Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mel Ignatow

Testimony and verdict

Schaefer's killing had been planned in advance, and down the last detail. The grave had been dug two weeks before the murder, and roughly a week after that Ignatow and Shore-Inlow had "scream-tested" the house. Ignatow had stood by the road while Shore-Inlow shrieked, testing whether any passers-by might overhear Schaefer if she put up a fight or yelled. According to The Courier-Journal, the night before the murder Ignatow dropped off garbage bags, tape, rope, and gloves at the house.

Once Brenda arrived at the Shore-Inlow residence with Ignatow, having been told she was there to meet someone interested in buying the jewelry he had given her, he told her she was there for "sex therapy." Brenda protested and rose to leave, but Ignatow demanded that she stay. Fearing for her life she became obedient, stripping one article of clothing at a time while Ignatow instructed Shore-Inlow to document each step of the process with the camera Brenda had given to Ignatow as a Christmas present.

Once Schaefer was naked, Ignatow tied Schaefer to a glass coffee table and spent forty-five minutes beating and sodomizing her. Shore-Inlow reported that she took photos of each of these actions, focusing on Schaefer's face and making sure that Ignatow's face didn't appear.

After the first round, Shore-Inlow took Schaefer to the bathroom and gave her a tissue for her tears. Soon, however, Ignatow pulled Schaefer into the bedroom and lashed her to the bed, her ankles tied over her head. For the next several hours he raped, beat and sodomized Schaefer, instructing Shore-Inlow to participate on occasion.

Running out of film, Shore-Inlow retired to the kitchen for a glass of water. Moments later Ignatow entered the kitchen and said that it was over: Brenda Sue Schaefer was dead.

The jury returned quickly. The lack of physical evidence, Shore-Inlow's strange, trancelike testimony, the black prosecutor, the missing photos. Each of these factors weighed in their decision. The jury felt that the prosecution had not met its burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt. Despite an astonished courtroomand a scandalized statethe jury found Mel Ignatow not guilty. He was free to go.

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