Case of S.C. Woman's Death Reopened

Case of S.C. Womans Death Re-Opened Melissa Huntley Motz

For nine years, the family of Melissa Huntley Motz has clung to the belief that its beloved 35-year-old daughter did not commit suicide after Valentine's Day 2001.

"Our daughter did not kill herself. I know that," said Patsy Huntley, Melissa's mother. "There's not one doubt, not one, in my mind."

On Feb. 15, 2001, Melissa's husband of two months, Jimmy Motz, told police he watched from outside the car as his wife shot herself while she was seated in the passenger seat, outside their Rock Hill, S.C., apartment building.

VIDEO: Jimmy Motz says wife shot herself in parking lot, but bystander didnt hear it.
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"Mr. Motz indicates he hears a gunshot in the vehicle ... and actually sees smoke coming from the gun," said Charles Cabaniss, who was in charge of the Rock Hill Police Department's homicide unit at the time. "There were several things in Mr. Motz's story that I found hard to believe."

Given the suspicions of police, the Huntleys were shocked when the local prosecutor at the time, Tommy Pope, told them he was not going to prosecute Motz, believing there was insufficient evidence for a conviction.

Melissa Motz's parents, Patsy and Larry Huntley, have searched for someone who would listen. Now the new York County coroner, Sabrina Gast, has decided to reopen the case.

"When I reviewed the case, there were a lot of questions that I had ... and I just felt like it was something that ... Melissa deserved for us to actually look at it again," Gast said. "If we are able to come to a conclusion for this case, Melissa ... can actually rest in peace."

Gast has ordered an inquest -- a rare courtlike proceeding where witnesses are sworn to tell the truth and subpoenaed to help answer the question: How did Melissa Motz die? Was it suicide, undetermined -- as her death certificate now reads -- or homicide, which might put pressure on the current prosecutor to take Jimmy Motz to court.

Gast's predecessor, former coroner Doug McKown, who initially declared Melissa's death a suicide, agreed that the case should be reopened.

"It needs to be reviewed," McKown said. "It's not too late for an inquest. It's not too late for a grand jury. You know, knowing what I know now, I mean the worst thing that could happen out of this is that justice is served."

Why Was the Car Allegedly Crushed Within 48 Hours of Wife's Death?

One of the things that troubles the new coroner is what happened to the 1996 Ford Thunderbird Melissa died in. Police released the car to Jimmy Motz within 48 hours of Melissa's death.

Jimmy Motz allegedly had the car crushed within two days of his wife's death -- an important piece of evidence gone for investigators. Police now regret releasing it to him so soon.

"It makes us suspicious," Cabaniss said. "It makes us think that maybe we did miss something and maybe there is something there that he thought we could have found."

Gast echoed Cabaniss's suspicions. "Why was the car scrapped so soon? Where was the car scrapped?" she asked. "I've been unable to locate the actual location that the car was scrapped. I've been through all the junkyards around York County and I haven't been able to locate any record of the car actually being destroyed, at any point in time."

CLICK HERE to see photos of the crime scene

Why Didn't a Witness Hear the Gunshot?

Another question the coroner hopes to answer: If Melissa shot herself right there in the parking lot, as Jimmy Motz claims, wouldn't witness Chris Campbell have seen and heard it?

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