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Crime News

'Suitcase Killer' Melanie McGuire Dismembers Husband, Stuffs Remains In Luggage After Having 3-Year Affair

Three matching suitcases found by fishermen contained the severed remains of Melanie's husband, Bill McGuire.

By Aly Vander Hayden

Murders A-Z is a collection of true crime stories that take an in-depth look at both little-known and famous murders throughout history. 

In April 2004, Melanie and Bill McGuire seemed to have it all: successful careers, two young sons and a new $500,000 home. But when fishermen discovered a suitcase stuffed with Bill’s remains just days after the couple had closed on their new dream home, police started asking questions about the couple’s “perfect” marriage.

Melanie McGuire (née Slate) was born in 1972 and grew up in suburban New Jersey. According to Oxygen’s “Snapped,” Melanie graduated top of her class and went on to attend Rutgers University, where she studied psychology. In 1994, she attended nursing school and worked part-time as a waitress to pay her way through school. It was at that restaurant where she met Bill McGuire, another student who went back to school to study computers after serving eight years in the Navy.

According to “Snapped,” the mutual attraction was instant, even though Bill was a married man. Within a few months of meeting Melanie, however, Bill’s marriage ended in divorce, and they started officially dating. In 1991, the two married and started a family of their own.

Bill’s friend from the Navy, Jonathan Rice, told “Snapped,” “I thought it was an excellent fit for the two of them. Between the two of them, you’d hear the banter. They seemed to be a perfect match.”

Bill then started working in information technology at a local college, and Melanie got a job a prominent New Jersey fertility clinic. According to The New York Times, Melania was not only a nurse, but also “a trusted ally, a sympathetic confidant and a steady hand.” Some patients had even started calling her the “mother whisperer,” a reporter told “Snapped.”

Less than a year after they were married, Melanie and Bill had their first son, who was closely followed by a second, reported NBC’s “Dateline.” The McGuires then started shopping for a new home to fit their family of four. Even though their careers were thriving, money was tight for the couple since housing prices were skyrocketing at the time. So, Bill turned to his second source of income: gambling.

Hayes Penn, Bill’s former roommate, told “Snapped,” “He loved to gamble. He loved the adrenaline rush from it.”

Bill was a regular in Atlantic City, and if he was feeling particularly lucky during a winning streak, “he would go down there multiple times,” reporter Kathy Change told “Snapped.” By 2004, Bill had enough money to put a down payment on a $500,000 home. On April 28, they signed the final papers and planned to move into the new home within a month.

But 48 hours later, things took a drastic turn. Melanie was in family court requesting a restraining order against her husband. She claimed they had gotten into a horrible fight the night before and that it had turned violent.

According to Melanie, after complaining about the new house and accusing her of being an unattentive mother, Bill slapped her and stuffed a dryer sheet in her mouth. She then fled for safety to a bathroom. A reporter told “Snapped” that Melanie said she was listening through the door and heard Bill rummaging through the apartment and packing things up. Melanie then heard him leave.

According to “Snapped,” Melanie didn’t seem too upset that her husband walked out on her and their kids. She’s also wasn’t very concerned about his whereabouts. Bill’s friends, on the other hand, were worried.

Bill’s friend Susan Rice told “Snapped,” “I would call, just leave a message and say, you know, ‘Bill, if you’re in any kind of trouble please call us.’”

Bill never called back.

In mid-May, three matching suitcases were found washed up in Virginia Beach, 250 miles south of the McGuires’ home. On May 5, fisherman in the Chesapeake Bay discovered the first suitcase, which contained a pair of severed legs stuffed inside two black garbage bags. The second suitcase was found on May 11, and it contained a head and torso of a white male wrapped in a blanket. On May 16, the third suitcase, containing a man’s thighs and pelvis, was found.

According to the autopsy, the victim had been shot to death with a .38-caliber weapon before his remains were dismembered and stuffed into the luggage. Though detectives were able to determine the cause of death, they were unable to identify the victim. So, they ordered a composite sketch of the remains and broadcasted it across the region.

