It was Monday the 23rd of October, 2017, when police in Strongsville, Ohio, received a phone call from a man who said: “I think someone killed my wife…” According to the man, he had come home to find his wife bleeding from multiple stab wounds inside their home on Blazing Star Drive. He said to the operator that it looked as though his wife had been stabbed in the back, adding that they had “people trying to break into our house all year.”1
The victim would be identified as 49-year-old Melinda Pleskovic, who was a long-time middle school teacher at Strongsville Middle School. Those who knew Melinda described her as a beloved and devoted teacher who had taught the 6th grade at Strongsville for the past 27 years. One parent said: “She would always build in that confidence that a teacher needs to build so students think they can achieve anything they want to.”
Melinda’s autopsy would show that she had been stabbed and shot to death.2
Melinda and her husband, Bruce, had reported attempted break-ins at their home as well as thefts and suspicious activity in the months leading up to Melinda’s murder. In fact, in the 911 call, Bruce had lashed out, telling the operator: “You know we’ve asked people to watch our freaking area. WE had people attempt to break in just this week. I don’t know what’s going on in this city. You people dropped the fucking ball.”
In January, police responded to the home after receiving a report of a theft. Bruce’s laptop had been stolen from his car and then in July, he reported a suspicious person. He reported that an adult and two teenagers were hiding behind his home and when he addressed them, the man told the teenagers to run. Police searched the neighbourhood but to no avail.
Then in September, just before the murder, police were called to the home for a “suspicious situation.” Melinda told police that a set of her car keys had vanished. Then just the week before the murder, police responded to an attempted burglary at the couple’s home.3
The suspicious activity at the home had only added to the mystery of the murder. Could Melinda have interrupted somebody breaking into their home or was there no connection at all?
At the time of the murder, Melinda had been at home with the couple’s son, who had down syndrome and was non-verbal. She had text Bruce at around 4:30PM and told him to meet her at the Brew Kettle. This was the last communication that Bruce had with his wife before finding her stabbed to death in the kitchen of their home.
When Bruce entered the home, he had been with 20-year-old Jeffrey Scullin Jr., who had been engaged to Melinda and Bruce’s daughter, and they shared a one-year-old daughter together. The murder had come just a couple of days before the wedding was scheduled. Bruce and Scullin had been out for dinner together that evening at Applebee’s and they returned home together to uncover the scene.
Following the murder, Melinda’s funeral would be held at St. Paul Lutheran Church on Bagley Road. Bruce and Jeffrey would serve as pallbearers. Afterwards, Melinda was buried at the Strongsville Cemetery on Pearl Road.4
On the 31st of October, there was an unexpected breakthrough when it was announced that Jeffrey Scullin Jr. had been arrested and charged with the murder of his future mother-in-law. At the time, Scullin had been living with Melinda and Bruce in their home.5
After the murder, investigators had found a large tactical knife inside Scullin Jr.’s pickup truck and a forensic examination of the knife determined that there was blood on the blade and that blood belonged to Melinda. Scullin’s DNA was also found on the handle of the knife. They had also found blood on the door handle of the passenger side. According to investigators, Scullin had a history of disagreements with Melinda and had attacked her at the home and then dined with her husband as she lay dead in the home.6
A grand jury would indict Scullin on an aggravated murder charge as well charges of felonious assault, tampering with evidence and making false alarms. It would be revealed that Scullin had made a full confession to the murder but his defence lawyer would attempt to get it thrown out of evidence, claiming it was coerced.7 The judge, however, would deny the request.
In October of 2018, Scullin appeared in court and pleaded no contest to the murder. This meant that he avoided a jury trial. He did not formally admit to the charges but admitted that the facts in the indictment were the truth. The prosecution would reveal that Melinda had been shot three times and stabbed 36 or 37 times be Scullin. At the time of the murder, Scullin’s 15-month-old daughter was in the house.
Scullin’s defence team attempted to claim that Scullin pleaded guilty to avoid the family hearing gruesome evidence, stating: “He saw the pain that the family was suffering… and despite how he might be portrayed, he’s not a cold-blooded killer.” Prosecutors, on the other hand, said that Scullin had a history of disagreeing with Melinda and then planned the murder. Part of the planning included reporting phony break ins at the family’s home. He had given a detailed description of somebody who allegedly tried to break into the family’s home.8
Scullin would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 33 years. Before the sentence was read out, Anna Pleskovic, who was set to marry Scullin, provided a victim impact statement. She said: “Jeffrey Scullin should never be allowed to walk free again. He is a manipulator, a pathological liar, a thief, a sociopath and above all else a sadistic murderer. He shows no remorse and deserves to spend his days away from the innocent.”
Scullin never provided a motivation for the murder but it had been uncovered that his credit card had been declined 14 times by the wedding venue he was scheduled to get married in. The wedding venue had eventually cancelled the wedding and had contacted Melinda about the matter. Prosecutors speculated that Melinda confronted Scullin.9
- CBS – 3 WREG, 24 October, 2017 – “Someone Killed my Wife”
- Associated Press, 27 October, 2017 – “Autopsy Finds Popular Sixth-Grade Teacher Was Shot and Stabbed”
- The Plain Dealer, 24 October, 2017 – “Records Show Attempted Break Ins, Suspicious Activity at Home Where Strongsville Teacher Was Stabbed to Death”
- The Plain Dealer, 25 October, 2017 – “Funeral Arrangements in Place for Strongsville Teacher Stabbed to Death”
- Associated Press, 31 October, 2017 – “Future Son-In-Law Charged in Killing of Ohio School Teacher”
- The Plain Dealer, 2 November, 2017 – “Strongsville Woman’s Blood Found on Knife”
- Associated Press, 11 October, 2018 – “Lawyer Wants Suspect’s Confession in Slaying Thrown Out”
- The Plain Dealer, 17 October, 2018 – “Strongsville Man Pleads no Contest to Fatally Stabbing, Shooting Fiancee’s Mother”
- FOX – 8 WJW 28 October, 2018 – “Man Who Murdered Future Mother-In-Law, Beloved Teacher Sentenced to Life in Prison”