Real Name: Melissa Jo Sermons
Wanted For: Questioning in Murder
Missing Since: May 3, 1992
Details: Melissa Jo Sermons is wanted for questioning in the murder of Lakeland, Florida rancher and her boyfriend, Larry Costine. She had been working at Larry's Uncle Earlow's ranch when they met and began dating. She had recently broken up with her boyfriend, and he had recently separated from his wife, Donna, so they kept their relationship a secret. Her ex-boyfriend also worked for Earlow, and by all accounts he was not taking the breakup well. Her mother claimed that he had been stalking her and her sisters.
On May 2, 1992, Larry and Melissa were in Dade City, Florida, for the weekly rodeo. He and his partner won the team-roping competition and split a $350 prize. The rodeo finished late that night; at around 2am, Larry and Melissa went out to have breakfast with a friend. The friend was dropped of at 4am; authorities believe they arrived at Larry's trailer at around 4:15am. No one is certain as to what happened next.
On May 3, Melissa's family contacted Earlow after she did not return home. The next morning, with no sign of either her or Larry, Earlow decided to go to Larry's trailer. He called the sheriff after seeing no activity in it. He and a deputy entered and found Larry's nude body on his bedroom floor. He had been shot four times in the head with a handgun. Authorities found no evidence of forced entry or a struggle; however, one of his guns was missing.
Initially, authorities focused on Melissa's ex-boyfriend. However, he claimed to have had an alibi on the morning of Larry's murder. Authorities then focused on Melissa being responsible. However, neither her family nor Earlow could believe this. He believes that someone followed them to Larry's trailer and killed him. He believes that the individual then abducted Melissa and killed her elsewhere.
Authorities believs that Melissa was the only person that could have gotten close enough to Larry to kill him without a struggle. Donna believes that they got into an argument and that Melissa killed him. Authorities, however, are uncertain if she was directly responsible for his murder or if she witnessed the crime and fled.
Melissa's family is convinced that her ex-boyfriend killed Larry and later her as well. However, there have been reported sightings of her at truck stops in Florida, Texas, and Kansas. Authorities believe that the sightings are reliable; her family and Earlow do not. To this day, she is still missing; she is 5'10", 175 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the November 24, 1993 episode.
Results: Unresolved. In July 2013, authorities announced that Melissa was the victim of foul play and that the prime suspects in her and Larry's cases were brothers Joe and Danny Cerezo. Danny is actually Melissa's ex-boyfriend who was an initial suspect in the case. According to witnesses, they claimed that they dumped her remains somewhere in the Green Swamp near Tampa and Orlando. Joe died in November 2008. According to investigators, physical evidence connects Danny to the murders.
Joe and Danny have made their living for years trafficking cocaine from the Florida Keys up to Atlanta. Allegations are that Leslie Todd Jones, a cellmate of both Joe and Nelson Serrano, received a plea bargain for testifying against Nelson involved in the Erie Manufacturing slaying of 1997. He was charged and convicted of all four murders as a result. Danny has recently worked as a forest ranger in Florida and has yet to be charged for his part in the murders. However, there are still unanswered questions in both cases.
In 2014, Danny was indicted for lying to a Florida grand jury in relation to this case. He is currently the prime suspect in both cases.
- Melissa Joe Sermons on the Charley Project
- DeLand man a suspect in 1992 killing, woman’s disappearance
- 1992 Costine Slaying Case Suddenly Is Hot
- Danny Cerezo Indicted on Perjury Charges