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Washington man arrested for 1993 cold case murder

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit arrested Alan Edward Dean without incident near his Bothell home around 5 p.m. Tuesday.

BOTHELL, Wash. — A 62-year-old Bothell man was arrested in connection to the 1993 kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Melissa Lee.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit arrested Alan Edward Dean without incident near his Bothell home around 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Dean was booked into the Snohomish County Jail on one count of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree kidnapping. His bail was set Wednesday at $2 million.

"I’m just happy I got to live long enough to see this happen...I hope he rots in hell," said Sharon Lee, Melissa's mother who spoke with KING 5 Wednesday.

According to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, Melissa was alone at her home on Filbert Road in Bothell on April 13, 1993. Melissa spoke to her mom on the phone around 9:30 p.m., but she was not at the residence when her mom came home after midnight. Her mom found signs of a struggle, and the front door was open. Melissa was reported missing on April 14, 1993.

"I remember putting those reward posters up in middle school and what that felt like, and to see that this has happened much later is almost like closure, but I know there’s a lot more to come," said Sara Hinckley, who is a family friend just a little younger than Melissa and thought of her as a cousin.

Melissa’s body was discovered in a ravine on the north side of the Edgewater Creek Bridge in Everett on the evening of April 14. The Snohomish County chief medical examiner determined the cause of death “was attributed to asphyxia due to manual strangulation.” Her death was ruled a homicide.

No drugs or alcohol were found in Melissa’s system. However, a toxicology report discovered Ethyl Ether and Heptane chemicals, the sheriff’s office said.

Credit: Courtesy of Snohomish County Sheriff's Office
Melissa Lee, 15, was found dead on April 14, 1993 in Everett, Wash.

During the investigation, detectives found notes in Melissa’s address book and a phone number for someone named “Michael.” The man was later identified as Dean, who said he met Melissa through a night talk line and used the name “Mike.” 

Dean was interviewed three times in 1993 and said he dated Melissa twice in March 1993. Detectives confirmed Dean was living on Madison Street in Everett at the time of the murder. His home was about 3.6 miles from where Melissa’s body was found.

Dean was identified as a suspect in Melissa’s murder through DNA technology. According to a press release, DNA evidence from the 1993 crime scene was uploaded into a public genetic genealogy website, which found “promising matches” for "multiple" of Dean’s relatives.

Genealogists with Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company in Virginia, deduced Dean’s identity from the matches. Detectives acquired Dean’s DNA from a discarded cigarette butt, and the Washington State Patrol’s crime lab matched his DNA to the DNA profile from the crime scene evidence. 

“We never gave up hope that we would find Melissa’s killer,” said Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney. “The arrest yesterday shows how our detective’s determination, combined with new advancements in DNA technology, continues to get us one step closer to justice for victims and their families, even decades later. We are also extremely thankful for the support and expertise from our partners at Parabon.”

Through the course of the investigation, detectives also discovered Dean had been accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl in Arizona eight years before Lee was killed.

"Don’t give up, don’t give up and you’re not alone," said Hinckley. " I think people feel alone and like Sharon, forgotten about, but you’re not and you can’t give up hope because your loved ones wouldn’t have wanted that."

Detectives continue to collect evidence in Lee's case and ask anyone with information to come forward. Specifically, anyone with information who:

  • Currently knows Dean, previously knew Dean or knew of his activities in or around 1993 (he would have been 35 years old at the time of the murder);
  • Recognizes Dean from the photo of him below around the time of the killing in 1993 and/or from the more recent photo of him;
  • Dated, communicated with, or has any information regarding Dean around 1993 using a night talk line (he used a fake name of Mike or Michael);
  • Has information regarding Dean having access to Ethyl Ether and Heptane chemicals around the time the crimes were committed.
Credit: Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office
Side-by-side photos from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office show Alan Dean from around 1993 (L), and a more recent photo of him (R). Dean was arrested for the 1993 murder and kidnapping of 15-year-old Melissa Lee.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 425-388-3845.