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Melanie Ray and Chandler Clark, of Titusville, Indiana fell in love in prison in July 2007. She was in on a minor possession charge and released in 2009. When Chandler got out in 2011, they reconnected, and they weren’t about to let anything get in the way of their future together.
Ray, 26, pledged to wait for 20-year-old Clark to get out, and they orchestrated a plan that would claim the life of an innocent man family described as a “gentle giant” — all so they could take a car out west to flee a parole violation, according to “Killer Couples” on Oxygen.
On Aug. 7, 2011, police were alerted by a motorcyclist about a corpse off the side of a rural route in southern Chester County. Andre Dupuis, 32, had been shot twice. There was a smear of blood on the underside of the guardrail and a .40 caliber shell casing on the ground. Investigators had little else in the way of evidence because heavy rain had been moving in and out of the area, likely erasing any remaining fingerprints or DNA.
Dupuis’ family was devastated. He was a landscaper who, they said, would do anything for anyone in need. He lived with his grandmother, who he took care of, and he would visit a local trade school to help train students who wanted to go into his profession.
“He was like a big teddy bear, with a smile that was contagious,” his sister Stephanie Wood told producers. “He was a true, genuine character. He cared about people.”
Without anyone who could likely bear a grudge against Dupuis to question, investigators began looking at his social life in the days before his death. They learned that he had been hanging out with a red-haired woman with tattoos he had met in a bar in nearby Rising Sun.
Andre had brought her to meet his sister at the restaurant where she worked, and Wood, who only knew her as “tattoo girl,” said she seemed genuinely interested in getting to know her brother. But authorities soon identified "tattoo girl” as Melanie Ray — and unfortunately, Ray’s intentions were far darker than getting to know him.
A red flag went up for authorities when Ray proved impossible to reach by phone. A friend of hers, however, reached out to police, disturbed when she learned of Dupuis’ murder. She was around when the two first met. She also knew that Clark had been released from prison days earlier, and that the couple had plans to run away together — and they might have been willing to kill to make it happen.
True crime journalist Janis Wilson, who has researched the case, said that soon after Clark was released, the couple cashed a bad check at a local bank. Playing on the radio in the bank was the Steve Miller Band’s “Take the Money and Run.”
“They took this as a sign from the universe,” Wilson said, “and they did not want to be ripped apart again.”
Clark and Ray planned to kill someone no one would miss, steal their car, and flee to Arizona. Phone records also showed that Ray had called Dupuis at 10 p.m. the night of his death, and his truck was missing. It looked to police like a trap.
Police began tracking Ray’s cellphone, which indicated she was headed west on Route 70, nearing Indianapolis. Again, they returned to Facebook, scouring her Friends list and finding that she had one friend who lived in the city, with an address.
The U.S. Marshalls and Indianapolis city police were alerted, and they did a courtesy drive-by of the address. Police were right on the money: A pickup truck matching the description of Dupuis’ was parked near the apartment complex.
Authorities surveilled the building before entering while the couple were asleep on the floor. They surrendered without incident.
Once in custody, Ray confessed to the murder, but insisted that it was all Clark’s idea. Her boyfriend followed suit, trying to take all the blame himself.
Both admitted to police that Ray had called Dupuis, telling him she really needed a ride. Without hesitation, he picked them both up. Clark was introduced as Ray’s cousin, and the trio was on their way. When they reached a desolate stretch of road, Ray feigned carsickness. When Dupuis got out to check on her, Clark pulled a .40 caliber handgun and demanded the keys.
Dupuis gave them up and Clark shot him once. Wounded, Dupuis tried to run, but caught one more bullet and died on the ground. The couple rolled his body to the edge of the road and under the guardrail — thus the blood smear — then down into the brush. Then they headed west.
They were both hit with criminal conspiracy, murder and robbery charges, with the death penalty recommended.
Although both at first pleaded not guilty and the prosecution’s case was jeopardized early on by a suppression motion — Ray’s public defender said that her initial confession was illegally obtained — the evidence was significant enough to get them to change their pleas.
Ray pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and Clark to first. They both were given life without parole. Ray has stayed in contact with Clark through notes while they serve their sentences. According to her mother, Wendy Norris, they are still in love.
“It’s one of those things I will never understand,” Norris told producers.
Wood said that her family has kept Dupuis’ memory alive with an educational foundation offering aid to high school students looking to enter a trade.
“He was a gentle giant, and his kindness was his weakness because that’s what resulted in him not being with us anymore,” she said. “There’s forever a void in my heart and forever a void in my family.”
For more on Melanie Ray and Chandler Clark’s twisted romance, watch “Killer Couples” at Oxygen.com and airing Thursdays at 8/7c.
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