Fairfax Co. detectives search for clues in 30-year-old disappearance of girl

5-year-old Melissa Brannen disappeared from a holiday party in 1989. Police are still trying to find out what happened to her. (Courtesy Fairfax County Police Department)

In 1989, a 5-year-old girl went missing while at a holiday party with her mother. A man was convicted and sentenced in her abduction, but her body was never found. Now, police are asking for the public’s help in the cold case.

Melissa Brannen disappeared on Dec. 3, 1989, while attending a party with her mom in the clubhouse of the apartment complex where they lived. As they were planning to leave the party, Melissa left her mother to get some potato chips from another room. Her mother never saw her again.

Caleb Hughes, a then-23-year-old groundskeeper at the Woodside Apartments in Lorton, Virginia, who was also at the party, was convicted of the girl’s abduction. He served 28 years on a charge of abduction with the intent to defile. He was released from prison in August of this year.

Although Hughes maintains his innocence, police had evidence linking him to the girl’s disappearance.

Police want the public’s help in locating Melissa, finally bringing closure to her family.

Fairfax County police said cold case detectives will pursue any new leads and examine evidence with emerging technology.

Police are asking anyone with information about Melissa’s disappearance or anyone who knew or had contact with Hughes at the time of her disappearance to call the Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800, option 8.

Tips can also be sent through the Crime Solvers program by calling 1-866-411-TIPS.

Photos of Melissa and Hughes can be seen on Fairfax County police’s website.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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