Melvin David Rees was a serial killer and rapist in the greater Washington DC Metropolitan area, who committed five murders in Virginia and Maryland between 1957 and 1959. His nickname is “the Sex Beast.”
During the early ’50s, Rees attended the University of Maryland in College Park, just outside Washington, D.C. A talented musician, Rees dropped out of UMD before graduation to pursue a musical career. After dropping out, Rees travelled around the D.C. area and played at local jazz clubs.
In 1955, Rees attempted to force an unidentified 36-year-old woman into his car, but she escaped. He was arrested on charges of assaulted, but the victim did not press charges, and the case was dropped. Rees’ friends dismissed quickly dismissed the incident…that is until his killing spree began.
On June 26, 1957, Margaret Harold and her boyfriend, a U.S. Army sergeant, were traveling near Annapolis, Maryland when Rees forced them off the road in his car. After being denied cigarettes and money, an angry Rees shot Harold point-blank in the face. The soldier fled the scene and ran to a nearby farmhouse where he called the police. When authorities found Harold, they found her dead with her clothing removed.
While searching the area, investigators found an empty building that had a basement in which there was a collection of violent pornographic images and autopsy photos of female corpses, taped to the walls. In the images, police also found also a yearbook photo of Wanda Tipton, a 1945 graduate of the University of Maryland. When questioned, Tipton denied knowing the man described by the soldier as Harold’s killer. Due to lack of leads, the case went cold.
Two years later, Carroll Jackson and his wife Mildred, and their infant daughters, Janet and Susan—disappeared after visiting relatives in the Apple Grove, Virginia area On January 11, 1959. The family had no known enemies, making their disappearing quite baffling. After a family member found their abandoned car on the side of the road, a massive search was called, but it was unsuccessful.
Almost two months later, on March 4, the decomposing body of Carroll Jackson was found in a ditch near Fredericksburg, Virginia. The patriarch had been shot in the back of the head. His hands were also tied behind his back. Sadly police soon discovered that Carroll’s body had been dumped over his eighteen-month-old daughter Janet Jackson, who had been alive but had suffocated under the weight of his body. On March 21, Mildred and Susan Jackson’s bodies were discovered in a forest near Annapolis, Maryland, showing signs of torture and pre-mortem sexual assault.
Later, an anonymous source, who was later identified as a drifter named Glenn Moser of Norfolk, Virginia, sent a letter to the Fredericksburg authorities, which suggested they look into Rees. In the letter, Moser explained that he and Rees got into a philosophical conversations about whether murder could be considered acceptable. While under the influence of benzos, Rees admitted that he considered murder to just be another part of the “human experience” that he wanted to take part in and claiming “You can’t say it’s wrong to kill” because “Only individual standards make it right or wrong.”
The discussion took place the day before the Jacksons disappeared and after Moser heard the news about the family’s murder, he believed Rees was the suspect. Moser confronted Rees, but while Rees did not confess to the killings, he also didn’t deny that he’d done it and was evasive. In his anonymous letter, Moser also said he suspected Rees in Margaret Harold’s murder in 1957 because at the time of her murder they were working together in the Annapolis area as salesmen.
Authorities decided to question Rees, but he’d moved and left no forwarding address. They couldn’t find him, but when they ran a background check, police discovered that he’d dated Wanda Tipton, their person of interest in the Margaret Harold investigation. Despite previously saying she didn’t know anyone who matched the decription of Margaret Harold’s killer, Tipton admitting to having a relationship with Rees, but said she ended things when he said he was married.
Finally Glenn Moser came forward in 1960 and told authorities that Rees had reached out and told him he was working at a music store in West Memphis, Arkansas.
Rees was arrested and when police searched him home they found a diary describing the Jackson family’s murders. Following the arrest, the man who witnessed Margaret Harold’s killing identified Rees as the man who shot his girlfriend.
Because Susan and Mildred were carried across state lines, there were different trials for the family.
Reese was reported to have uncanny composure while on trial in federal court in Baltimore and later in Circuit Court in Spotsylvania. Although it contained a detailed description of the Jackson family murders, Rees’s diary was never allowed to be introduced into evidence.
Rees was first tried in federal court in Baltimore for the killings of Mildred and Susan Jackson. The trial started on Jan. 25, 1961, just days after the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, and lasted 35 days with more than 100 witnesses called.Rees was convicted by the state of Maryland of murdering Mildred Jackson and Susan Jackson, 5, on Feb. 23, 1961. He was given a life sentence for each murder.
Spotsylvania Commonwealth’s Attorney T. Stokeley Coleman had Rees extradited and the trial in Spotsylvania started in September 1961, and was presided over by Circuit Judge John D. Butzner Jr. who went on to become a judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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