Mellema-Witherell, Michelle

Newlywed murdered before she could return to Colorado; December 1992

Michelle Mellema-Witherell, 24, had been in 4-H since she was 9, raising sheep and building a flock that won widespread acclaim. She also showed Arabian horses. Raised in Parker, CO, Michelle graduated Ponderosa High and became a licensed real estate agent in business with her parents, Everett & Cathy Mellema.

She married Jeremy Witherell in September 1992. The newlyweds moved to Pennsylvania where Jeremy went to work with his brother who was starting a new publication. But all was not well between Michelle and Jeremy. In a phone call to her mother, in which she disclosed she planned to return to Parker, Michelle said "I don't think it is God's will that anyone live in an abusive situation."

On December 20, 1992, her body was found lying in the middle of a driveway near the apartment where the couple lived. Jeremy explained that "following an argument" a portion of the balcony wall, on which Michelle was leaning, gave way causing Michelle to lose her balance and fall. In spite of injuries inconsistent with a jump or fall, the coroner ruled the cause of death "undetermined."

Everett & Cathy Mellema posted a $50,000 reward, hired experts, sought second opinions and pressed an unwavering campaign to learn the truth. Finally, in January 1998, a coroner's inquest changed the official manner of death to homicide. Subsequently, Jeremy Witherell stood trial for causing Michelle's death but was acquitted.

Richard Walter and the VIDOQ Society reviewed the case and determined there was an inadequate investigation. Together with a Philadelphia law firm, they have presented their findings to the U.S. Department of Justice.  
Date Missing:  
Date of Death: 12/20/1992 
Jurisdiction: Allegheny County 
Local Case Number:  
CBI Case Number:  
Case Status: Unresolved
Case Type: Coroner inconclusive; family considers homicide 
Detective Name and Phone:   Husband acquitted