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Crime News Cold Cases

Police ID 1985 Suspect As Neighborhood Teen Accused Of Violently Murdering Mother Of Three

Police in Ohio say 17-year-old teen Michael Mellus attacked Patricia Stichler in her own home, slashing her throat as the victim's three daughters were asleep in their beds. 

By Jax Miller
A police handout of Patricia Stichler

Police officials in Ohio say they’ve cracked a 37-year-old case of a mother of three found brutally murdered in her home.

Patricia Stichler was found dead by her 11-year-old daughter in the early morning hours of Jan. 2, 1985, according to the Sylvania Ohio Police Division. Local outlets, including ABC Toledo affiliate WTVG, reported the 30-year-old mother had been asleep when someone entered the Sylvania, Ohio, home and attacked the woman, ultimately slashing her throat.

Stichler’s three daughters were asleep in their beds down the hall when the murder occurred, according to WTVG.

On Wednesday, police announced that a reexamination of DNA found at the crime scene led them to identify a murder suspect: a 17-year-old high school student named Michael Mellus.

“Investigators learned Michael Mellus lived on the same street as the victim at the time of the murder,” said police. “His residence was across the street and just six houses away.”

Police say Mellus was not acquainted with Stichler or her family and “would not have had any reason to be inside the victim’s home.”

Stichler was a divorced mother and worked for more than seven years with 21st Century Health Spas before her murder, according to the Ohio Attorney General. The previous day, she attended a New Year’s Eve party with 20 or more guests, but there were otherwise few clues to help investigators learn who would have wanted Stichler dead.

Officials said she was found “mostly nude” on her bedroom floor and suffered “numerous stab wounds.”

Lucas County Coroner Dr. Diane Barnett said most of the stab wounds were located on Stichler’s hands, arms, and abdomen, according to WTVG.

A yearbook photo of the late Michael Mellus

Knife cuts were also located on a shower curtain and window coverings in the bathroom, according to the Attorney General. A window had been left open, though it remains unclear whether it was opened by Stichler or someone else. Investigators said there were no signs of forced entry.

“I think she was being watched or stalked,” said Dr. Barnett. “Or somebody had a personal vendetta against her.”

The crime scene indicated a violent struggle between Stichler and her killer.

“There was blood spatter in at least two different rooms,” said Sylvania City Police Chief  Rich Schnoor, according to WGTV. “Several wounds. Blood on the bed and on the carpets.”

In 1985, authorities were unable to identify a suspect, despite a thorough investigation, according to police. Two new detectives were assigned to the case in 1998, but once again, the murder remained unsolved, even with the help of the Ohio Bureau of Investigation.

What investigators did have, however, was a DNA sample from the crime scene that belonged to an unknown male.

Recently, the DNA profile “became the focus of the investigation,” according to police. Police enlisted the help of multiple agencies, including the Ohio BCI Forensic Lab and the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office. They also established a new partnership with AdvanceDNA - Forensic Genealogy.

Using genetic genealogy, experts determined the DNA belonged to Michael Mellus, whom investigators later determined was less than 100 feet from Stichler’s home on the night of the murder.

Mellus, however, died before he could face prosecution.

“Michael Mellus joined the U.S. Army after graduating high school and died in a single-vehicle car accident in 1989 while stationed in North Carolina,” said police.

For Stichler’s surviving daughters, who vowed to see their mother’s murder solved, questions remain, according to WTVG.

“Things like, how’d you get into our house? Did you see us? Why didn’t you kill us? Did you walk past our bedrooms? Why did you kill our mother?” said Stichler’s daughter, Kirsten Kelley. “Help us understand the unknowns. Help her children end their suffering because it’s not fair to any of us.”

Oxygen.com reached out to Sylvania Police Special Services Capt. Danilynn Miller about the possibility of Mellus being involved in other homicides. Miller said they were not investigating him in regards to other cases at this time. She also emphasized that although Mellus is a murder suspect, they are still treating Stichler’s case as an open investigation.

Anyone with information about Stichler's case is asked to contact Sylvania Police Sgt. Justin Music at 1-419-885-0467.

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