Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - The body was never found
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 16, 1995
Date of birth: ???
Victim profile: Melissa Yon (his wife)
Method of murder: ???
Location: Lexington County, South Carolina, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison in 1999

South Carolina v. Jack Stephenson

"Disappearance or Murder Trial"

By Bryan Robinson -

No one has seen Melissa Yon since she vanished in November 1995. Her body has never been found. The only trace of her remains are blood stains in a car trunk.

Now prosecutors must use this limited evidence to prove that Melissa is dead and that her common-law husband, Jack Stephenson, killed her. The prosecution claims that the couple was having relationship problems and that Stephenson violently killed Melissa during a heated argument.

Stephenson insists that his wife is not dead. He claims that she ran away after he accused her of having an affair.

Melissa, a nursing assistant, vanished during the week of Nov. 13, 1995. She last talked to her sister, Chandra Yon-Corley, and her mother, Nollie Yon, on Nov. 15. When she did not show up to work at the Lowman Retirement Home in Lexington, S.C. for two days, her supervisor became concerned and called Nollie.

Melissa's relatives were worried: Stephenson had repeatedly told them that she had been at work on those days. Chandra says that Stephenson called her around midnight on Nov. 15 and asked her to take his three-year-old son Jeffrey to daycare the next morning because Melissa was working "around the clock." Chandra said it was unusual for Stephenson to make the daycare arrangements.

Chandra also remembered that Jeffrey was hysterical when Stephenson dropped him off at her house at 4 am. She was not able to calm Jeffrey down until it was time to take him to daycare. Later, Chandra tried to reach her sister both at work and at her home but was unsuccessful.

On the night of Nov. 16, Stephenson called Nollie and told her that Melissa would not need a lift to work the next morning. (Melissa had arranged for her mother to drive her to work Friday because of car trouble.) Nollie claims that Stephenson said Melissa was working.

The next night, Stephenson dropped Jeffrey off at his grandmother's home and told Nollie that Melissa was still working. Hours later Melissa's employers called Nollie and asked her about her daughter's whereabouts. Melissa's co-worker, Jill Ray, says Stephenson called and told her that Melissa was very ill and would not return to work until after Thanksgiving. Ray told Stephenson that he would have to speak to Melissa's supervisor. He never did.

Realizing that Melissa was missing, Nollie and Chandra contacted the Lexington County Sheriff's Department. When police questioned Stephenson that night, he told them that he last saw Melissa going to work that morning. Two days later, on Nov. 19, Stephenson changed his story, saying that he had seen Melissa twice on Friday morning in Columbia, S.C. When police searched his home, they did not find any evidence of a murder.

Police did not find any evidence implicating Stephenson in Melissa's disappearance until he abandoned his half brother Dan Mivens' car in Sumter, S.C. weeks later. A small blood spot was found on the rug of the car's trunk, and DNA tests revealed that the blood most likely came from Melissa. The odds that the blood belonged to someone else were 58,000-to-1.

A few weeks before Melissa's disappearance, Stephenson had borrowed Mivens' 1968 Chevrolet Caprice. On Nov. 17, the car got stuck in a mud patch near an isolated alligator-infested swamp. Mivens says Stephenson asked him to help extricate the car. He claims that Stephenson then confessed to killing Melissa, saying that he hid the body underneath their mobile home. However, Mivens says, Stephenson immediately retracted his statement, saying that he was only joking.

Weeks later, Mivens and Stephenson met at a motel in the southern part of the state. Mivens says that a nervous Stephenson had cut his hair short and told him that he was on the run from police for delinquent child support payments. Over the next year, Stephenson lived like a vagabond, sleeping in the woods and in motels. Mivens tried to help Stephenson by lending him clothes, money and food.

In the fall of 1996, Mivens unknowingly helped authorities find and arrest Stephenson. While he signed a complaint alleging that Stephenson had not been authorized to use his car, Mivens now claims police tricked him. He says he did not know he was signing an arrest warrant for his half-brother.

The prosecutors believe that Stephenson's domestic problems with Melissa drove him to murder. Two weeks before she disappeared, Stephenson had found love letters and motel receipts in one of her outfits. Suspecting that Melissa was having an affair, Stephenson allegedly called Mivens and told him he planned to kill her. Mivens was so concerned that he drove to Stephenson's home to calm him down. Stephenson was not home, and Mivens believed the couple's problems would defuse.

On Nov. 15, the day of her disappearance, Melissa went to the hospital, where she discovered she had chlamydia. It is not clear whether Stephenson had the sexually transmitted disease at the time, but the state suspects that the revelation drove him to murder Melissa. (The jury will not hear any evidence about Melissa's chlamydia until the state's rebuttal case.) After killing Melissa, prosecutors say, Stephenson loaded Melissa's body in Mivens's car trunk, drove to an alligator-infested swamp and buried the body.

Without her body, prosecutors acknowledge that they will have a difficult time proving that Melissa is dead in addition to convincing jurors that Stephenson is her killer. If convicted, Stephenson faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

The Verdict

Stephenson was found guilty but vowed he would appeal. He was sentenced to life in prison.



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