These guys are talking about control.

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01.21.06 48 Hours The Phone Call Run Dates

01.21.06 48 Hours The Phone Call

08.15.06 48 Hours The Phone Call

48 Hours Mystery
CBS Jan 21 10:00pm Add to My Calendar
Series/Talk, 60 Mins.

"The Phone Call"
The FBI spends 10 years trying to unravel the case of a college girl's disappearance.

Original Airdate: January 21, 2006.






Butch Hinton worked for Delta Airlines

Shannon Melindi

Athnena Perez

Angel Menendez

Deklab -




handling of carr - corrected it quickly



01.19.06 WAT 412 Patient X



01.21.06 Relevance ?
01.21.06 Relevance ?



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The Phone Call
(Page 1 of 7)

Jan. 19, 2006
Shannon Melendi had big plans in life. One of her goals was to become a Supreme Court justice. (CBS)


(CBS) Shannon Melendi was a 19-year-old college sophomore at Emory University when she disappeared without a trace on March 26, 1994. Shannon’s parents immediately told police their daughter had been kidnapped but authorities dismissed that theory until a mysterious phone call and a clue would take this investigation to a whole new level.

Correspondent Troy Roberts reports.


It was just a week before Easter, and nearly everyone in Atlanta had heard the news that Shannon Melendi had vanished without a trace.

Authorities eventually launched an extensive and frantic search throughout the city, combing the ball park where Shannon was last seen, the backwoods and the rivers, but found nothing. The young woman had disappeared without a trace.

Shannon grew up in Miami with her parents Luis and Yvonne and her kid sister Monique. Shannon loved the outdoors, especially water skiing in the Florida Keys.

"We were an extremely happy family. We had two beautiful children and we loved it," remembers Shannon's mother, Yvonne Melendi. "We were happy. We went places, we shared things. We lived the American dream."

It was a dream especially sweet for Shannon's father, Luis Melendi, a Cuban immigrant who is an award-winning professional photographer and owns a successful portrait studio.

The Melendis, who had become high profile in the Miami social scene, say they knew their daughter was born to be a leader. She was class president, captain of the debate team and maintained a high GPA.

When it was time for college, she chose Emory University in Atlanta. Her long-term goal was to become a Supreme Court justice. As part of her commitment to public service, Shannon worked at The Carter Center, the non-profit organization founded by former President Jimmy Carter.

Shannon even found time for a part-time job working at a softball field. She was working as a scorekeeper on the day she disappeared.

Shannon’s roommate, Athena Perez, became worried when Shannon didn’t return to her dorm room that evening. Hours later, Athena and her friends discovered Shannon’s car, a black Nissan 240 SX, abandoned and called police.

Athena remembers a female officer arrived at the scene. "She took all of our information, but was very laid back about it. She said, 'Okay, go ahead, drive it, the car, back to campus.' That’s what we did."

It would become the first of many mistakes authorities would make.

As the hours passed, Athena became even more frightened and decided to call Shannon’s family.

"I remember dialing that phone number," she says. "And just dreading that moment because I thought, 'How do you tell someone’s parents you can’t find their child? You don’t know where she is?' "

Shannon’s father, Luis, remembers getting an “eerie feeling.” "I fell to my knees and I said ‘It’s Shannon. We’ll never see her again.’"

Shannon’s parent’s immediately left for Atlanta, arriving dazed and devastated. All they knew was that their beautiful 19-year-old daughter had vanished. What they couldn’t have imagined was the reception that they got from the very people they had expected to help them: the police.

When the Melendis talked to police, they say they told officers their daughter was not missing but kidnapped. What stunned them even more was what authorities told them had happened to their daughter.

"Ah, 'She ran away, she’s a college student, don’t worry about her. She’ll show up,' " Yvonne recalls police telling her.

Yvonne and Luis couldn’t believe what they had heard and insisted that the police had it all wrong. Luis says police were dismissive and disrespectful.

Investigators not only believed that Shannon had run away, they were convinced that those who knew her best knew exactly where she was. So they zeroed in on Shannon’s friends.

"I was pulled out of class," remembers Shannon’s roommate, Athena, who says police questioned her for more than eight hours. “ 'Shannon ran away, you guys know where she is, you know, you’re hiding her.' I was like, 'You are crazy, you’ve got to be kidding me. I’m not hiding her,' " she recalls.

The Phone Call
(Page 2 of 7)

Jan. 19, 2006
Shannon Melendi had big plans in life. One of her goals was to become a Supreme Court justice. (CBS)

Luis and Yvonne now believed they were in a race against time to find Shannon, and decided to take matters into their own hands. They turned to their friends, like Shannon’s old high school teacher, Angel Menendez, who within a matter of hours helped raise thousands of dollars.

