Mel Ignatow was an American criminal who was accused of murdering Brenda Sue Schaefer, his ex-girlfriend. Mel’s initial acquittal due to a paucity of evidence against him contributed to the case’s popularity. However, photographs that were subsequently discovered proved Mel’s guilt. After the evidence was discovered, the victim’s family attempted to reopen the investigation. It came out, however, that this was illegal. A person could not be tried twice for the same offense, according to the double jeopardy principle that was applied in this case. However, he was subsequently imprisoned on multiple counts of perjury or misleading the court by swearing falsely. In September 1988, two years into their relationship, they were murdered. When Mel learned that Brenda intended to abandon him, he conspired with one of his ex-girlfriends to murder her. When Mel was exonerated for lack of evidence, the judge felt so guilty that he wrote an apology letter to Brenda’s parents, who had passed away prior to the trial. In March 2000, the criminal television series ‘American Justice’ aired an episode based on Brenda’s murder.
Background Melvin’s Career
On March 26, 1938, Henry Ignatow, best known as Mel Ignatow, was born. In 1986, he began dating Brenda Schaefer. They had a harmonious relationship until trouble began to develop. Mel was an abusive boyfriend, and he knew that Brenda would eventually tire of him and terminate their relationship. In 1988, when Brenda was murdered, the couple was still together and residing in Louisville, Kentucky, United States.
Mel was infatuated with Brenda. He was aware that she intended to end their relationship, but he could not accept her decision. He contacted one of his ex-girlfriends, Mary Ann Shore, and devised a plan to commit the murder in a manner that would eliminate any possibility of being caught.
They intended to murder her in Mary’s home and also excavated a grave in her backyard. In addition, they intended to torture her for weeks before murdering her. To ensure that their strategy was foolproof, they repeatedly scream-tested the house and ensured that her screams would not travel beyond the house’s walls.
Mel’s The Murder
Mel Ignatow and Brenda met on September 23, 1988, in the evening, because Brenda had to return the jewelry Mel had given her previously. He brought her to Mary’s residence, where he and Mary had intended to commit the murder. When they arrived at Mary’s residence, Mel pointed his gun at Brenda.
She was then bound and gagged. He made her undress and took pictures of her. He then mercilessly raped and sodomized her before putting her to death with chloroform. After murdering her, he and Mary removed the jewelry and photographs and buried Brenda’s corpse in the backyard grave they dug.
Mel Ignatow’s Trial
Authorities were baffled about Brenda’s disappearance and death, but they suspected that Mel played some sort of role. However, no evidence or witnesses against him were discovered. The absence of Brenda’s body also prompted the police to remove Mel’s name from the list of suspects. As a final effort to identify the murderer, the police invited Mel to court and asked him to testify before the grand jury.
Mel mentioned Mary in his statements, providing the police with sufficient evidence to invite Mary to participate in the investigation. By then, a year had elapsed, and the police were concentrating on Mary Shore. After being investigated and questioned by the authorities, she testified that she and her ex-boyfriend, Mel, had conspired to murder Brenda.
She also led police to Brenda’s grave, which was dug in the house’s courtyard. Strong evidence against Mel, such as residues of blood or sperm, was not discovered because the body was severely decomposed by that time. In the absence of firm evidence, the police compromised with Mary. She was warned that she would be charged with evidence tampering, a minor offense if she assisted the police in obtaining sufficient evidence against Mel.
She met Mel while wearing a wire, as instructed by the authorities. She informed him that she was being pursued by the ‘Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and that her home was up for sale. Mel responded that he was not concerned about someone else purchasing the property because the grave they had dug was not shallow.
On the recording played for the jury, it was evident that Mel had mumbled the word “dug.” The police believed he said “grave,” but he actually said, “safe.” The jury believed that the use of “safe” could have referred to a “safe” containing jewelry. In addition, the jury did not find Mary’s testimony credible because she chuckled repeatedly during her testimony. In addition, the defense suggested that Mary was the murderer and that she likely murdered Brenda out of jealousy.
Due to the lack of substantial evidence against Mel, the jury had no choice but to acquit him of all charges. Even though Brenda’s body displayed signs of torture, there was no evidence that could have led investigators to her murder.
The parents of Brenda passed away shortly after her body was recovered. According to some of their relatives and acquaintances, the couple passed away as a result of the grief caused by the death of their daughter. When Mel was acquitted, the judge wrote a letter to Brenda’s parents apologizing for his inability to find her killer.
Mel Ignatow’s Aftermath
Six months after his acquittal, Mel Ignatow sold his home in order to raise funds for his defense. Soon after, substantial evidence against him was uncovered. A carpet layer laboring at Mel’s former residence discovered what appeared to be a plastic bag under the floor. Inside the bag, he discovered jewelry and undeveloped film reels. When the film was developed, gruesome images of Mel torturing Brenda were revealed.
Mary had previously described the scenarios, and they were identical. The recordings also revealed Mel’s cold-blooded rape of Mary. Mel’s face was not plainly visible on the tapes, however. Despite this, the police discovered similarities between Mel’s hair patterns and moles and those of the man on the recording.
Mel was aware that he would not be tried twice for the same offense. Consequently, when he was brought before the grand jury, he confessed to the crime. Mel turned toward Brenda’s sibling, who was present during the trial, and stated that he had ensured Brenda’s peaceful passing.
Mel was subsequently charged with perjury. Five years of his eight-year sentence were served. Later, he was tried for giving false testimony against Brenda’s employer, in which he claimed that the employer had sent death threats to Mel. Mel was given a nine-year prison sentence for perjury related to this case.
In 2006, Mel was eventually released from prison. He returned to Louisville and began living four miles away from the residence where he had murdered Brenda. Multiple documentaries on the case have been produced by media outlets such as ‘MSNBC’ and ‘CourtTV.’
All of these documentaries portrayed Brenda as a sweet, innocent, and simple girl, eliciting widespread pity for Brenda and contempt for Mel Ignatow. Ignatow perished on September 1, 2008, after sustaining a head injury in a fall that caused him to bleed to death. He was 70 years old when he passed away.
Estimated Net Worth
The estimated Net Worth of Mel Ignatow is $2 million.