Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mel Ignatow

Cleaning house

Six months after the trial ended, Ignatow was living with his mother. His house had gone on the market during the trial to help pay for his legal expenses. The house had sold soon after Ignatow had put it on the market. In order to update the home, the new owners had hired Steve Doherty to replace the carpet. During a routine carpet removal he discovered a heating vent that had been carefully covered with carpet.

When Doherty pulled the carpet up, revealing the vent, he immediately saw a small bag filled with jewelry and rolls of 35mm film. Doherty's first instinct upon inadvertently finding what was obviously a hiding spot was to cover it back up with the new carpet and forget it existed. He didn't know that this had been Mel Ignatow's house, but he knew that people often don't like to be confronted with their secrets. Instead, he took his find to the owners, who immediately knew the value of the find. They called police, who rushed to retrieve and develop the film. "A hundred smoking guns" is what Jim Wesley called the find. Shore-Inlow was vindicated. Just as she'd so luridly testified, the photos showed each stage of Schaefer's humiliation. And they also showed a man although his face wasn't visible, it was apparent to anyone that knew him that the hairy arms and watch depicted in the photos belonged to Mel Ignatow. This discovery was bittersweet. As the prosecution team knew, having already been acquitted, Ignatow was protected by the prohibition against double jeopardy from being tried again for Schaefer's murder. The best they could do would be perjury.

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