While my boyfriend and I were in Korea, Melinda moved on from cocaine to heroin and became addicted to the drug. This was around the time that Seattle was declared the heroin capital of the world, so she definitely wasn’t the only person in the city to succumb to the horrors of the drug. A friend of mine saw a man OD next to a dumpster in an alley. Rich kids from the suburbs would sit on the street corner begging for money for drugs in $100 shoes. Heroin never crossed my path, but it was readily available at that time.
I knew Melinda had tried heroin before, but didn’t know about her heroin addiction- I didn’t keep in touch with Melinda at all while I was in Korea and had no news of her. We were gone for over a year; when we returned, we had lots of our friends and family meet us at the airport and that’s when I first heard what happened to her. One of my friends told me at the airport that Melinda had been murdered in the fall. No one had told me before because they didn’t know how I would take it.
The answer? Not well. I couldn’t comprehend it at all.
I learned that she had last been seen climbing into a white van of the man who eventually murdered her. Her body was found in Tacoma. I don’t know how she met him; my guess is she went with him for drugs.
I don’t want to write about how she was killed- there’s a book written by Mark Fuhrman about catching the killer if you want to read the gory details about her murder. To me, it’s more important to remember how Melinda lived than to think about how she was killed.
At the sentencing for Robert Yates, Melinda’s murderer, Melinda’s mom (who I never met) spoke on behalf of her daughter.
"She wanted to come home and I told her she couldn't," Bushell said, gulping back sobs. "I told her she had to start helping herself. She said, 'Mom, you're supposed to love me.' I said, 'I do, but you have to help yourself.'"
Earlier she had found a treatment facility for her daughter, but Melinda never came.
The only memento I have of Melinda is a red shirt she bought at a thrift store. Though I rarely wear it, I’m never going to get rid of it.
The next time you hear about a woman getting murdered by a serial killer, please remember that she was a real person with hopes and dreams.