Rachel Mellon was a Bolingbrook 7th grader when she disappeared in 1996. (Family photo)
Rachel disappeared during a dangerous cold spell -- it was a frigid day, though the sun was bright -- but the 7th-grader's winter coat, shoes and purse were found at home. A blanket and two pillows were missing from the house.
The girl's stepfather, Vince Mellon, had helped raise Rachel since she was 3 and was home that day. He was the last person to report seeing her alive.
Rachel had stayed home from middle school because of a sore throat. Vince Mellon told police she went to take a nap in the afternoon and that he had left the front door unlocked when he went to walk the dog.
A younger sibling found the girl was missing about an hour later. Police were called about 5:30 p.m. when her mother, Amy Mellon, returned home.
Rachel, who maintained an A average at Ward Middle School, had once run away from home. The previous spring, she wrote a note and left the house for 12 hours because she was afraid she would be blamed for a household item her younger siblings broke, her parents said. Rachel slept outside a friend's house and then called her step-grandparents, who took her home. But to stay away so long without her belongings was out of character, her family said.
Nearly four years after her disappearance, investigators took hair, blood and saliva samples from Vince Mellon. The state's attorney took the case to a grand jury, but no indictments were returned.
-- by David Jackson and Gary Marx