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'It's all worth this day today' | After 37 years of waiting, a murder suspect is named in Sylvania mother's cold case

Hear what the family of Patricia Stichler has to say and how investigators found the suspect.

SYLVANIA, Ohio — After 37 years with no suspects, police released the name of the person they think is responsible for killing Patricia Stichler.

"I've cried for 37 years and now I'm here and I can't cry," Patricia Stichler's daughter, Kirsten Kelley, said. "I'm happy that this day is here."

The murder happened in January 1985 in Sylvania. And on Wednesday, police released the first-ever suspect in the case.

RELATED: Authorities announce suspect, now deceased, in 1985 Sylvania murder of Patricia Stichler

"Officers investigated the best they could in 1985, did all their follows up, collected the evidence and were never able to develop a suspect," Captain Danilynn Miller with the city of Sylvania Police Division said.

The case stayed active and was looked into again in 1998.

"Over the course of relooking at all the evidence, we developed a DNA profile for an unknown male that came from an area within the crime scene that led us to believe that it's a good chance it was the suspect," Miller said.

Patricia's ex-husband, boyfriend and other male friends were tested, but no match.

Twenty years later in 2018, officers looked into genealogical testing, looking through familial DNA to see if there was a match and after years of searching, there was.

"We ended up with probably a distant cousin a couple of times removed in California," Miller said.

Miller added that everything that could have been a problem, was.

From adoptions to people with a different biological father. After years of collecting DNA and tracing family trees, it led to a biological mother.

Except, that woman gave her son up for adoption, but after tracing the son...

"It led us to Michael, who lived six houses down from the victim," said Miller.

Michael Mellus, who was 17 years old at the time.

Investigators found that the family did not know Mellus, so there was no reason for his DNA to be found in the home. WTOL 11 found that the Mellus family did move from the neighborhood after the murder and police say when they broke the news to the family that Michael is a suspect, they were shocked.

News that was painful, but also a relief for Patricia's daughter Kirsten.

"We've lived very full wonderful lives by choice, but not without a lot of pain and unnecessary suffering at the hands of a 17-year-old," said Kelley.

Mellus died four years after Patricia was killed, in a single-vehicle car crash in 1989 while stationed in North Carolina with the U.S. Army, which he enlisted in after graduating from high school.

With the news of a suspect, Kelley wants this to clear others' names.

"Toby Oldham, who was my father, and James Richard Vale Jr., who was my mother's boyfriend, spent 37 years of their life being judged and ridiculed by everyone," Kelley said. "My father, as recently as a few years ago, went to a reunion and someone said 'you killed your wife.' This was a very dark cloud and it's just not fair."

She even contacted Parabon Nanolabs, a company that can sketch a person's face from DNA. The sketch was made up before police traced the DNA to Mellus.

Kelley has fought tirelessly over the years for justice; a feeling she's been waiting for since she was just 9: the age her mother was taken from her.

"It has been a very gut-wrenching process but it's all worth this day today," she said.

This is still an open case. If you have seen anything, heard anything or knew Michael Mellus, police are asking for your help.

Contact Sgt. Justin Music with the Sylvania Police Division at 419-885-0467 or email him at 851@sylvaniapolice.com.

Credit: Kirsten Kelley
Patricia Stichler, pictured here with her three daughters, was 30 years old at the time when she was murdered on January 2, 1985.

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