Melissa Oxley Case: Victim or Suspect?


When Melissa Oxley’s husband was brutally murdered in his sleep by a shotgun blast, she called 911 and told them “It’s really, really bad!” She told police that she was abruptly woken up by the sound of the gun, and found the remains of her husband, Ben, in the bed next to her. This murder, on the evening of February 21, 2008, presented investigators with a puzzling question: was Melissa a victim, or a suspect?

Melissa’s live-in teenage brother, Craig, had shotgun shells in his room. There were also weapons in the garage. Police had two suspects minutes into investigating the brutal scene. Police brought the siblings in for questioning, giving both a gunshot residue test to see if either had recently fired a gun. Both came up negative. What was going on?

The Investigation Continues

When police gently questioned Melissa’s six-year-old step-daughter, Alyssa, the little girl told them that she remembered hearing a door creak open and seeing a figure enter her home. She couldn’t say whether it was a man or woman, though. Ben’s ex-wife, Dawn, and her then-current boyfriend, James, had alibis that seemed to check out. One of Dawn’s exes, who Melissa believed could be a suspect, was out of town on the night of the murder.

The suspicion that Melissa may have killed Ben popped up months after the murder when she was dating other men and was the beneficiary of a sizable life insurance payout. However, investigators noticed that she wasn’t terribly excited about the money, never once inquiring about it and only claiming it when it was brought to her attention that Ben had the policy. As for her dating, she noted in a later interview that she was just trying to feel normal after the brutal murder, and worried that if she didn’t start then, she may never date again.

Dawn and James

Investigators soon realized that ex-wife Dawn and boyfriend James Matlean didn’t have very airtight alibis. Despite claiming to have stayed in watching movies all night on February 21, 2008, convenience store surveillance footage revealed James had been out that evening.

Eventually, after Dawn spent time in jail for a DUI, she confessed to the knowledge that James likely killed Ben. She struck a deal with prosecutors to inform them about James’ activity. James himself, after learning of the deal Dawn had struck, told prosecutors that she had put him up to it, and even asked that he kill Melissa Oxley, too.

James would eventually plead guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life without parole. Dawn spent 90 months in prison on unrelated charges and was released in 2014. In the end, Melissa Oxley truly was the victim: her husband was murdered, and she nearly carried the blame, all because she was such a heavy sleeper.