Case Files: Forensic genealogy helps crack a nearly 40-year-old Sylvania murder

The crime happened in January of 1985 and police just named a suspect
Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 2:52 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - It was January 2, 1985. That morning Patricia Stichler, a single, mother of 3 young girls was found murdered inside her Sylvania home.

Police describe the scene as brutal. A coroner’s report shows the young woman was stabbed repeatedly inside her home on Brinthaven. Stichler’s throat was slashed and the coroner’s report indicates it appears she put up a fight. The autopsy showed she was stabbed multiple times after she died. Her children were sleeping at the time of the crime and never woke up, despite the violence.

The next morning, one of Patricia’s daughters found their mother dead. When police arrived the suspect was gone and for nearly 40 years the case remained a mystery.

There was never enough evidence to nail down a suspect. For decades her family was left wondering who killed the young woman and walked away.

“My family is left to pick up the broken pieces of 37 years of not knowing anything,” says Kirsten Kelley, Patricia’s daughter.

This past week, Stichler’s family finally got an answer. Sylvania Police named a suspect in the homicide. Michael Mellus, who was 17 at the time of the crime, is the suspect in the case. He lived just 6 doors down from the Stichler family, but none of Patricia’s daughters knew the teen. In fact, police say they have no connection to Mellus and Stichler.

‘There is nothing in our investigation to support that they know each other in any way or that there was a relationship,” says Sgt. Justin Music.

So how did police crack the case? It comes down to DNA and forensic genealogy. Two years ago, Sylvania Police Sergeant Justin Music made the unsolved murder case a priority. Detectives tested DNA and worked with a forensic genealogist to track down a connection. The process took detectives across the country and finally a pointed to Michael Mellus.

Police say Mellus died in a car crash while serving in the military in 1989. With the suspect dead, there is still plenty of mystery to this case. Knowing the name of who police think killed Patricia Stichler is welcome news for her daughter. While it doesn’t answer the why, the family can finally stop wondering if the killer is among us.

“I’m so grateful that I can say out loud but I’m so angry that he doesn’t have to answer for his crime and we don’t know his motive and I don’t understand why he did this,” says Kelly.

Case Files: 37 years later, the daughters of Patricia Stichler are still seeking justice

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