When 5-year-old Melissa Brannen disappeared from a Christmas party in 1989, her mother was devastated. Her ex-husband, who had custody of the girl at the time, was convicted in her abduction and served 50 years in prison. But he never admitted to killing her or disposing of her body.
Tammy Graybill has moved on with her life, but she still hangs a stocking for her daughter each year and makes a birthday cake for her in April. She looks forward to the day that her new husband, Leon, retires and they will have children of their own. She has a few of Melissa's things, her Patty doll and a stuffed bear.
In the years after Melissa's disappearance, her mother vowed to do whatever it took to find her. She even talked about becoming a single mom again through artificial insemination with her ex-husband, but she decided she was not ready to have a child after what happened to her daughter.
Despite a massive search that never produced any evidence, the case was one of the first where police used forensics to build a case against a suspect. The FBI crime lab found 50 blue acrylic fibers that were microscopically consistent with ones in Melissa's blazer, and rabbit fur was also discovered in Hughes' car. His attorney, Peter Greenspun, has denied that Hughes abducted Melissa or killed her in any way. He recently said that if Hughes agreed to tell the family where she is, Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Horan would consider not prosecuting him on additional charges or at least reduce his maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.