"You know, it's the most difficult thing in the world," said MaryAnn Masciulli, another of Melanie's aunts. "Trying to find her, knowing that when you find her, it's not going to be a good thing. It's heartbreaking. It's hard to describe."
Police eventually zeroed in on the people they believe were last seen with Melanie on the night she disappeared. They say everyone at the party agreed that she was the last girl left at the party. "It went to five boys and Melanie, and two boys and Melanie," said Leone.
Authorities at the time interrogated the two boys in question, but they were never charged. They continue to live in the area.
Leone believes there was foul play involved. "We have reason to believe that more than one person over the years has not only concealed Melanie's body, but may also be involved in further concealing it or even moving it," he said.
Over the years, there have also been rumors that Melanie was seen that night walking in a parking lot, through the darkened neighborhood, and down a street toward the next town.
The Melanson family has never given up, and neither have the police. Pandolph has chased leads and returned to the scene of the crime many times over the years. After the reward was announced, finally, just weeks ago, investigators returned to the woods acting, they said, on information they had just received.
Gonzalez has heard about the possibility of new information.
"They're looking for her body, you know, watching it, watching it on the news, it gives me goose bumps 'cause I'm like, they're looking for my friend's body," Gonzalez said.
Lawson said the family is hoping police do find a body. "For now we just want to bring her home," she said.
Everyone touched by Melanie's disappearance says an end to their torment cannot come quickly enough. On Nov. 1, Melanie would have turned 35 years old.