05/28/2024

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Melissa Wolfenbarger: Fight for Justice Continues for Georgia Mom Found Dismembered, Beheaded & Stuffed in Trash Bags

Melissa Wolfenbarger: Fight for Justice Continues for Georgia Mom Found Dismembered, Beheaded & Stuffed in Trash Bags

CrimeOnline’s “Zone 7” host, Sheryl McCollum, brought a Georgia cold case to New York during the sophomore year of the highly acclaimed Hamptons Whodunit Festival in East Hampton Village.

“No tip is too small,” McCollum said during her distinguished “Crime and Wine” session on April 13. She presented the case of Melisa Wolfenberger to a crowd of attendees at East Hampton’s historic Hedges Inn.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Melissa disappeared in November 1998 from an Atlanta home she shared with her husband and children. Her husband, Christopher Wolfenberger, didn’t report her missing, although she hadn’t been seen in months. Her mother, Norma, subsequently filed a missing persons report in Henry County.

Melissa’s sister, Tina Patton, said Melissa didn’t have a landline phone and cellphones weren’t readily available, so they drove to her home around Christmas in 1998 to check on her. McCollum told the audience that the family didn’t have the means to afford a phone at the time.

When the family arrived, Melissa’s home was empty and a neighbor said Christopher Wolfenbarger had moved their belongings out.

McCollum takes questions from the audience on April 13 at her ‘Hamptons Whodunit’ presentation

When investigators questioned the husband, he claimed Melissa walked away from home and never returned. Tina’s family said investigators weren’t taking Melissa’s disappearance seriously at the time.

Months passed without any word from Melissa. Then, in 1999, investigators found a human head, soaked in bleach in a black trash bag, off of Avon Avenue in Atlanta, The head was in an area behind a glass company where Christopher once worked.

A surprising twist happened when Melissa and Tina’s father, Carl Millard Patton Jr., was arrested for three unrelated murders in 2003. Patton Jr. was convicted for the 1977 killings of Fred Wyatt, Liddie Matthews Evans, and Evans’ boyfriend, Joe Cleveland.

Known as the “Flint River murders,” Patton Jr.’s case caught the media’s attention, which brought about more interest in Melissa’s case. McCollum said Patton Jr. has been cleared in connection with Melissa’s death and is doing what he can to help solve the case.

Patton Jr.’s case is also what led investigators to confirm the remains found in 1999 were those of Melissa. Now, with the help of McCollum and her non-profit organization, CCRI, the family hopes that justice is nearing.

Tina added that Melissa’s daughter, Chrissy, now grown, is also searching for answers. When Chrissy turned 18, she contacted her mother’s family with questions.

“We never even got to be around them [the children] until Chrissy graduated high school,” Tina said, adding that Christopher Wolfenbarger left the children with his mother to raise.

“We didn’t want to be the first ones to tell her what we thought, so we kind of let her say what she thought. She was the first one that said she thinks her dad did it….he didn’t want to talk about Melissa at all, period, while she was growing up.”

Today, according to Tina, Christopher Wolfenbarger still lives in the area but has no contact with her family. Efforts to reach him have been unsuccessful.

“He probably thinks he’s gotten away with it. I hope I am there when they bust down his door and arrest him.”

Anyone with any information on Melissa’s murder is urged to contact the Atlanta Police Department.

[Featured Photo: Melissa Wolfenbarger/Family Handout]