Rebecca Santiago, 17, holds up photos of her family, including her murdered sister|1/5
Rebecca Santiago, 17, holds up photos of her family, including her murdered sister|
Rafael Colon, 20, holds a photo of his murdered sister Melanie and shows his tatto|Charles Mostoller2/5
Rafael Colon, 20, holds a photo of his murdered sister Melanie and shows his tatto|Charles Mostoller
Marybell Colon adjusts a photo in a memorial to her step daughter Melanie Colon in|Charles Mostoller3/5
Marybell Colon adjusts a photo in a memorial to her step daughter Melanie Colon in|Charles Mostoller
Rebecca Santiago watches TV in front of a photo of her murdered sister inside her |4/5
Rebecca Santiago watches TV in front of a photo of her murdered sister inside her |
Louie Colon, 23, left, Rafael Colon, Rebecca Santiago and her son Issac, stand in |Charles Mostoller5/5
Louie Colon, 23, left, Rafael Colon, Rebecca Santiago and her son Issac, stand in |Charles Mostoller
“It was a clean crime scene.”
Ralphiee Colon, 20, is going over the details of how his sister’s life was snatched one evening in 2012, and the web of secrets that he is convinced links her to a disgraced Philadelphia Police Dept. homicide detective named Ronald Dove.
Melanie Zee Colon, a 22-year-old single mother who was known as the “gay Barbie” and “DJ Kiss,” was a fixture in the local LGBT community.
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She walked out of her home on the night of May 8, 2012, with a friend, Reynaldo Torres, and drove away in his 1983 Mazda.
Melanie’s decomposing body was found on the 12th of May, the day before Mother’s Day, in Juniata Park. She had been shot six times. Torres’ remains were found a year later.
Both murders remain unsolved.
“I want to know what happened to my sister and why she was killed the way she was killed,” said Ralphiee, who has launched a “Justice for Melanie” social media campaign on Instagram and Facebook to raise awareness about his sister’s murder.
Melanie’s family struggle daily with her loss, as they raise her son, Joshua, now 7, in their Kensington home.
“They executed her for nothing. They killed my sister like they'd kill a dude. That changed me,” said Louie Colon, 23, Melanie’s brother.
“She was a loving, caring, good heart, She'd see a bum and she’d give him change. She always was about her son. She was very beautiful, independent,” he said. “She wasn't ever in that type of life. Why would she die like that?”
Year of sorrows
The first year after Melanie’s death was filled with sorrow as the family’s suspicions focused on Torres, who was still missing. Melanie’s mother, Zoraida Miranda, died from a heart attack just before the one-year anniversary of Melanie’s disappearance.
In November 2013, after local press reports revealed that Dove had helped cover up another murder, committed by his then girlfriend, Torres’ jawbone was reportedly excavated near a rec center ball field.
The Inquirer reported that information found on Dove’s iPad led investigators to the field where the bone was found. Reports citing unidentified sources were never confirmed by law enforcement.
“I feel as though he knew something because he knew where Chino's [Torres] jaw bone was buried,” Ralphiee said. “You’re hiding info, so why wouldn’t we think you know something?”
The D.A.’s office declined to comment on Melanie’s murder, citing grand jury secrecy rules.
Melanie’s stepmother, Marybell Colon, 45, said her contact with homicide detectives on Melanie’s case has been irregular.
According to PPD public information officer Tanya Little, Melanie’s murder is still being investigated.
D.A. Seth Williams wouldn‘t comment on Colon’s murder when he announcedthe official indictment of Dove Jan. 22 on felony charges of hindering prosecution.
Williams would only say that a grand jury continues to investigate Dove, two-and-a-half years after Melanie’s murder.
Dove’s downfall came, prosecutors say, when his lover, Erica Sanchez, stabbed her ex-boyfriend Cesar Vera to death in September 2013 after an argument, then called Dove for help.
Dove allegedly squirreled her away in an upstate New York hotel, bought her an untraceable cell phone, hid evidence, and lied to other homicide cops while taking a weekend trip with Sanchez to Niagara Falls.
Sanchez eventually turned herself in, and Dove was fired from the police department in November 2013. Within days, police crews were digging near the Mann Rec Center in Kensington and eventually found the jawbone.
Until that grim discovery, Torres was just a missing person, and possibly a suspect in Melanie’s death.
“It angers me that whatever he got into, my sister got pulled into. She trusted him,” Ralphiee said.
He said he didn’t know specifically what Torres could have got Melanie into, but that he had heard rumors Torres may have been involved in drugs.
But more than anything, the Colons want to know who pulled the trigger on their sister. And they are convinced that the key to that information is inside Dove’s head.