BOLINGBROOK, Ill. — Twenty-five years after 13-year-old Rachel Mellon vanished from her Bolingbrook home, clouds of suspicion over the case have never lifted.
The investigation, according to local police, remains active. No arrests have been made in connection to the disappearance, however.
Jeff Skemp, 62, remembers the tragic events of Jan. 31, 1996, all too well. Skemp, who currently works in Forest Park, forever had his life changed in Bolingbrook when his teenage daughter, Rachel, disappeared.
She was never heard from again.
Rachel was home sick from school the day of Jan. 31, 1996. Her stepfather, Vince Mellon, was the last person to see her alive.
That same year, Skemp shared with WGN that his head and heart were focused on finding his daughter.
“I need to keep hope alive, that she is still alive somewhere,” he told WGN reporters 25 years ago.
Now decades later, Skemp says, “I’m at peace and have accepted the strong possibility that Rachel is no longer alive.”
The Bolingbrook Police Department has failed to charge anyone with the teenager’s mysterious disappearance. Police maintain the cold case remains “active.” Preserved evidence is examined annually to see if new technology may unearth some answers. Police say private investigators continue to follow the case.
READ: Lead investigator for Rachel Mellon’s disappearance speaks out
Letter From Lead Investigator Terry Kernc by WGN Web Desk on Scribd
In the interim, the tension between Skemp and his ex-wife Amy Mellon over Rachel’s disappearance has arisen over the years.
Skemp and others blame Amy Mellon’s second husband, Vince Mellon, for knowing more than he shared with authorities. He had a past and Rachel’s diary later revealed her account of sexual abuse by her step-father.
Yet, no charges have been brought against him by police.
WGN once asked Amy Mellon what she was feeling upon news of her daughter’s disappearance?
“Devastation,” she replied. “Frustration. Not knowing where she is at. Not knowing anything.”
“We had asked to have them put it out as a missing report as opposed to a runaway without no coat and shoes in the winter time,” Rachel’s stepfather, Vince Mellon, revealed.
But Skemp remains unconvinced.
“To me it looks suspicious,” he said.
In the years since, a grand jury was called with no resolution.
Fast forward to 2021, Rachel’s best friend Carrie Scaglione remains emotionally devoted to the girl she remembers so well. She and others have planted a tree, released balloons and hoped and prayed for Rachel’s safe return.
Remembering Rachel, Scaglione says “she was a silly girl who was always in great spirits regardless of what was going on in the house.”
“I always tell people, she was an old soul,” she said.
Scaglione tells WGN that she tries to keeps Rachel’s memory alive electronically as well. A Facebook page made in Rachel’s honor is dedicated to finding her and/or delivering closure in the case.
“For me, it’s important to keep out there what we do have,” the now 38-year-old Scaglione said. “Sharing on social media – amazing we have that now because we didn’t have that when she went missing.”
Scaglione tells WGN she won’t give up hope on finding her friend.
“Somebody knows something and even the littlest thing could lead to big answers,” she said. “Just come forward.”
A plea the same as it was decades ago: “To anyone who knows where Rachel is or what happened to her, please come forward and help bring closure to the tragedy,” Amy Mellon asked.
Skemp may be at peace with the uncertainty of his daughter’s whereabouts, but hopes his loss is a reminder to parents moving forward.
“To parents out there, love your children,” he said. “Enjoy every minute you have with them.”