Real Name: Melvin Luther Wilson
Aliases: Mel Wilson, Fred C. Kennedy, Fred C. Dean, J.P. Hall, Richard Hendrix, Larry Drake, Kenneth Edward Mazur
Wanted For: Counterfeiting, Forgery
Missing Since: 1971
Details: Melvin L. Wilson is wanted by the Wisconsin Central Division-Madison U.S. Marshal's on charges of counterfeiting. In March of 1971, Wilson drove to Wabasha, Minnesota and dumped a fifty-five gallon drum into the Mississippi river. He hoped that the drum would sink to the bottom of the river. Instead, it floated downstream. A month later, the barrel was found by a fisherman in Alma, Wisconsin. The barrel contained approximately $200,000 in counterfeit twenty dollar bills. It also contained metal plates that were used to print the bills. After dumping the barrel, he left Minnesota and dropped from sight.
Twenty-five years later, three of the daughters from Wilson's known previous marriages reunited in Hawaii. Wilson's bizarre life and disappearance has left behind a double mystery: His five known children are searching for other brothers and sisters that Wilson may have had with other women, while the police are searching for Wilson himself.
Wilson found his first wife in Berkeley, California in August of 1951; seventeen-year-old Ruth Fessenden was an usher at a movie theater when the two first met. They fell in love and eloped a month later. Wilson never mentioned that he had a history of passing bad checks and spending time in county jails. Their first daughter Lesli was born nine months after their marriage. Three months later, she was pregnant again. However, when Ruth needed time to settle down, Wilson took the family back and forth across California.
Wilson said that the moves were for business; this was true, in part. What he didn't tell Ruth was that his business was forgery and his specialty was payroll checks. The fake checks were readily accepted by local stores. When people became suspicious, he simply packed up his family and left town. Ruth wanted to believe that everything was alright; she tried not to be suspicious of her husband. However, in 1953, Wilson was arrested and sent to prison. While in San Quentin, his third daughter was born.
After his release, Wilson abandoned his first family. He later did more time, serving two years at Leavenworth. In 1963, he arrived in Las Vegas; now thirty-six, he romanced nineteen-year-old Amanda Satter. He didn't tell her about the family he left behind, or about his previous times in jail. What he did tell her was a total fabrication. Just three months later, they were married. Within two years, they had a daughter Vicki and a son David. To the kids, he was the perfect dad. He spent a great deal of time with them when they were young.
At the same time he was raising his children, Wilson went from forgery to counterfeiting. During the night, Wilson would print fake twenties off in the family print shop. He made thousands of dollars in fake bills. However, when federal agents began investigating, Wilson moved his family and operation to Minnesota. Within a year, the feds picked up his trail. He then dumped the bills and plates in the Mississippi.
He kept some counterfeit bills as spending money. As he traveled from town-to-town spending the counterfeits, authorities closed in. He was finally arrested by Secret Service agents at a motel. He cooperated with authorities and pleaded guilty. He also gave them numerous statements about his counterfeiting activities. He apparently expected a light sentence. However, while out on bail, he learned that he was facing up to twenty-five years in prison. On September 15, 1971, he left town, leaving another family behind.
Although Mel Wilson vanished decades ago, the US Marshals consider his case open and active. The marshals often keep in contact with Wilson's families. During one of these calls, Vicki and David learned about their father's other family. At Thanksgiving in 1996, Vicki went to Hawaii to meet Leslie and Lynda, two of Wilson's other daughters. The sisters believe that there are other siblings out there and they want to find them. Meanwhile, authorities would like to find Melvin Wilson himself. Wilson is 6', weighs 180-200 pounds, has gray hair and blue eyes, enjoyed singing in choirs.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the March 28, 1997 episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
The case was labeled "Lost Loves" since Wilson's children were trying to locate other siblings.
Results: Wanted. According to Melvin Wilson's daughter Vicki, they were never able to locate any other Wilson siblings. Due to the passage of time, authorities believe that Wilson may now be deceased. If he is still alive, he would be in his early nineties. He is now being listed as a missing person and is on Namus - National Missing And Unidentified Persons Database.
Interestingly, there has been some speculation that Wilson may have been the infamous skyjacker known as D.B. Cooper. He vanished on September 15, 1971, 8 weeks before the November 1971 skyjacking. He also matched Cooper's description. A witness, William Mitchell, who sat near Cooper on the flight has noted that Wilson and the skyjacker shared a peculiar facial characteristic. He also felt that the two looked similar overall. In 2011, Vicki submitted her DNA to the FBI. However, she does not know if her father was ever investigated as a suspect in the case.
On August 20, 2019, forty-six-year-old Christopher Mazur of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada had received DNA results back from a well-known ancestral DNA testing company, and confirmed via the matching service and subsequent research, that he is the half-sister of Vicki Wilson and overall the fifth child of Melvin Luther Wilson.
Wilson's activities continued after August 1971 and eventually he settled in a British Columbia interior city called Kelowna, where he met and eventually married his third known wife, June White. They had eloped to Vancouver in 1972 and were subsequently married. Wilson had assumed the alias of Kenneth Edward Mazur and when their son was born December 1972, Christopher Mazur was the name written on his birth certificate. When their financial situation deteriorated, the family moved back to Kelowna in 1974 and shortly afterward Wilson left Kelowna without a trace and left his wife June and son Christopher. He has not been seen since. His wife, June White died in March 1975.
Christopher has been in contact with his surviving long-lost siblings, Vicki, David, Lynda, and Laura. He has submitted to another well-known DNA testing service to broaden the search for younger siblings, as he and his new found family believe there are more children fathered by Melvin Luther Wilson. It has also been revealed he has great grandchildren including a 13-year-old Hawaiian girl and a 16-year-old Spanish-speaking Canadian.
- Melvin Wilson at Unsolved Archive
- Melvin Wilson at NamUS
- Melvin Wilson at Missing.org
- Melvin Wilson on DB Cooper Forum (includes posts from Vicki Wilson)
- Find counterfeit bills on sandbar
- Money (La Crosse Tribune)
- Counterfeit Bills Found On Mississippi Sand Bar
- Counterfeit Cache Found By Youth, 17
- Plates found
- $1 Million in Counterfeit Bills Found
- New developments in the DB Cooper case: primary witness Bill Mitchell speaks publicly for the first time
- Could missing man be D.B. Cooper?