Real Name: Melanie L. Uribe
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: Pacoima, California
Date: December 17, 1980
Date of Birth: September 9, 1948
Marital Status: Divorced
Characteristics: Caucasian female
Details: Thirty-one-year-old Melanie Uribe was a nurse at Pacoima Hospital in Burbank, California and a divorced single mother of an eight-year-old son. On her way to work in her pick-up truck, witnesses saw two men abduct her by forcing their way into her truck while she was waiting at a stoplight. When she failed to turn up for her shift at Pacoima Hospital on the night of December 15th, 1980, Melanie's employer telephoned her house but got no answer. She was considered reliable and punctual; fearing the worst, the police were called. By the next morning they had found her pick-up truck, burned out, and her nurse's uniform.
The story of Melanie Uribe, her murder, and her murderers is somewhat overshadowed by the tale of the psychic vision that lead to her body's whereabouts.
On December 17th, a 32-year-old shipping clerk at the Lockheed aerospace plant named Etta Smith heard about Melanie's disappearance on the radio and about the house searches the police were conducting. Immediately, despite not having any prior knowledge of the case, she thought to herself, 'she's not in a house'. As soon as that thought crossed her mind, she claims, she had a vision which was 'like a movie... very, very clear': a canyon and a curving road, shrubbery, hills in the backdrop, and a dirt path leading to something white. Etta believed that the white might have been Melanie's uniform and that it was her body; the vision was a clue to the nurse's location. She didn't know the name of the place, but felt that she knew the way to the location. She did not consider herself a psychic. Nonetheless, she left work early to talk to the police.
Detective Lee Ryan, despite his skepticism, felt that Etta was credible - noting her credentials as a business woman and her top security clearance - and he decided to see what she knew about Melanie's disappearance. Etta pinpointed the area where she believed Melanie's body would be found on a map: a remote part of the San Fernando Valley, Lopez Canyon, above Lake View Terrace. She had a strong feeling that Melanie, dead or alive, was there, and an overwhelming urge to look for her as soon as possible. Fearing that she wasn't being taken seriously, Etta's recurring vision prompted her to search the area that same day with a few family members rather than wait for the police.
Cruising slowly towards the top of canyon in her car, she felt a 'trauma' - Melanie's presence - and became certain in her mind that Melanie was in the canyon. Deciding to drive down the canyon once more, she noticed fresh tire tracks, and she felt the same 'trauma' and she somehow 'knew' that this vehicle was involved. Further down the canyon, they stopped again when Etta's daughter noticed something strange in the brush. Etta started going towards it and she saw a body with white nursing shoes; the landscape exactly as it had been in her visions.
An autopsy determined that the body was indeed Melanie Uribe and that she had been robbed, stripped naked, raped, and beaten to death. Etta's vision as she had described it had been confirmed; however, Melanie's killers remained at large. Suspicion subsequently fell upon Etta.
Suspects: Inevitably, the evening after Melanie's body was discovered, Etta was arrested. Etta was questioned by detectives and they were legitimately suspicious about how Etta knew this about the case. After questioning Etta for several hours, they had her take a polygraph test. She passed it; however, the detectives told her that she failed it, and a detective's sworn testimony is that she was trying to be deceptive, even attempting to control her breathing. The police believed that, if she wasn't involved with the murderers, her information was coming from gossip in her neighbourhood, or perhaps someone who had heard something but was afraid to come forward. They thought her motivation for claiming to have had a vision may have been for financial gain. While it could be more generously believed that she failed because the trauma of the vision and corpse-hunting excursion made her behave oddly, either way this left her as having intricate knowledge on the location of the body yet a very improbable claimed source of the knowledge. The next morning she was formally charged with murder.
Extra Notes: This segment ran for the first time on February 3, 1995; it focused on the woman who found Melanie's body, psychic Etta Smith.
Results: Solved. Shortly after Etta was charged with Melanie's murder, a police informant said that he had heard one of the killers bragging about the murder in his neighbourhood. This man was arrested and confessed, implicating two more young men in the crime; Etta was released on December 21st.
Louis Carnell Morgan, 20, an unnamed 17-year-old, and Spencer Nelson, 21, were taken into custody. The trio had jumped into Ms Uribe's truck at a stoplight and driven her into the canyon 15 miles north before robbing her, raping her and beating her to death while she begged for her life. The cause of death was blunt trauma from being hit over the head with a large rock. The killers were convicted and are serving time in prison.
- The Killers' Arrests
- Etta's Recollections of Events
- Etta's Story in Time Magazine
- Skeptical View of her Psychic Vision
- Melanie Uribe at Unsolved.com
- Melanie Uribe at Find a Grave