13 year old Melissa Benoit was a resident of Kingston,MA. She lived in a home with her mother and an 11 year old sister. The family had recently been through tragedy when the year before, Melissa’s father had passed away unexpectedly at just 41 years old leaving the family devastated.
Melissa was last seen on a path near her home about 2:30 pm on Saturday, September 15, 1990 where she went to visit her father’s grave. Melissa frequented this path, visiting her father often, a feat made easy by the proximity of the cemetery to her home.
The FBI asked neighbors to search properties and undergo polygraph testing related to the case. By September 19th, suspicion had fallen on a neighbor who had lived in the area for 30 years. After failing the polygraph, this man, Henry L. Meinholz admitted to prior lewd acts including sexual assault at knifepoint and public masterbation.
The disappearance was immediately taken seriously and the search for Melissa was extensive, involving 1000 law enforcement officers and volunteers. After Meinholz’s wife consented, a search was executed on his home and Melissa’s body was recovered during that search.
Her body, clad only in a tshirt, was found in the basement of the Meinholz home 11 days after she went missing. She was wrapped in plastic sheet which was fashioned as a cord around her neck . There was a cord around her chest, and a cord around her left wrist, and evidence there had been cords around other limbs while she was alive. She was naked from the waist down and had multiple blunt force contusions on her body. She had contusions on her bilateral inner thighs consistent with sexual assault. Cause of death was asphyxia and blunt fore trauma to the head.
Meinholz, 52, a bookkeeper at a lumber yard and church deacon ,was charged and convicted with kidnapping and killing the young girl . He claimed the voices in his head taunted him that he was not a man if he did not have sex with her. Meinholz was not charged with sexual assault because it could not be proven due to decomposition, however he did testify to sexually assaulting her but stated the sexual contact with the 13 year old was consentual, which only shows what a true abomination this man was. Of course, no one believed any of his sick lies any way, I just hate that her mother and sister had to sit there and listen to that after all they had been through.
Meinholz was given life in prison without parole, and he started his time in prison in Walpole but after many threats and one an assault, he was moved to the prison in Concord. I didn’t need to add that part but it made me feel good to think he suffered some after what he did.
Meinholz died in prison in 2000. The judge in the murder trial discussed that it was unfortunate the days where defendants like Meinholz could be hanged in front of the courthouse had passed.
Melissa is buried next to her father in Evergreen Cemetery in Kingston.