Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Melvin Rees -- The Sex Beast

Murder Journal

A year went by before Moser heard from Rees, and Hurkos had already arrived in Falls Church to help with the investigation. Out of the blue, Moser received a letter letting him know that Rees was now living in Hyattsville, Ark., and working as a piano salesman in a music store in West Memphis. He provided an address. Moser realized that he now had a way to send the police right to Reess door. Hed been disappointed as hed followed the investigation in newspapers to learn that his earlier tip had failed to pay off. It had been difficult then to turn in a friend and he was now faced with doing that again, but he knew it was right. This time he went directly to the police department to show them the letter from Rees and provide everything he could to ensure a thorough investigation. Thanks to his intervention, things turned out quite differently for the jazz player.

Melvin Rees, cuffed outside court
Melvin Rees, cuffed outside court

Because Rees had crossed a state line, the FBI entered the case. Agents went to Arkansas, arrested Rees at the store, and brought the Army sergeant from Annapolis there for a line-up. He identified Rees as the man who had approached them that fateful night in 1957 and killed Margaret Harold.

The agents then searched Reess home. Although it seemed unlikely that there would be any evidence from the murders this far away, unless he had kept a memento from a victim, they looked through everything. Finally they struck pay dirt. Inside a saxophone case they found the evidence they needed. Rees had secreted a .38 caliber handgun in the case -the attacker in both cases had shot the victims with a .38. But more telling was the sheaf of notes written by Rees that described a number of sexually sadistic acts. One note was paper-clipped to a piece of newspaper, and when the agents examined it, they knew they had the best evidence they were going to get: the note described killing a man and baby on a lonely road, which resulted in a chilling confession: now the mother and daughter were all mine. The piece of newspaper was a photo of Mildred Jackson. It was as good as a token taken from the body or as actual property of the victim. No jury would deny the connection. In essence, Rees had offered a murder journal, and hed gone on to explain that he had indeed tortured Mildred and had drawn out her death in a sadistic manner. Lane and Gregg quote it thus: then tied and gagged, led her to a place of execution and hung her. I was her master.

A gun, a photo, a specific description by the killer tantamount to a confession, a line-up identification, and the suspicions of a friend - it was a good collection of evidence. Even as Rees was taken to Maryland to await his first trial, investigators started looking at other unsolved cases that bore possible links to this mad dog. They found what they were looking for.