The beautiful stretch of Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Beach, Va., is associated more with sunny vacations than dark, family secrets. But the serene setting was disturbed three years ago when a green suitcase was discovered floating in the water.
Police Officer John Runge, first on the scene, made a gruesome discovery. "I opened the suitcase and found it to be two legs from the knees down," he said.
Within two weeks, three matching suitcases containing the remains of a man appeared in the water. The body, with two bullet holes, was wrapped in a medical blanket and plastic garbage bags.
Suddenly the race was on to identify the man, and a sketch was distributed to the local media. "There weren't many calls at all," said Detective Ray Pickell, until Susan and Jon Rice saw the sketch and called in. Susan Rice believed the sketch showed a strong resemblance to Jon's best friend, 39-year-old New Jersey computer programmer Bill McGuire.
McGuire, the father of two young boys, had been missing for two weeks. The body was identified as his, and that was only the beginning of a dark and disturbing story.
Three hundred miles away in New Jersey, McGuire's wife, Melanie, got a call from a detective and said that she "burst into tears and probably sobbed for about an hour or so. All I remember is my mother holding me."
At first, police had little to go on. There was no murder weapon, no eyewitnesses and no apparent reason for anyone to want to murder Bill McGuire.
Police questioned Melanie, who described her marriage as not "particularly happy" and said Bill "had a knack for pissing people off." Pickell said that "during the whole time in the interview, she made expressions like she was crying, but she never had a tear in her eye."
Regardless, Melanie McGuire seemed like an unlikely murder suspect, particularly for such a brutal killing. She's a petite nurse, with no history of violence and no apparent motive for murder. But June 2, 2005, after a year of investigation, New Jersey police arrested Melanie. She said that's "what started the nightmare."
Bill and Melanie McGuire met in 1997. "We found that we wanted the same things out of life," said Melanie. They married two years later, and she gave birth to their first son. "The best times were after we were married and after our first son was born," Melanie said. "The sun rose and set over that child and over me."
Slowly, the picture-perfect courtship became a less-than-perfect marriage. Melanie said Bill began gambling heavily in Atlantic City, and day trading. When life did not go his way, she said he became frustrated and "eventually that frustration became directed at me."
Melanie was aware that Bill's ex-wife, Marci Paulk, had filed for a restraining order against him, alleging violence. Melanie said Paulk once visited her to warn her about Bill. According to Melanie, Paulk said, "He's going to make you think you're crazy. This is what he's done to me. He's going to do it to you."
By 2003, Melanie said things were getting worse -- that Bill was becoming more menacing and she feared he was having affairs. She said that once, after Bill received a speeding ticket, he called her and took out his anger on her, saying, "When I get home I'm going to kill you. I'm going to smash your face in," Melanie said. "That's when I wish I'd left."