On June 24, 1989, Melissa Koontz disappeared on her way home after working her shift at Cub Foods in Springfield. Her car was found abandoned later that night in the road with the lights still on. A week later her badly decomposed body was discovered in a cornfield just west of town.
Eventually, five people were sent to prison for the crime, based on the testimony of Donald "Goose" Johnston and Danny Pocklington, who are both mildy retarded. Even though every major detail of the crime that they gave conflicted with the known facts of the case, their implication that Thomas McMillen and Gary Edgington were involved in the murder led both men to being convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Since the trial Goose Johnston and Danny Pocklington have both recanted their stories and Thomas McMillen has always maintained his innocence.
Although it was the State's theory that Melissa's murder was a robbery for beer money gone bad, Bill Clutter, Director of Investigations for the Downstate Innocence Project maintains that the evidence contradicts that theory and that the motivation behind the murder is that of a sexual predator.
After 20 years, the Innocence Project is reexamining the evidence and hoping that Touch DNA analysis can be used to identify who murdered Melissa Koontz.