Melanie McGuire was convicted in the grisly murder of her husband, Bill McGuire, whose body was found dismembered in suitcases in the Chesapeake Bay. She became known as the “Suitcase Killer” during her televised 2007 trial.
Bill McGuire, 39, went missing on April 29, 2004. Melanie and Bill McGuire were married in 1999 and had two sons at the time of his death. They lived in an apartment Woodbridge, New Jersey. Bill worked as a computer program analyst for a Newark, New Jersey college and Melanie worked as a fertility nurse, according to a 2011 appeal filed in her case. The day before his disappearance, the couple closed on the purchase of their first home. Bill called his friends to happily tell them the news. He did not return a call from the seller later that evening.
Melanie McGuire has been in prison for 13 years, but she still maintains her innocence, she said in an interview with 20/20. The case is being featured on a two-hour ABC special, “Suitcase Killer,” which airs Friday, September 25, 2020 at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
Here’s what you need to know:
Melanie McGuire Was Sentenced to Life in Prison Plus 5 Years & Must Serve 66 Years Before Parole Consideration
A jury convicted McGuire in 2007, and she was sentenced to life in prison plus five years. She is currently incarcerated at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, New Jersey, according to her prison records. A New Jersey grand jury indicted McGuire on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, second-degree desecration of human remains and third-degree perjury in October 2005. A grand jury returned a second indictment in 2006, charging her with eight additional counts regarding anonymous communications, according to the appeal filed in her case.
McGuire went through a lengthy trial, which was televised on Court TV, from February to April 2007. Prosecutors called 64 witnesses, and the defense called 16 witnesses. The case involved 21 witnesses qualified as experts, hundreds of pieces of evidence and 21 days of testimony. The jury deliberated for three days before convicting her of all four counts lodged against her in the first indictment, and acquitted her of the eight counts filed in the second indictment.
The prosecution argued McGuire’s motive was her affair with Dr. Bradley Miller, a partner at the medical practice RMA Associates. Miller was also married with children. Their relationship began in 2002, according to the appeal.
The appeal details the murder, the night of Bill McGuire’s disappearance, and the disposal of his body. It says:
The State alleged that defendant wanted to end her marriage to Bill but also had concerns about divorce. She wished to avoid purchasing a house at substantial expense and beginning a new phase in a marriage she regretted. In April 2004, defendant conducted internet research to learn about buying a gun and about poisons, sedative drugs, and murder. She also made inquiries of a friend about how to buy a gun. In the evening hours of April 28, 2004, after the closing on the new house, she allegedly drugged and incapacitated Bill and then shot him sometime during April 28-29.
During the next three days, according to the State, and likely with the help of an accomplice as yet unidentified, defendant caused Bill’s body to be cut into sections with a reciprocating saw and a knife, wrapped the body in industrial-type garbage bags sealed with adhesive tape, and packed it into the matching set of luggage. She then drove to Virginia on May 3, where the suitcases were thrown at night from an isolated stretch of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge into the bay. Immediately after murdering Bill, according to the State, defendant embarked on a plan to conceal the crimes and to create the appearance that Bill had abandoned his family, his job, and his new house after a violent argument with her.
Melanie McGuire Appealed Her Case, Saying She Did Not Receive a Fair Trial, & Maintains Her Innocence in 2020
Melanie McGuire says she is innocent, and wants her sons to know she did not kill their father, she said in interviews with 20/20. She offered explanations for the stories she told police, such as her claim she stumbled across her husband’s car in Atlantic City and moved it. She bought a gun two days before his disappearance in Pennsylvania, but said she did so for her husband, and speculated he was having trouble with someone. While she admitted to her affair with Miller, she maintains she did not kill Bill McGuire.
“After all these years, I still feel hurt. I still feel bothered. Like, how could somebody think that I did that?” she said on 20/20.
McGuire appealed her case, saying she did not receive a fair trial. The Superior Court of New Jersey affirmed her verdict and sentence in 2011. You can read the appeal and court decision in full here. The appeal raised many claims contending she did not receive a fair trial, including prosecutorial misconduct, failure to consider a mitigating factor, a tainted jury, and exposure of the jury to inflammatory media accounts.
McGuire’s case is being featured on a podcast, “Direct Appeal.” She is nearly out of options in the judicial system, the podcast website said, and now she is appealing to the public for help. Criminologists Dr. Meghan Sacks, and Dr. Amy Shlosberg dig into the evidence on the podcast.
McGuire offered a message to her sons on 20/20, who are now adults, encouraging them to look deeper into the case and find the truth for themselves.
“Make up your mind. Don’t accept what you’re just being told on the surface. Dig, dig. These documents exist. This stuff exists,” she said on the show. “It’s out there.”