Posters of Shannon offering a $10,000 reward were plastered all over Atlanta and billboards lined major highways.

The Melendis also tapped in to some of Miami’s top celebrities, including Bo Jackson and Andy Garcia, who appeared in public service announcements. And they appeared on national television programs including “America’s Most Wanted.”

For almost two weeks, there was no sign of Shannon, until April 6, 1994, when an anonymous male caller phoned the Emory University counseling center with a message.

"In that call, which was very brief, he said that he had Shannon and she was OK. And that he would make his demands later and hung up the phone," says DeKalb County prosecutor Mike McDaniel.

The FBI traced the call to a pay phone and found evidence intentionally left behind by the caller that would link him to Shannon. It was wrapped in masking tape.

Wrapped inside the masking tape was a bag, and inside the bag was a ring, which Yvonne Melendi says was Shannon's, given to her by her godmother.

The mysterious phone call and the bizarre discovery of Shannon’s blue topaz ring confirmed what the Melendis had believed all along: that their daughter had been taken against her will.

Finally authorities agreed with them.

"That was, I would say, the real turning point," says Yvonne. "It gave us hope that she was still alive."

A 1993 family portrait taken by Luis would prove to be critical to the case since the topaz ring can be seen on Shannon's hand in the photo.

Three weeks after Shannon had disappeared, Luis and Yvonne returned to Miami and were reunited with their younger daughter, Monique. Yvonne says returning home without Shannon was "horrible."

"Her room basically turned into a shrine," remembers Yvonne. "We had candles everywhere. We had prayer vigils in there. It became a crying room. We’d go in there and we’d lay on her bed and we’d cry and we’d pray and we’d curse God."

DeKalb County Police Sergeant Ray Ice was named the lead investigator assigned to Shannon’s case and he was determined to make up for lost time.

"It became my responsibility to do an overview of the entire case. Find out what mistakes had been made," says Ice.

One of the more glaring mistakes, according to Ice, was the initial handling of Shannon’s car.

"We corrected it quickly, but you know the damage may have been done by then," he says.

DeKalb County prosecutor John Petrey agrees. "The initial treatment of this case as it’s just 'College Girls Gone Wild,’ it’s an MTV show, you know. Shannon’s run off to be with her buddies in Cancun or whatever. Giving the car back to the roommates was a huge mistake."

Two weeks after Shannon was kidnapped, investigators finally shifted into high gear. They reconstructed her final hours at the softball park, talking to everyone they could who had been there on the day Shannon had vanished.

Among them was Jerry Chastain, who pitched the very game where Shannon had worked as a score keeper.

"The home plate umpire, he would not pay attention to me while I was pitching. I would throw a pitch and then, mid-stride, he would turn around and look at the scorekeeper behind the fence," says Chastain.

Chastain kept mentioning the umpire, 33-year-old Colvin Hinton, III, also known as “Butch.”

"It was like he was obsessed with her," Chastain says. "He went to her between innings, he went to her while I was pitching. He was interested in her more than he was the ballgame."

Sometime during Shannon’s lunch break that Saturday afternoon, authorities believe she and softball umpire Butch Hinton crossed paths. At first glance, Hinton seemed like a regular guy. He was married and a father, he owned a home and had a good job, and he even taught Sunday school.

But when investigators took a closer look at Hinton, his claims about his whereabouts that day conflicted with what other people had told them. The FBI asked Hinton about his involvement in Shannon’s disappearance and gave him a lie detector test.

"He basically failed it," says Ice. "At the time they didn’t have substantial evidence to keep him. He didn’t confess. They released him and began following him."

Investigators pressed forward in their search for Shannon, and re-examined evidence, taking a closer look at how Shannon’s ring was discovered.

"In this case the best piece of physical evidence that we had that was the most value to me was Shannon’s ring in this cloth bag wrapped in tape," says Ice.

The fabric bag that was wrapped inside masking tape turned out to be no ordinary bag. It was a product made for and used only by Delta Air Lines.

At the time of Shannon’s disappearance, Butch Hinton worked in the machine shop at the Delta Airlines Technical Operations Center.

"The tape that was wrapped around the bag, we found nine rolls of it in his house," says Sgt. Ice. "And several rolls of that same tape at his workstation at Delta Air Lines. Now we have a direct link to Butch."

Butch Hinton, the softball umpire, was now a suspect in Shannon Melendi’s kidnapping. But authorities still didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him.


The Phone Call
(Page 3 of 7)

Jan. 19, 2006
Shannon Melendi had big plans in life. One of her goals was to become a Supreme Court justice. (CBS)

As each day without their daughter passed, Luis and Yvonne slowly began to realize that Shannon would not be coming home alive.

"My husband, from day one, said, 'We’ll never see Shannon again.' But after that phone call he really got a little ray of hope there I think," recalls Yvonne. "Shannon’s still alive and the hardest thing was coming to grips within yourself that she’s not. That we would never see her again and being able to look at each other and say, 'She’s gone. Our baby is gone' is hard.”

"It was a reasonable assumption that she was murdered at that point," says Ice.

But if Shannon had been murdered, frustrated investigators could not find any evidence of the crime.

In the months that followed Shannon’s disappearance, Hinton became the focus of a feeding frenzy by the Atlanta media.

In Sgt. Ice's opinion, not only was the initial investigation botched, but also the first two searches of the Hinton home.

“In my opinion, that search wasn’t done quite correctly. Some things were missed," he says.

So investigators tried again. This time, police used search dogs and a bulldozer to dig up Hinton’s yard. Authorities had received a tip from a neighbor that Hinton may have buried evidence there.

One of the search dogs was a cadaver dog, highly trained to only alert on human body remains and blood. Ice says the dog quickly focused under the backyard deck, on a small door leading to a crawlspace.

“The dog got in the crawl space and went nuts. Very, very strong alert,” says Ice. “So It indicated to me that a body was stored there.”

Ice says investigators took samples and sent them to the lab for testing.

Then the cadaver dog ran to what had been a fire pit in the backyard. A neighbor said Hinton had built a roaring fire there, the morning after Shannon disappeared.

Ice says investigators began excavating the area, looking for clues. "I think he disposed of her. Then he cleaned and he wanted to destroy everything he used. Built a fire pit in his backyard and tried to burn it up.”

But investigators were shocked when the samples from the crawlspace came back negative and when they failed to find any human remains in the fire pit.

But what they did find was startling.

Ice says they found wire ties, cleaning utensils, female sweaters and plastic pants that investigators wear at crime scenes to prevent blood from getting onto clothing.

Investigators found eight to 10 women’s sweaters, along with other women’s clothing. None of it belonged to Hinton’s wife at the time or to Shannon. Whom they belonged to remains a mystery. But authorities say they have a pretty good idea why they were buried there, calling them trophies of what might be many other crimes.

“A very distinct possibility,” says Ice. Asked if he thinks there are other victims, Ice says, "There have to be."


The Phone Call
(Page 4 of 7)

Jan. 19, 2006
Shannon Melendi had big plans in life. One of her goals was to become a Supreme Court justice. (CBS)

Police had a theory but with no hard evidence and there were no grounds for arrest.

But what police had discovered, while investigating Shannon’s disappearance, was that Hinton had a violent criminal past, a disturbing rap sheet with attacks on several women, beginning when he was just a teenager.

Among his victims is a woman named Tammy, who asked 48 Hours to obscure her identity. She was just 14 years old when Hinton kidnapped and sexually attacked her in 1982.

“There was a certain evil presence that seemed to take over his personality,” Tammy says.

Tammy says Hinton tricked her into meeting him.

“The next thing I knew, there was a blade against my neck. And he said, 'You better cooperate with me or I’m gonna use it on you,' " she says.

She says Hinton hog-tied her with rope and gagged her, then loaded her into the trunk of his car. He drove her to his home.

“He threw me on the bed," Tammy says. "He got on top of me. I screamed and turned my head and begged, 'Please don’t do this to me!' And he then stopped abruptly. And he put my clothes back together."

She says Hinton took her down to his basement and tied her up in the corner. At some point, Hinton’s wife came home, heard Tammy’s screams for help, and rescued her.

“If it wouldn’t have been for his wife coming in at that time, I don’t believe I’d be talking to you right now,” says Tammy.

His wife later divorced him. Hinton himself was arrested and charged with kidnapping and taking indecent liberties with a child. He agreed to a plea of guilty but mentally ill and was sentenced to four years in prison. In the end, Hinton served less than half of that.

"If he would have gotten 20 years, Shannon would be alive today!” says Luis Melendi.

Shannon’s mother, Yvonne, says she is convinced Hinton killed her daughter. "Absolutely … No question.”

Now, more than a decade after the assault on Tammy, investigators believe Hinton murdered Shannon Melendi. But when police started to focus on him, the story took an even more bizarre turn when he set his own house on fire.

Asked what he thinks may have motivated the arson, Sgt. Ice says, "To destroy any trace evidence that we missed during the first two searches.”

But in an incredible twist of events, Hinton tried to collect the fire insurance money on his house. He was charged with fraud and sentenced to more than nine years in federal prison.

During that time, the Shannon Melendi murder case languished. But in late 2003, right around the time Hinton was to be released, a new lead prosecutor, John Petrey, came on board. Despite gaping holes in the case, he was resolved to finding justice for the Melendis with the help of the FBI.

"I realize what an incredible injustice not bringing this case to trial would have been and would be at this point,” says Petrey.

And, so, more than a decade after Shannon Melendi disappeared and some eight months after his release from federal prison, police and FBI agents arrested Hinton and charged him with her murder.

Luis remembers he was thrilled when he learned of the arrest. “I didn’t think the trial was going to happen.”

So what do prosecutors have? There’s no crime scene, no murder weapon, no DNA and no real proof that Shannon’s even dead.


The Phone Call
(Page 5 of 7)

Jan. 19, 2006
Shannon Melendi had big plans in life. One of her goals was to become a Supreme Court justice. (CBS)

In 2005, more than 11 years after she had vanished, Hinton went on trial for the murder of Shannon Melendi.

For Shannon’s parents, the trial may well be their last opportunity to learn what happened to their daughter.

“There’s a lot of things kept from us,” says Luis. "So we don’t know how he murdered her, how much he made her suffer.”

But that’s something the prosecutors don’t know, either. In fact, there’s a lot they don’t know about Shannon’s disappearance, giving defense attorney B.J. Bernstein plenty of ammunition to go on the attack.

“The evidence in this case does not and can not show you beyond a reasonable doubt what happened to Shannon Melendi,” Bernstein says in court. "That’s a case that should never make it to a jury. A judge should throw it out!”

Hinton’s family attended the trial but refused to talk to 48 Hours.

Bernstein says bringing the case to trial sets a horrible precedent.

“It’s the only time in the state of Georgia in which there has been a prosecution for murder when there is no body and no crime scene,” Bernstein says. "Without a crime scene, you don’t know what, exactly, happened.”

Prosecutors Mike McDaniel and John Petrey concede that point but are determined to keep Hinton behind bars.

“To acquit Butch Hinton in this case actually sends the message: ‘Okay, perverts. Okay, sexual predators. If you’ve got enough time to completely hide the evidence of your crime, you can rape and murder with impunity,' ” says Petrey.

The prosecutors are convinced Hinton did make some mistakes though, mistakes that would help do him in like using a traceable bag and masking tape to wrap Shannon’s ring.

It’s the most critical physical evidence in the case, but it wasn’t treated that way by the FBI agent who found it.

On the stand, the agent testified that when he was opening the masking tape parcel, he wasn't wearing any gloves, and admitted that he didn't use the techniques that forensic people would use in handling a piece of evidence.

The prosecutors don’t consider that testimony fatal and, in fact, using lab tests they have found one more way to link Hinton to the tape used to wrap Shannon’s ring. Technicians have discovered minute particles of unusual metals on the tape.

“It's used specifically in high technology industries, like the aircraft industry, it was found also in tape at Butch Hinton’s workplace and also in tape that was in Butch Hinton’s car,” says McDaniel.

“And that was very compelling evidence that Butch Hinton was the person who made that phone call to Emory and had Shannon’s ring and wrapped it up and left it there,” he adds.

But Hinton's lawyer dismisses the discovery.

"These are particles where a lot of people work. So using that to convict someone and that being the ‘smoking gun’ is frightening and should be frightening,” she says.

The stress of the trial began to take a toll on the Melendis. Especially difficult for them was the dreaded moment when Yvonne had to testify.

"I was moved to tears listening to my wife. Knowing the pain that she has suffered for what this man did to Shannon,” says Luis.

Prosecutors Petrey and McDaniel know they’re handicapped with only a circumstantial case linking Hinton to Shannon’s disappearance. But they’ve come up with a strategy they think will win over the jury, using Hinton’s violent criminal past against him by laying out a disturbing pattern of attacks against other women.

But will the judge allow it? Bernstein is determined to keep it out.

“The law says that we should be convicted solely on the evidence in a current case, what happens right now, not necessarily that you look at the past,” says Bernstein, who is afraid Hinton’s past would repulse the jurors and prejudice the verdict.

The Melendi’s are hoping she’s right.

“They need to know that … this is a pattern in his life,” says Yvonne.

“If you’re a sexual predator and that’s what you do for a living, let everybody know that you gonna be judged because of what your history is," Luis adds.

