie cut Bill's body into sections with a reciprocating saw and a knife, wrapped the body in industrial-type garbage bags sealed with adhesive tape, and packed it into the matching set of luggage. They submitted evidence in relation to the garbage bags that were used. Melanie had gathered Bill's clothing for disposal in several industrial-type garbage bags. State experts compared the garbage bags that contained the clothing and the ones found in the suitcases and it was their finding that they were produced on the same production line and within hours of each other.
On the 3rd of May, Melanie drove to Virginia and threw the suitcases into Chesapeake Bay.
When Melanie was initially charged with Bill's murder, she was released on bail and during that time, police received anonymous letters suggesting that somebody other than Melanie was involved in the murder.
The writer claimed to have killed "Billy Mac" because he had become unreliable and greedy. The writer accurately recited three evidential facts about the murder and the cutting of the body that had not been reported in the news.
On the 11th of October 2005, a Federal Express package was delivered to the prosecutor. A letter was addressed to "Dear Madam Assistant Attorney General." The letter claimed that they were an anonymous co-worker of Bill's sister, Cindy Ligosh, at the Weichert Realty office in Franklin Lakes. The package contained a wedding ring and bracelet believed to belong to Bill, an empty Ultramax ammunition box, a key to Bill's Nissan Maxima, a key to the lock box found in the storage facility, rubber gloves, prescription medications, and marijuana wrapped in tinfoil. The writer claimed they were found in the trash at the Weichert Realty office.
Shipping charges for the Federal Express package were paid with a $50 American Express gift card, which was purchased at a Rite Aid Pharmacy. The Prosecution showed the Court surveillance footage showing a woman walking from the parking lot of a bank into the Rite Aid Pharmacy. They claimed the woman looked like Melanie. The Defense denied this.
It was the Defense's case that Melanie did not kill the father of her children. They highlighted the fact that the State had no eyewitnesses to the murder and nobody knew how the suitcases ended up in Chesapeake Bay. There was also no trace evidence of a murder or dismembering of a body at the Woodbridge apartment.
The Defense argued that nobody had heard or seen anything connected with a shooting or cutting up of a body. They claimed Melanie bought the gun because Bill asked her to and it was their argument that the police only focused on Melanie instead of looking into her claims that he was involved in gambling.The Defense rested their case and the Jury deliberated. They reached a verdict.
Melanie was found guilty. She was sentenced to life in prison plus five years. She must serve at least sixty-six years in prison before she can be considered for parole.
The question that remains unanswered is - Did Melanie act alone?
Melanie and her Lawyer
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello