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04.15.06 48 Hours A Knock On The Door  Run Dates

04.15.06 48 Hours A Knock On The Door

07.18.06 48 Hours A Knock On The Door 

07.07.07 48 Hours A Knock On The Door


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A Knock On The Door
(Page 1 of 9)

OLATHE, Kan., April 15, 2006
David and Melinda Harmon



"Where does the justice lie in that? For us, we felt strongly justice means you still got to go to prison, you still got to go to prison for a long time — but maybe not as long as somebody who continues to pose a danger to the public."


District Attorney Paul Morrison

(CBS) David Harmon was bludgeoned to death on Feb. 28, 1982, while lying in bed next to his wife in Olathe, Kan. The murder, which shocked this quiet, peaceful town, went unsolved for more than two decades.

Police had their suspicions in the case. They questioned the victim's wife and a friend of the couple. However, in the end, the investigation went nowhere.

But as Hannah Storm reports, a fresh look at old evidence and a knock on a door would change everything.


Today, Olathe is a major crossroads, a fast-growing suburb of Kansas City and home to a large conservative Christian community. But back in 1982, it was just a dot on the map.

"In 1982 this was a community where you didn't have to lock your doors, basically. I know that’s a cliché, but there was not a lot of danger," recalls Andy Hoffman, who was a reporter for Olathe's "Daily News."

"The people who lived here were God-fearing," says Hoffman. "They believed in the Bible, and when this murder happened it changed the landscape of the community."

There weren't a lot of homicides in Olathe, and the unsolved murder of David Harmon was a nightmare that stayed with residents for more than two decades.

Detective Bill Wall says he heard about the case for the first time in the early 1990s, when he was a young patrol officer. "It was always kind of a case that had never been solved, and it’s kind of a legend throughout the department," says Wall.

The case might have stayed cold if not for a simple request in 2001 and some new technology.

"The crime lab came down, and they had some time and they wanted to use their DNA expertise. 'You got any old cold cases?' And we had one," Wall explains.

The Harmon case moved out of the evidence vault and into the hands of Detectives Wall and Steve James. They went through all the evidence to learn what happened back in 1982.

There were accounts from police officers, including J.W. Larrick, then 27, and one of the first responders. He found Harmon's body upstairs in the master bedroom. "It is the most gruesome crime scene that I’ve seen in 28 years of being a police officer. He was just massacred," Larrick recalls.

Harmon had been beaten repeatedly with a blunt object.

Wall says there was blood everywhere in the bedroom. "I think this is a classic case of an overkill," he says.

Harmon's wife, Melinda, was the only witness. She told police that two men, possibly black, had broken into their duplex, and said she was awakened by the sounds of someone beating her husband.

"And then, all of a sudden she is pulled out of bed and taken downstairs. She hears one intruder say to the next, 'I think you hit him too hard. You may have killed him,'" Det. Wall explains.

She said they demanded the keys to the bank where David worked, then knocked her out.

Melinda told police that when she came to, she ran next door for help. Her neighbor called the police. Then Melinda asked her to call her friend Mark Mangelsdorf.

Mangelsdorf was practically a member of the Harmon family; he often had dinner and hung out with the couple. Their friendship began at MidAmerica Nazarene University, where Melinda was a secretary.

"She was not much older than our students," recalls Don Stelting, who was Dean of Students and Melinda's boss. "Part of the responsibility of my office staff was to make a warm front door for the students. She was a friendly person and she worked hard at that."

One of the students she befriended was Mangelsdorf, the student body president. Melinda introduced Mark to David.

"I mean, David was in many ways like a big brother to me. You know, he took me under his wing," says Mangelsdorf.

They two men shared a passion for sports, business and their church.

A Knock On The Door
(Page 2 of 9)

OLATHE, Kan., April 15, 2006
David and Melinda Harmon

As word of David’s murder spread, it stunned Olathe's Nazarene community.

"It shook us deeply because here was a young man who is — who was exemplary of everything that — that the church and the community stood for. And he’s gone, his life snuffed out," says Stelting.

David's co-workers at the Patron’s State Bank were shocked. "We didn't have murderers in Olathe. And then, to have it happen to a person that you worked with everyday? It was very scary," recalls Hazel Hendricks.

"Well, at first, everybody bought the story. And I think everybody thought, 'Gosh, this is just a horrible home invasion thing here. And we’ve got to find these guys because they’re obviously extremely dangerous,'" recalls Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison, who was an assistant DA in 1982.

Police immediately staked out the bank in case anyone tried breaking in, but that never happened.

"If they got inside the bank with the keys, all they would get would be pencils, erasers and paper clips. You couldn’t get in the vault. It was on a timer," explains Joy Hempe, a fellow employee and friend of David Harmon.

It didn't take long for investigators to realize the pieces of the puzzle just weren’t adding up.

"No forced entry to the house. There was nothing else taken. Plus, the person that’s able to get them access to the bank they kill immediately," says Morrison. "I don't think anybody was comfortable saying that first day 'We don’t believe it.' But there are eyebrows beginning to be raised about this story."

As doubts grew about Melinda's story, the focus of the investigation shifted.

"And I'm sure some of those detectives back then were thinking, 'Hey, this is not right. There is something more here,'" says Det. Wall.

Asked whether police suspected Melinda Harmon was involved in her husband's murder, Wall nodded. Investigators suspected she had help.

"They were focusing on Mark. He was being suspected for such a horrible thing," recalls Pam Stelting. "I just knew it wasn't possible."

Pam and her husband, Don, still can't believe Olathe police suspected Mangelsdorf was involved in Harmon's murder.

"It seemed to be an indication of very bad judgment on the part of the police in our minds there's someone out there who had really done this horrid murder. And why aren’t they looking for them instead?" wonders Don Stelting.

But police and prosecutors say there were no signs of intruders. Instead, all the evidence seemed to point to those closest to David — Melinda and Mark. What's more, investigators believed they knew the motive.

"No one was talking on the record. Everyone in the community was talking about it off the record," recalls Hoffman, who has covered this case for more than two decades.

What were they saying?

"It's the Nazarene divorce," says Hoffman.

A Knock On The Door
(Page 3 of 9)

OLATHE, Kan., April 15, 2006
David and Melinda Harmon


"I believe she did this because she couldn't get a divorce," says District Attorney Morrison. "In her mind, it was much better to be the widow Harmon than the divorcee Harmon."

Morrison believed Melinda was unhappy in her marriage and caught up in a secret affair with Mangelsdorf.

But because of their strong religious beliefs, Morrison doubts it was sexual. "The promise of sex, the lure of sex unfulfilled, it can be stronger than the actual thing," he says.

The conservative Christian world they lived in had strict rules of behavior.

"You didn’t go to the movies, we didn’t dance," explains Mark Wood, who was a student at MidAmerica Nazarene University at the time. "The old joke we used to have back then was 'you don’t smoke and you don’t chew and you don’t date girls who do.'"

And when you married, you married for life.

"Back in 1982 in the Nazarene church, divorce was not the option that it is today," says Morrison. "It would have not been a good thing. It would have caused a certain amount of shame and scandal."

But Don Stelting says to believe that, one would have to not know the Nazarene church at that time. "To think that someone would plan murder to avoid divorce, is ludicrous," he says.

Mark and Melinda always denied they had a romantic relationship and at first cooperated with investigators. But that soon stopped and leads dried up.

Investigators had a bloody murder scene but no footprints or fingerprints and no murder weapon. There was not enough evidence to prosecute.

"The question of 'Is that going to be provable beyond a reasonable doubt?' probably wasn't quite there," says Morrison.

With no charges holding them back, Mangelsdorf and Harmon both left Olathe.

Melinda headed back home to Ohio with her parents, while Mark went off to Harvard Business School and became a successful corporate executive.

Today, he and his second wife, Kristina, live in a million-dollar home in Pelham, N.Y., just outside New York, with their five children.

Recently the Mangelsdorfs sat down with 48 Hours for their only television interview.

"Definitely, I went on with my life and it's not something that you know I really dwelled on or focused on a lot," says Mangelsdorf.

Kristina says she first learned about the case shortly after she started dating Mark. "My first reaction was this is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of; there's no way that he could have done this. You know he didn't need to give me any of the facts of the case or any assurances that he hadn't, to know that. You know, no, I mean it's not in his personality."

"The fact that the police considered me a suspect in the course of their investigation was hurtful and you know certainly leaves an impression on you," says Mark.

Asked if he killed David Harmon, Mark replied, "I did not kill David Harmon."

Mark doesn't believe Melinda was involved, either. "I mean, Melinda was my good friend and I choose to believe that — that that was not in her character," he says.

A Knock On The Door
(Page 4 of 9)

OLATHE, Kan., April 15, 2006
David and Melinda Harmon

In Olathe, the unsolved murder had been shelved for almost two decades — but never forgotten.

"They didn't have it on the front burner. But they did not forget about it. The community wouldn't let 'em forget about it," says Hoffman, now a true crime writer.

As Detectives Wall and James began going over the 19-year-old evidence, they found it odd that blood spatter was all across Melinda's pillow case. The detectives pointed out that with her head on the pillow, there should be have been a spot without blood.

With so much blood on the pillow case, the detectives were surprised how little blood was on Melinda and her nightgown. The only blood was at the bottom of the gown.

The detectives also had doubts about Melinda's story of being knocked out by intruders.

"If she truly was knocked unconscious for that period of time, she wouldn't have remembered anything," says Det. James.

Evidence was mounting, but they still didn't have a case. They needed to re-interview the suspects.

In December 2001, Detectives Wall and James showed up at Melinda’s home in Ohio. "This is our shot. We wanted to catch her cold," Det. Wall recalls.

When Melinda left Olathe in 1982, she never looked back. She moved to a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, and started over.

Now known as Melinda Raisch, she's a soccer mom with two kids, married to a successful dentist and active in her community and her church.

When the detectives showed up out of the blue at the Raisch home in 2001, they didn't expect her to talk to them. But when they knocked, she invited them in.

As they sat in her kitchen, Raisch told the detectives about the night David was murdered.

"She says that she was awakened by these horrifying sounds. She sees a shadowy figure. And she runs to the bathroom," says Wall, recalling the conversation.

This wasn't the same story she had told police two decades ago. "What happened to the two black guys that broke in demanding bank keys? What happened to, 'I think you hit him too hard. You may have killed him.' None of that," says Wall.

For 19 years, detectives had waited for this kind of break.

"I accused her. I said, 'I know you killed him. Either you killed him or he did,'" Wall remembers.

Asked how she responded, Wall says, "Well, I assure you it wasn't me."

Melinda didn’t stop there. Instead of ending the conversation or calling her lawyer, she kept talking.

"She wanted to please us. She didn’t want her neighbors to be talked to about this," says Wall. "I don't think she ever shared with anybody about what happened in 1982."

Wall thinks Melinda just wanted the detectives to go away. "She thought she could manipulate us to get us to go away," he says.

But they didn’t go away. In fact, after three hours, Melinda agreed to continue talking at the local sheriff's department. But now the interrogation would be videotaped.

Because he had established a rapport with Melinda, Wall conducted the interview.


A Knock On The Door
(Page 5 of 9)

OLATHE, Kan., April 15, 2006
David and Melinda Harmon

Investigators had always believed Melinda and Mark conspired to murder David so they could be together. Now Wall needed details about their romance to prove a motive.

"She said they were friends at first," recalls Wall. "Later on, as their relationship blossomed, she said that there became an emotional bond between the two of them."

Asked if she shared her innermost, deepest feelings, Melinda told Wall during the videotaped interview, "In a way that is inappropriate."

"She said that her feelings were inappropriate — and that her husband, David, would definitely not approve," says Wall.

But according to Melinda, Mark wanted more.

"Did he ever come out and say, 'I love you and I want to have sex with you?'" Wall asked Raisch during the videotaped interview.

"I would say so," she replied.

"She told me that she got the impression he (Mark) wanted her to get a divorce," says Wall.

With their romance established, Wall now needed Melinda to connect Mark to the murder.

"If you did not kill him, you know who did it. And we've been down that road. And now you're trying to lead me to believe…," Wall asked Melinda.

"Well, I know in my heart …," she said.

"You know in your heart what? That Mark did it?" Wall continued.

She replied, "Uh-huh, in my heart I know that."

She told Wall she didn't see Mark that night but sensed his presence, coming from the stairs.

"Why is she saying she felt Mangelsdorf's presence rather than, 'I saw him bludgeon my husband?'" Storm asked Wall.

"I just don't think she wanted to go there yet. She knew if she said that then, that would implicate her further," he replied.

Melinda wanted to know the consequences before giving up any more information, asking Wall, "I don't know where I stand." On the tape, she acknowledged there was a little more information she had.

Wall called D.A. Paul Morrison in Olathe and told him Melinda wanted to discuss a deal.

"And I remember tellin' Wall that I wasn't gonna buy a pig in a poke, because we didn't know exactly what she had to offer," recalls Morrison. "That in my opinion, she had already made some serious admissions, so let's not make any deals today that we might regret later."

After almost two decades of frustration, Morrison finally had a toehold. But it would take two more years of poring over every piece of evidence to make a case.

"You've got no statute of limitations on a murder case. So we had the luxury of makin' sure that we got our ducks all lined up as straight as we could before we went into battle," says Morrison.

In 2003, with those ducks lined up, Melinda was finally arrested and charged with her husband’s murder.

The news stunned Mangelsdorf. "It did surprise me, it caught me off guard. I thought that this thing had potentially run its course, and it of course had not," he told Storm.

A Knock On The Door
(Page 6 of 9)

OLATHE, Kan., April 15, 2006
David and Melinda Harmon

Melinda's new story of the murder was the end for Mark and Kristina Mangelsdorf’s quiet life in Pelham.

"It was just about exactly 10 o'clock. The phone rang, and Mark answered it. The person just said you know, 'This is Detective Hinds from the Pelham Police Department. Could you come downstairs, please.' We knew what they were there for," recalls Kristina Mangelsdorf.

Living with the cloud of suspicion for 23 years, Mark knew this day could come. But for Kristina, there was no preparing for what happened next.

"The minute Mark opened the front door, I mean, there they were and the handcuffs were on him like that. And they walk him off within about 30 seconds," she recalls. "I was busy looking at the detectives saying, 'Wait, you know, can I kiss him goodbye?' What do I do now?"

Mangelsdorf was arrested and escorted back to Kansas to face murder charges for the 1982 slaying of David Harmon. Charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, he faced the same charges as Melinda.

Just one week after Mark's arrest, Melinda went on trial for the murder of her first husband. By her side, showing support, was her current husband.

In spite of the dramatic interrogation tapes, prosecutor Morrison knew that getting a conviction after 23 years would be tough. He began by setting out to establish a motive for the crime.

Morrison set out to prove a case largely built on circumstantial evidence — evidence of an alleged love affair and lies.

Melinda had said she was in bed while her husband was being beaten to death, but prosecutors showed her pillow, covered in blood splatters.

Then there was her claim she was knocked out for more than hour. "That doesn’t fit at all. In fact, she didn't have any real injuries other than a tiny bruise on her cheek," Morrison said.

Prosecutors began unraveling her story of what happened that night, weaving a different story.

Prosecutors produced a stack of cards and letters from Melinda found in Mark's apartment, suggesting signs of an intimate relationship.

As the evidence mounted, it was the 2001 police videotape that cemented the prosecution's case against her and Mark.

As prosecutors slowly built their case, Melinda's defense team knew they had to confront the allegations of an affair and murder head on. To do that, they turned to one of the persons at the center of this case to testify: Mark Mangelsdorf.


A Knock On The Door
(Page 7 of 9)

OLATHE, Kan., April 15, 2006
David and Melinda Harmon

For the first time in 23 years, Mark and Melinda were together again — but this time the only thing they were sharing was the charge of murder.

Mark's testimony was crucial for Melinda's defense, and ultimately his own. The defense wanted to show Mark was not capable of murder and that he and Melinda couldn't have conspired to commit such a crime.

"I felt that it would be an opportunity for me to tell the truth, to potentially assist in uncovering the truth for the jury, giving them full information, full facts," Mark explains.

Mark's defense attorney, Mickey Sherman, said it was a gamble worth taking — even though anything Mark would say could be used against him.

Why was he so willing to have his client testify?

"The truth is the truth," says Sherman. "I felt that I'd rather put him on the witness stand now and let the jury, let the world know what his recollection was, rather than have this cloud over his head."

Questioned by Melinda's defense attorney Tom Bath, Mark answered questions point blank about accusations of an affair.

Asked if he was having an affair, romantically involved or physical in any kind of sexual way with Melinda, Mark said no.

Asked if he killed David, Mark replied, "I did not kill David Harmon."

Mark looked calm on the stand, even under tough cross examination from Morrison.

Mark told Morrison he was aware of the statements Melinda had made to police about an alleged relationship and that she thought he had killed David.

Defense attorney Sherman thought Mangelsdorf had done "fantastic" on the stand. For him, this was a dress rehearsal, where he got to see how his client would do as a witness.

But Hoffman believes Mark taking the stand may not have been the best defense for Melinda or for himself. "There were no feelings of sorrow for David. You know, it was all just rehearsed," says Hoffman. "I think it is a deep, defining moment of his personality. I think you really saw Mark Mangelsdorf as Mark Mangelsdorf — totally controlled, totally sure of himself. But something's wrong there."

Melinda never took the stand or spoke publicly about the murder of her husband.

After nearly three weeks of testimony and more than 60 witnesses, Melinda's trial came to a close. After two days, the jury reached a verdict.

Jurors found Melinda guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Hoffman thinks Mark's testimony hurt Melinda. "It hurt her. If they believed him, they wouldn't (have) convicted her."

Out on bail, Mark was at home with his wife when they learned of Melinda's fate.

Mark says he was surprised and disappointed at the verdict. He says he thought she was innocent.

Kristina believed the outcome would be different for her husband. "It wasn't like we looked at this and said, you know, 'Oh my gosh, you know, the same thing is gonna happen to Mark.' I mean there's still a confidence that it's a very different case and that Mark will ultimately be found innocent," she says.

As Mark started to prepare for his own trial, Melinda, facing life in prison, sat in a Kansas county jail awaiting sentencing. But as he would later learn, she wasn't sitting quietly.

A Knock On The Door
(Page 8 of 9)

OLATHE, Kan., April 15, 2006
David and Melinda Harmon

Back in Pelham, Mark began to prepare for his trial, confident a jury would find him innocent.

"And when they see the evidence as it’s presented, we think that they’ll come to the same conclusion that we know the reality is — that I’m innocent," Mark said.

Sherman was on the offensive, and the defense attorney thought his best evidence is getting his client on the stand to tell the story. "And, a lack of such a story on the part of the state," he says.

Sherman was determined to disprove what the jury in Melinda's trial believed — that she and Mark conspired to kill David because of a budding love affair.

"There was no great simmering relationship there where they were just brooding and dying to have sex and they would have killed anybody to make that happen," Sherman says.

Asked how he would get a jury to not buy into that, Sherman says, "You just present it rationally. Would you commit such an unspeakable crime simply to consummate a sexual relationship with someone? I don't think so."

But while Sherman was making his plans for Mark's defense, he was unaware that Melinda was making plans of her own.

With few choices, Melinda made a stunning move and turned to prosecutor Paul Morrison, looking for a deal. In exchange for a lighter sentence, she said she'd finally tell the truth of what happened that night her husband was brutally murdered.

Melinda admitted for the first time she was part of the plot to kill her husband and said she did it with Mark's help. It sounded like big break for the prosecution — but it could be a bigger break for the defense.

"I think it's gonna be great fodder for the defense," argues Hoffman. "You know, she told a lie in '82. She told half truths in 2001. She was convicted in 2005. And now, facing life in prison, she's gonna come clean and tell the truth. Well, do you believe her?"

Hoffman believed Mark's case could swing either way, hinging on who would make a better witness.

Sherman admitted he was concerned about Melinda's testimony. "I could put on a big act and say it's no big deal because she's lied before. But of course I'm concerned."

The usually confident Sherman knew this could be trouble. "I mean, this is someone who is obviously going to implicate him. Her credibility, her believability is going to make a great difference in whether or not Mark Mangelsdorf is going to be convicted or acquitted," he explains. "So I'm not sloughing it off. But by the same token, she's got a lot of baggage."

A Knock On The Door
(Page 9 of 9)

OLATHE, Kan., April 15, 2006
David and Melinda Harmon

The stakes were high. If convicted, Mark could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Last month, appearing in court for a pre-trial hearing, Mark shocked everyone with a statement of his own.

"Mr. Mangelsdorf does plead guilty and does agree he did participate in this crime," Sherman announced in court.

After 24 years of maintaining his innocence, Mark admitted he helped kill his close friend, David Harmon.

"I felt it was time for me to plea guilty and get this behind us," Mark told reporters outside the courthouse, with his wife by his side.

Pleading to second-degree murder, Mark stood there while prosecutor Paul Morrison read Melinda's confession.

"The week before the homicide, Mangelsdorf informed Melinda that he had purchased a weapon, specifically a crowbar, with which to murder David. He indicated at that time for the homicide was getting closer," Morrison read.

And in the confession, Melinda related a chilling scene: It was at her husband’s funeral that Mark allegedly whispered in Melinda's ear that he got rid of the murder weapon. Remarkably, for a couple who now admits they committed this brutal murder to have a relationship, it was the last time they were together.

"She was ready to testify that during this relationship she had with Mark Mangelsdorf, during their discussions about how they were going to end up together, her and Mark, for her it came down to the fact she chose murder over the social stigma of divorce," says Morrison.

"Bottom line: She was just one of the factors we all considered in deciding whether or not Mark should plead guilty. Mark finally made the call himself. He wanted to get on with his life. He saw the possibility of a conviction, he saw the possibility of an acquittal and elected to plead guilty," says Sherman.

For the horrific murder of his best friend, Mark is likely to be sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison — but he’ll be eligible for parole in just five years, the same deal Melinda is getting.

Is this justice for David Harmon?

"They did a terrible thing many, many, years ago when they were both just kids," says Morrison. "Where does the justice lie in that? For us, we felt strongly justice means you still got to go to prison, you still got to go to prison for a long time — but maybe not as long as somebody who continues to pose a danger to the public."

It's not enough for the two detectives who broke this case. James and Wall say Mark should do more than plead guilty. "I think Mark Mangelsdorf owes people, that he needs to tell everyone exactly what he did," says Wall.

It took 24 years, but for Olathe, Kan., the memory of a haunting murder can finally be laid to rest — and for David Harmon, a 24-year-old injustice has come to an end.