It may well be the most critical moment during the trial. The judge rules that some of Hinton’s criminal past may be revealed because of similarities to the charges against him in this case.

The Phone Call
(Page 6 of 7)

Jan. 19, 2006
Shannon Melendi had big plans in life. One of her goals was to become a Supreme Court justice. (CBS)

The ruling was a major blow to the defense and Bernstein admits it hurt her client.

Jurors heard from two of Hinton’s former victims, including Tammy, the young woman who told 48 Hours her chilling story.

And prosecutors have more. They say that while serving time for insurance fraud in federal prison, Hinton came close to making a confession in conversations with other inmates. Several of them were called to testify.

“I said, 'Well, you better hope they don’t ever find a body because if they do, with this new DNA thing, you’ll be in trouble. And he said, ‘I’m not worried about 'em finding her body,' ” one inmate testified.

“I went to sleep. And then I woke up. I heard a loud scream," another inmate testified at Hinton's trial. "He was crying … I said, ‘Butch, are you OK?' Then he looked at me and said, 'I didn’t kill her. The demon inside of me did' and I was like, 'What did you just say?' ”

But Bernstein says the inmates know there can be a benefit if they testify in a high profile case that results in a conviction. Prosecutors emphatically denied any deals were made with the inmates.

Finally, some four weeks into the trial, jurors began their deliberations.

On day two of the deliberations, lead prosecutor John Petrey was uncertain what the jurors would decide; putting Butch Hinton on trial was a gamble but one he was willing, even eager, to take.

“I knew we had done our work,” says Petrey. “Every time I started feeling like we had met a roadblock, that we had a hurdle in the case, I would go back and watch the video that Lewis had made of Shannon’s life.”

But day two ended without a verdict.

It was a difficult time for the Melendis, who realize a conviction in the case would not necessarily bring them closure.

“There’s nothing that can ever bring Shannon back, and we know that,” says Luis.

Mid-morning of day three, the jurors sent the judge a message that they had reached a verdict.

The jury had found Colvin "Butch" Hinton, III, guilty for the kidnapping and murder of Shannon Melendi.

The verdict brought mixed emotions for the Melendis.

“I was grateful that they saw it the way I saw it. It was relief, joy, sadness, all in one,” Luis explains. “I’m very glad that he won’t be getting out and hurting another family.”

The emotion of the moment was also overwhelming for lead prosecutor John Petrey.

“It was a flood of relief. It was a flood of relief,” he says. “It was just an incredibly emotionally draining case even before we got to the trial stage.”

Hinton never took the stand and has never revealed any information to authorities about Shannon’s disappearance.

His sentencing came at a hearing just two hours after his conviction.

But before the sentence was issues, Shannon’s family had a chance to confront Hinton in court.

“If hatred could have killed him there, he would have been dead in the seat,” Yvonne says. "I wanted him to know that he couldn’t hurt me anymore.”

Yvonne Melendi faced Hinton and told him, "Listen very carefully to what I have to say to you. This is the first and the last time I will ever speak to you. You murdered Shannon but you did not kill her spirit. She will live in our memories forever.”

Unable to prove exactly how or where Shannon was killed, prosecutors chose not to seek the death penalty, which would have made it a tougher case to win. Instead, the judge imposed a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.

The Phone Call
(Page 7 of 7)

Jan. 19, 2006
Shannon Melendi had big plans in life. One of her goals was to become a Supreme Court justice. (CBS)

Asked if Luis wanted death for Hinton, he says no. "I want him to just live 110 years, and let him suffer with whatever happens in prison, which is, I’m sure, not a very nice place to be in."

The Melendis now set their sights on a new mission, believing that if Hinton had been adequately punished for his attacks on Tammy and other women, their daughter would be alive today.

They’re seeking longer prison sentences, especially for repeat offenders such as Hinton.

Pushing for tougher sentences is their way of trying to honor Shannon’s memory. But for the Melendis, serious questions remain.

“He didn’t say what he did with her body. We never recovered her body. Her remains,” says Luis.

Does Yvonne Melendi feel she needs to know the details about the circumstances surrounding her daughter’s disappearance?

“There’s a difference between need and want. Definitely, I would like to bury Shannon, but I don’t need it,” she says.

“To give him control, to say to him: ‘Please tell us what you did with our daughter,’ I am not going to do that. I’m gonna have to live with that,” says Luis.

“Sometimes it’s very difficult to remember how happy we were before. People say, 'Where do you go from here?' I’m thinking to recapture some of that happiness,” says Yvonne.

“I live because I have to," says Luis. "But as far as the joy of living that I used to have, I think I’m going to have to work real hard to get that — some semblance of getting that back.”