Melanie Ilene Rieger
"Mel"
19 Years Old

June 16, 1974 to May 24, 1994

Melanie Rieger, of Waterbury, Connecticut, was a bubbly, sweet "little girl." Not quite 5-feet tall, she had big blue eyes, a large smile and had the ability to "wrap" anyone around her little finger.

She was a human services major at Naugatuk Valley Community Technical College, splitting time between courses in social work and psychology. She was to continue her studies at the University of Hartford.

In a paper written for her Humane Services class entitled "Influences and Person Beliefs that Shaped my Career Decision," she stated that she is a "very sociable and caring person. I try to be there when a helping hand is needed. I love children and hope to have my own someday. I enjoy seeing my family, friends and even complete strangers happy. It disturbs me when others are having problems. I feel at peace with myself when others are happy and I was there to help them through their bad times."

She continues: "Ever since I was a little girl, I felt the desire to help people and give them extra support. I traveled to nursing homes, soup kitchens and hospitals where I opened my heart to the less fortunate. As I grew up, I lent my ear, my advice and my help to children, teens and adults, especially the elderly. I helped with problems such as those involving relationships, depression about aging, the loss of a loved one, parent-child conflicts and feeding the hungry. I felt the sense of pride and accomplishment."

She discusses such societal problems as low self-esteem, poverty, suicide, depression and many more. She states that "we must deal with these problems before they destroy the human race. People are much too valuable to let these issues take control. We must work toward improving our society. The way to deal with these problems is to help people find a sense of belonging; to stop the prejudices and make everything equal. What I have learned is that the individual must be happy with himself/herself in order to be successful in relationships and everything else. Once a person achieves these goals he or she will have a better outlook on themselves and the world around them."

The paper concluded: "I hope that my time will come to make a difference in society. I also hope to get a better understanding of people and their attitudes, behavior and beliefs. Moreover, this decision would not just be a career choice because I would enjoy what I would be doing in helping people."

That was our Melanie. Society will never again have Melanie as its champion. José Crespo's selfish act has deprived all of us of the benefits of Melanie's wonderful personality and good will toward mankind. We all feel a void that can never be filled.

CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE MURDER

Melanie Rieger, 19, of Waterbury, Connecticut, was strangled to death in her family home by her boyfriend of 3 and 1/2 years, Joeé Crespo. Melanie's parents were vacationing in Aruba at the time.

Crespo made it appear that Melanie had left town. He pawned several pieces of jewelry plus a camcorder. Crespo then rented a storage locker. Returning to the Rieger home, he placed Melanie in her brother's hockey equipment bag and placed that bag in four large black garbage bags which he tied with heavy tape. He then placed Melanie's body along with two bags containing clothing, pictures and other personal items in the storage bin. The remainder of the day he went about his schedule as if nothing had happened. The following morning he called our house pretending to leave a message on our answering machine asking Melanie where she had been and warning her not to do anything stupid. He then proceeded to a neighboring town with his brother-in-law. Along the way, Crespo asked where he might be able to hide a car. His brother-in-law became suspicious and José, upon questioning, admitted to him that he had killed Melanie. He turned the keys to the storage locker over to an attorney who called the police. Crespo never spoke to the police, claiming that he had blacked out and could not remember anything. He claimed that he suffered from borderline psychiatric disorder and opted out of a jury trial in favor of a three judge panel. Fortunately, they did not believe his story.

Crespo was convicted of murder and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

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Melanie Rieger