For seven years, Mel Wiley served the people of Hinckley County, Ohio. After stints with the FBI and Defense Department, Mel joined the Hinckley Township Police Department in 1978 and became police chief in 1982. He was considered a dedicated cop who did his job well. By 1985, however, Mel appeared to tire of clamping the ‘cuffs on criminals. His real passion was putting pen to paper as he longed to be a mystery writer.
Mel told friends and colleagues he had started writing a murder mystery called “Harvest of Madness.” No one knows if he completed his novel because Mel is not here to tell. Instead of writing a great mystery, Police Chief Mel Wiley has been starring in a real-life mystery.
Unlike most of the missing people I have written about, however, Mel Wiley’s disappearance appears to be of his own choosing.
The morning of July 28, 1985, was like any other. Mel entered Hinckley’s K&K Doughnuts and ordered his usual sinkers and coffee. After jokingly grumbling the doughnuts were awful, he went on his way. No one, however, knows where “his way” took him.
Since exiting the doughnut shop that summer day, Mel Wiley seemingly vanished off the face of the Earth.
That afternoon, Mel’s car was found abandoned on Lake Erie’s Lakefront State Park in Cleveland, 25 miles north of Hinckley. The car was locked and contained most of Mel’s pertinent belongings including his wallet, credit cards, and his police identification badge. A search of the area involving the Hinckley police and surrounding departments turned up no trace of the police chief.
The day before his disappearance, the divorced 47-year-old Mel told his girlfriend he was meeting an out-of-town friend to go swimming at the lake. He made plans for a date with her for the following day.
Authorities initially believed Mel had either drowned in Lake Erie or had been murdered by the unnamed friend. Evidence soon began surfacing… but not on the lake.
Mel’s trial ended in Cleveland, the “Mistake by the Lake.” But investigators believe it is a mistake to believe Mel lay in the lake.
As he was the police chief, it was naturally wondered if someone Mel had previously arrested had done him in. However, during Mel’s tenure with the police department, the small Hinckley community had experienced few crimes of significance and no instances of major crimes. Investigators could find no one with an obvious motive to have the small-town police chief murdered.
The only person with a motive for Mel Wiley to disappear appeared to be the police chief himself.
An analysis of the ribbon on Mel’s office typewriter showed he had written a letter, addressed to a friend, saying he was tired of his life and wanted to disappear. Mel said he would be 2,500 miles away by the time his friend received the letter, in which he wrote, “I will have, in one sense of the word, gone away. It’s a one-way trip, so I’m told, with no option of ever returning and perhaps that’s just as well for any and all concerned.” Mel’s friend, however, never received the letter, and it has never been found.
In the early 1960s, while in the military, Mel had been stationed at California’s Fort Ord and developed a love of nearby San Francisco. Investigators found, written in Mel’s handwriting, Greyhound bus schedules from Cleveland to San Francisco, a distance of roughly 2,500 miles.
Perhaps finding nonfiction preferable to fiction, the police chief decided to concoct his own mystery. Friends believe that having grown bored with his job and experiencing the frustrations every writer goes through, Mel said the hell with Hinckley and left his law career for a life of solitude and sanctuary in the city by the bay. As police chief, Mel had access to materials such as fingerprints and social security information which would aid him in assuming another identity. In addition, with his law enforcement background, he would know how to stay off the radar.
No trace of Mel Wiley has been found in the 34 years since his disappearance, nor has any evidence surfaced indicating murder or suicide. He was declared legally dead in 1993. If he is still alive, Mel Wiley would today be 81-years-old.
Is the former police chief living his golden years in splendid isolation from society? Perhaps, Mel, will one day return to write the final chapter to his own mystery. More likely, though, the former police chief will leave us to ponder the fate of the long-gone lawman.
If you believe you have any information related to the disappearance of Mel Wiley, please contact the Medina, Ohio, County Sheriff’s Department at 330-725-9116.
If you happen to come across this post, Mel, shoot me a message. I would like to read “Harvest of Madness” if you have completed it, but even more, I would be interested in a Wiley lawman’s opinions on my writings, including in your own case.
Every mystery deserves a good ending, Mel. I would love, if you would give me the privilege, to write the conclusion to the tail of “The Long Gone Lawman”… on your terms and conditions of course.🧐
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More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:
Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)
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