Susan Rice told “Snapped,” The sketch came on, and my heart, I mean, it just sunk to my stomach.”

On May 21, Susan contacted the Virginia Beach Police Department and were able to confirm the victim was indeed Bill McGuire.

A month after Bill had allegedly packed up and left home, Virginia police drove to New Jersey and informed Melanie of his death. Ray Pickell from the Virginia Police Department told “Snapped” that she appeared “to be shaken, however, there was no tears.” She claimed she hadn’t seen or heard from her husband in three weeks and had already filed for divorce and moved into a new apartment, putting up the home for sale. Melanie had also put his clothing into trash bags and given them away.

When the police were done with their interview, she took the detectives to search the family’s empty townhouse. The home had been fully emptied for sale and repainted, and they found nothing of interest in the home. When Melanie was asked where she thought her husband might have gone, she quickly replied “Atlantic City” and said he had a heavy gambling problem.

Detectives drove to Atlantic City to try to find any possible leads, and they quickly found his car in an impound lot. The inside of the car was spotless, but in the glove box, they found a vial of chloral hydrate, a very powerful sedative. According to “Snapped,” the prescription was filled near Bill’s home, and it was prescribed to a patient at the doctor’s office where Melanie worked.

Detectives contacted the doctor who prescribed the sedative, but he denied ever writing the prescription and said that his signature must have been forged. Investigators then checked cell phone records between the doctor and Melanie, and they realized he and Melanie made frequent calls to one another late at night and on weekends.

David Dalrymple from the New Jersey State Police told “Snapped,” “We learned that he had been carrying on a three-year extra-marital affair with Melanie McGuire.”

Despite the doctor admitting to the affair, investigators dismissed him as a suspect in the murder and found no evidence connecting him to the death. They were, however, able to establish a motive for Melanie and arrest her in connection with the murder on June 2, 2005.

Her trial began on March 5, 2007, almost three years after Melanie filed a restraining order against her deceased husband, Bill. The defense painted bill as a gambling addict who possibly had ties to the mob. Her attorneys also focused on the fact that there was no crime scene evidence tied to Melanie.

The prosecution claimed Melanie was completely responsible for the murder. Prosecutor Patricia Prezioso argued that all evidence pointed to Melanie, including going to family court two days after Bill’s disappearance.

Prezioso said in court, “The real reason for being in family court as the evidence will show, the real reason is not to get a restraining order. The real reason is to create a defense.”

Then they presented the murder weapon. Three days before Bill disappeared, Melanie had purchased a .38 revolver, the same kind of weapon that had killed Bill. There was also a blanket wrapping Bill’s severed head, and forensics tracked the blanket back to the supplier that makes blankets for medical facilities in New Jersey, including the one where Melanie worked.

Then the defense presented the most direct evidence linking Melanie to the murder: the trash bags. An expert witness had conducted tests on the trash bags containing Bill’s body and those that Melanie had given her husband’s clothes away in.

The expert, Thomas Lesniak, said in court, “This is your dye line. You can actually see how it goes from one bag to the next. So, it's kind of like the fingerprint of that extrusion line.”

The fingerprints, according to Lesniak, were a match.

NJ.com also reported that the "evidence against McGuire included Internet searches about fatal poisons, gun laws and murder on computers seized from her home.”

The prosecution claimed that Melanie most likely gave the drugs to her husband in a drink, shot him when he was asleep and then dismembered him.

According to The New York Post, toll records from May 3 showed that Melanie drove overnight through Delaware, and prosecutors argued that was when she dumped the suitcases containing Bill’s body from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Melanie later refuted that narrative, saying she went to Delaware to shop for furniture because the state didn’t have sales tax.

The jury, however, sided with prosecution and found Melanie guilty of murder, perjury, unlawful possession of a firearm and the desecration of human remains, according to Dateline. She was ultimately sentenced to life in prison for the murder with an additional 15 years for the remaining charges. Bill’s family has custody of the children. Multiple appeals have been filed and denied.

[Photo: New Jersey Attorney General's Office]