Snohomish County detectives make arrest in 1993 murder of 15-year-old girl

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — Detectives from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit announced Wednesday they have arrested a man in connection with the April 1993 kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Melissa Lee.

Officials said Alan Edward Dean, 62, was taken into custody around 5 p.m. Tuesday near his Bothell home. Dean was booked into the Snohomish County Jail on investigation of first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping.

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At his first court appearance Wednesday, a judge set Dean’s bail at $2 million.

“We never gave up hope that we would find Melissa’s killer,” Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney said. “The arrest yesterday shows how our detective’s determination, combined with new advancements in DNA technology, continues to get us one step closer to justice for victims and their families, even decades later. We are also extremely thankful for the support and expertise from our partners at Parabon.”

Detectives are now asking for people to come forward with information, specifically anyone who:

  • Currently knows Dean, previously knew Dean or knew of his activities in or around 1993 (he would have been 35 years old at the time of the murder).
  • Recognizes Dean from the attached photo of him around the time of the killing in 1993 and/or from the more recent photo of him.
  • Dated, communicated with, or has any information regarding Dean around 1993 using a night talk line (he used a fake name of Mike or Michael).
  • Has information regarding Dean having access to Ethyl Ether and Heptane chemicals around the time the crimes were committed.

Detectives said they confirmed Dean was living on Madison Street in Everett in 1993, about 3.6 miles from where Lee’s body was found. Dean was working a day shift at Boeing in Everett prior to the killing, detectives said.

Officials said Dean was identified as a suspect through the use of genetic genealogy.

Genetic genealogy uses DNA testing in combination with traditional genealogical methods to establish the relationship between an individual and their ancestor, deputies said.

Officials said they were able to successfully identify Dean with the help of Parabon NanoLabs (Parabon), a DNA technology company in Virginia that performed genetic genealogy analysis for the case.

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Detectives said a digital file containing DNA from the crime scene was uploaded to a public genealogy website, and “promising matches” were found for multiple of the suspect’s relatives.

After learning of Dean from Parabon genealogists, detectives said they acquired an abandoned DNA sample from a cigarette butt he had used.

Officials said Washington State Patrol’s crime lab confirmed that it positively matched the DNA profile from the crime scene evidence.

This is the third arrest of a murder suspect in Snohomish County that involved assistance from Parabon, officials said.

Anyone with information related to the case or suspect is asked to call the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 425-388-3845.

Background information on the case:

On April 13, 1993, deputies said Lee was home alone at her house in Bothell and was planning to have a friend come over to stay the night.

Deputies said Lee spoke with her mother on their landline home phone around 9:30 p.m.

When Lee’s mother arrived home after midnight, Lee was not home. Deputies said the front door of the house was open and there were signs of a struggle inside.

Lee’s mother reported her missing to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office on April 14. On the night of the 14th, Lee’s body was found in a ravine on the north side of the Edgewater Creek Bridge in the 3800 block of Mukilteo Boulevard, located in Everett.

An autopsy determined her death was attributed to asphyxia due to manual strangulation and was classified as a homicide.

A toxicology report found no drugs or alcohol in Lee’s system, but it did detect ethyl ether and heptane.

Detectives interviewed Dean three times in 1993 after finding notes in Melissa Lee’s address book with a phone number for someone named “Michael”.

The man was identified as Alan E. Dean and he told detectives he used the name “Mike” when he met Lee through a night talk line and dated her twice in March 1993.