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  1. #1
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    VA - Melissa Brannen, 5, Lorton, 3 Dec 1989 *C. Hughes guilty*

    Melissa Lee Brannen Missing since December 3, 1989 from Lorton, VA

    Melissa Lee Brannen
    Missing since December 3, 1989 from Lorton, Fairfax County, Virginia.
    Classification: Non-Family Abduction
    Vital Statistics

    Date Of Birth: April 13, 1984
    Age at Time of Disappearance: 5 years old
    Height and Weight at Time of Disappearance: 3'0; 38 pounds
    Distinguishing Characteristics: White female. Light brown hair; blue eyes.
    Marks, Scars: A burn scar on her right forearm.
    Clothing: A navy blue sweater with a yellow Big Bird applique; a blue and red plaid skirt; red tights; black patent leather shoes with gold bows; and a pink hooded jacket.

    Circumstances of Disappearance

    Melissa Lee Brannen was last seen during a holiday party at the Woodside Apartment Clubhouse in Lorton, Virginia on December 3, 1989. Her family resided in the apartment complex at the time. She disappeared from the festivities and has never been seen again.

    Caleb D. Hughes was developed as a suspect within hours of the abduction. Hughes was employed as a groundskeeper at Woodside Apartments at the time of Brannen's disappearance. The Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI) examined blood and fiber evidence from Hughes' vehicle in the weeks following Brannen's disappearance. He was convicted of abducting Brannen with the intent to defile in 1991. Two other men were convicted of attempting to extort ransom momey from Brannen's mother shortly after her daughter's disappearance. The individuals were not connected to her actual abduction.

    If you have any information concerning Brannen's whereabouts or the circumstances surrounding her disappearance, please contact:

    Fairfax County Sheriff's Department , Lt. John DeMaria , 703-246-7800 OR
    703-2456-7890

    NCIC Number: M-395923188
    The Doe Network: Case File 159DFVA

    Source Information:
    The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children

    Link:
    http://www.doenetwork.us/cases/159dfva.html

  2. #2
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    Jan 2005
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    This case was recently profiled on a Court Tv show. Caleb Hughes raped and killed her. He has never disclosed exact details of his crime and never revealed the location of her body. He took her from a Xmas party in the social hall of the complex. There are dense woods around the community so I think he just dumped her somewhere. He attempted to wash his clothes upon returing home but I think LE was able to find blood evidence. They also tracked the manufactor of Melissa's clothing thru JC Penney to obtain a exact copy of Melissa's outfit. It was used to coroborate the fiber evindence. Another sad ending and no body.

  3. #3
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    Caleb Hughes

    Quote Originally Posted by Usher737
    This case was recently profiled on a Court Tv show. Caleb Hughes raped and killed her. He has never disclosed exact details of his crime and never revealed the location of her body. He took her from a Xmas party in the social hall of the complex. There are dense woods around the community so I think he just dumped her somewhere. He attempted to wash his clothes upon returing home but I think LE was able to find blood evidence. They also tracked the manufactor of Melissa's clothing thru JC Penney to obtain a exact copy of Melissa's outfit. It was used to coroborate the fiber evindence. Another sad ending and no body.
    Caleb Hughes may well have murdered Melissa, however, he was never charged with her murder for lack of evidence - specifically lack of a body. As you state, Hughes never admitted to anything. He was considered a suspect from early on in the investigation because he had been seen talking to Melissa at the Christmas Party, and disappeared about the same time she did.

    As I recall, police did search him, his apartment, and his vehicle soon after Melissa's disappearance, and then held him in jail on a parole violation of some sort. Something - I think it was fiber evidence - caused LE to believe that Hughes had abducted Melissa. I cannot recall what the time span was between her disappearance and LE apprehending Hughes, but I think it was a matter of a few hours.

    I do not think that Melissa's blood was found on his clothing or in his car, because that might have been enough to charge him with murder. Although rare to prosecute a charge of murder without a body, it has been done successfully - as in the case of Maryland convicting Hadden Clark of murdering Michelle Dorr based on trace blood evidence and a lot of circumstantial evidence which fit him. I believe that Virginia Prosecutors would have done the same with even a small amount of Melissa's blood.

    There are two main scenarios in regard to this crime and Hughes involvement. The first is - as you point out - that Hughes was acting on his own and that he probably did murder Melissa and hide her body somewhere. He was a grounds keeper and would have known of many possible remote hiding places in the area, and perhaps elsewhere in other places where he may have worked. He had a car, and could have driven some distance and returned before being apprehended by police.

    The second scenario is that Hughes may have abducted her for someone else, for money, or a favor, or other consideration. This scenario would seem less likely, but still a possibility.

  4. #4
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    Apr 2005
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    Richard, I was living in Springfield when this incident took place. My husband and I worked at Ft. Belvoir and it was a very very strange incident. Melissa wanted to go to the bathroom just before they were leaving the Christmas party and when she didn't return, her mom started looking for her. This happened in just a few MINUTES.

    I have since moved from the Lorton area but I always wondered if they actually brought charges up on the maintenance man that was at the party. If my memory serves I think the guy was questioned approximately 10 hours later as he did not go straight home and I believe they found one drop of blood on the car seat and that's when they became suspicious. I don't think the LE thought there would be enough for testing, I wonder if they could do the test now?

    It was a truly sad sad situation.

