This Day In History: September 15

Changing the day will navigate the page to that given day in history. You can navigate days by using left and right arrows

Thirteen-year-old Melissa Benoit disappears in her hometown of Kingston, Massachusetts, on her way home from a friend’s house. Although the town detective talked to everyone who lived on the path between the two houses, no one admitted to having seen Benoit. Soon afterward, the FBI joined the search. Yet, despite their use of tracking dogs, there was still no sign of the young girl.

In an unusual move, the FBI asked neighbors to take polygraph tests. Henry Meinholz, a local Bible school instructor who took the test, did not appear to be truthful. Perhaps in an attempt to deflect suspicion, he later claimed that he had failed the polygraph because he often fantasized about molesting little girls. He also admitted to the agents that he had followed girls and masturbated in his car in the past.

The FBI immediately began a thorough search of his house, where investigators found Benoit’s body under a pile of dirt and coal in the basement. Meinholz confessed to rape and murder, claiming that voices in his head had commanded him to kill.

According to his account, a voice (which became the center of his insanity defense) said, “You’re not a man unless you have her. Do it!” However, after a short trial, the jury rejected his defense and convicted him of first-degree murder. When he issued a life sentence without parole, the judge stated, “It is said that my predecessors in colonial times had a gallows erected on the green in front of this courthouse and summarily sent defendants convicted, as you have been, to be hanged. I truly regret that option is not open to me in this case.”