Cold Case Pinned on Soccer Mom

Melinda Raisch of Columbus, Ohio, hardly fits anyone's stereotype of a murderer.

Bill Wall, a police detective from the small town of Olathe, Kan., described Raisch, a mother of two, as a soccer mom living in luxury. "She's just your perfect neighbor next door," he said.

But this week, Raisch was convicted in the coldest murder case in Olathe. Twenty-three years ago, her first husband, David Harmon, was bludgeoned to death in his bed.

Raisch claimed two intruders had attacked Harmon looking for the keys to the bank where he worked. She claimed the intruders also hit her, and when she regained consciousness an hour later, she fled to her neighbors to report the crime.

Police soon found holes in the story and began to suspect she might know more. But they were unable to make any progress, and with few additional leads, the case went cold.

"This case was sort of an open wound to this community of Olathe," said Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison.

"It was a very, very brutal homicide, it was a senseless murder of a young man that had a lot going for him. Very religious, responsible good guy."

Devoted Husband

Melinda Raisch was known by her maiden name, Melinda Lambert, when she first met David Harmon in 1973. They were both attending a youth camp in Ithaca, N.Y.

They married in 1977, and began a quiet life in Olathe, home of MidAmerica Nazarene University, a liberal arts university focused on Christian values. David Harmon had attended classes there, and Melinda got a job there. Their social lives revolved around the church.

Those who knew them said David was devoted to his wife. "I think he kind of idolized her," said David's close friend Kevin Jakabosky. "I think he really, really was enamored and in love with his wife."

Through her work at the dean's office of MidAmerica Nazarene, Melinda soon met a younger, extremely charismatic student leader named Mark Mangelsdorf. Melinda introduced Mangelsdorf to her husband, and he quickly became part of their family.

"I would pass by their house on a daily basis, and I would see Mark's car over there and it was there all the time," said Jakabosky. "It seemed a little strange to me. But I just kinda chalked it up as, 'Well, they have taken him under their wing.'"

Inconsistencies

Then, on Feb. 28, 1982, police got a frantic call. Melinda said she and her husband had been sleeping when two black men burst into the room, and began bludgeoning her husband right there next to her in bed.

She said she gave the intruders the bank keys, and then they knocked her unconscious. She said she woke up an hour later, stumbled to her next-door neighbors and had them call the police.

When police arrived, several things struck them as peculiar. Melinda did not seem too concerned about her husband, they said, and she asked her neighbors to call Mangelsdorf, not her parents or her pastor. When Mangelsdorf arrived, just a few minutes later, his hair was wet -- even though it was the middle of the night.

The small, religious community was shaken by the news. It was a brutal crime -- David Harmon, then 25 years old, was beaten so savagely that his brain matter was splattered on the walls.

Police hunted for clues -- and time and again they found themselves turning to Melinda Harmon and Mangelsdorf as the only two people with any possible link or motive. But they could never find any physical evidence to support their suspicions.

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