Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mel Ignatow

Alarm bells

Brenda Sue Schaefer
Brenda Sue Schaefer
Schaefer's family had known immediately something was wrong. Brenda Sue Schaefer was a beauty: dark, shoulder-length hair, an easy laugh, and a friendly way about her. She was a dutiful daughter, a good employee, and a reliable friendsomeone about whom you didn't need to worry until you actually needed to worry. So when Brenda didn't come home after a date with her fiancÚ Mel Ignatow on September 24, her family started making calls. The first was to Ignatow at around 4 a.m.; he claimed that Brenda had dropped him off around 11 p.m.

"She was told me that she was going home," Ignatow told the Schaefer family. So by the morning of September 25, when police discovered Brenda's car abandoned with a flat tire and broken window, the authorities were already working a missing-person case.

The Louisville community echoed the Schaefer family's concern. With the exception of the two weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby each year, when the city descends into a bourbon-soaked bacchanalia of millinery and horseflesh, Louisville is customarily conservative and reserved. Despite its rather large size, Louisville had maintained the sensibility of a small town, so when Schaefer vanished the city seemed to be stifling a scream. In Mel Ignatow, Louisville would find a name for evil.

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