  5. #5
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    The bulk of the Court Tv program, and I cant remember the name of it, was showing how the gathered evidence against Hughes. I think they found something on his shoes. In the reinactment they show him washing his clothes but not his shoes. The other evidence came from his car which dealt I believe with her clothes. They presented in detail the tracking down of her Big Bird outfit. I have been searching for more exact information, but so far no luck.

    Richard, I agree with you that he was not charged due to lack of evidence, especially no body. I think the police could have pressed him harder and kept looking. There is no doubt in my mind that Hughes is responsible.

  6. #6
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    I found this blurb that does show he actually served some time in this abduction, but was later probably released. This comes from a 1993 court update:

    This same week, Caleb Hughes, serving a 50-year sentence for abducting 5-year-old Melissa Brannen of Fairfax County, saw his conviction overturned. There is insufficient proof Hughes abducted her--with intent to molest, said the Virginia Court of Appeals. Hughes must be tried again. As abduction alone only carries a 10-year sentence, and Hughes has served three and a half, he may be eligible for immediate parole. Melissa was never seen again, after leaving her mother's side at a Christmas party to get some potato chips. Traces of her hair and dress were found in Hughes' car.

  7. #7
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    I do not have the entire history of Caleb Hughes' offenses, trials, and prison records, but the following information from the Virginia Department of Corrections Inmate Locator would indicate that he is still incarcerated, although he has been up for parole since August 1998. Probably means he comes up for another parole hearing this month?


    DOC Inmate Number: 173330 Last Name: Hughes First Name: Caleb Race: WhiteSex: MaleVirginia DOC Location: Augusta Correctional Center Projected Release Date: 02/19/2018 Parole Eligibility Date: 08/31/1998

  8. #8
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    Jan 2005
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    Ontario, Canada
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    Yeah, I saw the show on TLC, it was Medical detectives. It was fascinating how they matched the specific blue dyes to the outfit she was wearing. They found traces of human protein in the soles of his shoes, but no DNA was recovered.
    ~Mekena Sarah Gracie Carmichael~
    2007-2011
    West Elgin's Precious Angel

  9. #9
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    If the 1993 info that I pulled up shows they didn't have enough to prove abduction, and that abduction only held a 10-year sentence anyway (and that he had already served 3-1/2 and would eligible for immediate release), wonder why he's still in jail/prison this many years later? My first thought is that anyone who abducts and murders a child will do it again the first chance they get... so I wonder if they caught him again for another child abduction? Wish we knew more.

  10. #10
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    Apparently they convicted Hughes on Melissa's abduction. I found this info that clarifies he was given a 50 year sentence in her abduction (with intent to defile) and that he'll probably be paroled in 2010. He was only 24 when she was abducted in 1989, so that would make him approximately 45 at the time of his projected release in 2010. No doubt he'll do it again in a heartbeat.

    On May 7, 1991, a jury sentenced Hughes 50 years for the abduction of Melissa Brannen and with the intent to defile.
    "He got away with murder, I've always thought," said Horan. "We couldn't prove what actually happened to her, so we tried him as an abductor rather than a killer because we couldn't prove where it occurred."
    Hughes was defended by Peter Greenspun, who is currently defending sniper suspect John Lee Muhammad.
    Hughes will be eligible for parole and will probably be released from jail around 2010, according to Horan. "There ought to be a rule against it, but he'll be out. He got 50 years and he's eligible and at some point, the lines cross and it's mandatory [for his release.]"


  11. #11
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    Sixteen years ago this month...

    It was sixteen years ago this month that Melissa was kidnapped from a Christmas Party and probably murdered. She is still missing. Caleb Hughes is still in prison serving time for abducting her, but he has never admitted to it and has never said what he did with her. According to the Virginia Prison Locator, he has been elligible for parole since 1998. Definitely one to keep a watch for and to let the Parole Board know your thoughts on the matter.

  12. #12
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    May 2004
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    Richard, God Bless you for remembering Melissa today....I was at that Christmas Party held at the Woodside Apts in Lorton, va on that horrible night.. I also had the pleasure of knowing both Tammy and Melissa and shared in the search for the person who took Melissa from the community party by way of a utility window in the rear of the building as she left Tammy and I to go get herself some chips, cause it was time for us to go... this part of the evening became so surreal...First it was the shouts of "come on Melissa" then it went to "Melissa Baby come on "" to "Melissa !! "". I will never forget how it all went down, ever......Last Christmas, my little one turned five and I didn't go to our community christmas party because of her!!!!

    I've come here for years and have read so much that ya'll write....Thank you all !!

  13. #13
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    Melissa Lee Brannen

    Date Of Birth: April 13, 1984
    Age at Time of Disappearance: 5 years old
    Height and Weight at Time of Disappearance: 3'0; 38 pounds
    Distinguishing Characteristics: White female. Light brown hair; blue eyes.
    Marks, Scars: A burn scar on her right forearm.
    Clothing: A navy blue sweater with a yellow Big Bird applique; a blue and red plaid skirt; red tights; black patent leather shoes with gold bows; and a pink hooded jacket.

    Case Type: Non Family Abduction
    DOB: Apr 12, 1984
    Missing Date: Dec 3, 1989
    Age Now: 21
    Missing City: FAIRFAX
    Missing State : VA
    Missing Country: United States
    Case Number: NCMC732677


    NCME

    Charley Project

  14. #14
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    Aug 2006
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    regarding Caleb

    Despite what anyone says, Caleb Hughes did not kidnap Melissa.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Proudmomof2
    Despite what anyone says, Caleb Hughes did not kidnap Melissa.
    could you elaborate?

    thanks
    mjak

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