Real Name: Melissa Jo Sermons
Aliases: 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 the two met and began dating. Melissa had recently broken up with her boyfriend, and Larry had recently separated from his wife, so the two kept their relationship a secret. Melissa's ex-boyfriend also worked for Earlow, and by all accounts he was not taking the breakup well. Melissa's mother claimed that the ex-boyfriend had been stalking Melissa and her sisters.
On May 2, 1992, Larry and Melissa were in Dade City, Florida, for the weekly rodeo. Larry and his partner won the team-roping competition and split a $350 prize. The rodeo finished late that night; at around 2 am, Larry and Melissa went out to have breakfast with a friend. The friend was dropped of at 4 am; authorities believe the two arrived at Larry's trailer at around 4:15 am. 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 Melissa or Larry, Earlow decided to go to Larry's trailer. Earlow called the sheriff after seeing no activity in the trailer. Earlow and a deputy entered the trailer 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 Larry's guns was missing.
Initially, authorities focused on Melissa's ex-boyfriend; however, he claimed to have had an alibi on the morning of the murder. Authorities then focused on Melissa being responsible; however, neither Earlow nor Melissa's family could believe this. Earlow believes that someone followed the couple 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. Larry's ex-wife Donna believes that Melissa and Larry got into an argument and that Melissa killed him. Authorities, however, are uncertain if she was directly responsible for the murder or if she witnessed the crime and fled.
Melissa's family is convinced that her ex-boyfriend killed Larry and later killed Melissa as well. However, there have been reported sightings of Melissa at truck stops in Florida, Texas, and Kansas. Authorities believe that the sightings are reliable; her family and Earlow do not. To this date, Melissa Jo Sermons 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 of 2013, authorities announced that Sermons was the victim of foul play and that the prime suspects in her and Larry's cases were brothers Joe and Danny Cerezo. Danny Cerezo is actually Melissa's ex-boyfriend who was an initial suspect in the case. According to witnesses, the two men claimed that they dumped her remains somewhere in the Green Swamp near Tampa and Orlando. Joe died November 2008.
The Cerezo brothers have made their living for years trafficking cocaine from the Keys up to Atlanta. Allegations are that Leslie Todd Jones, a cellmate of both Joe Cerezo and Nelson Serrano, received a plea bargain for testifying against Nelson Serrano involved in the Erie Manufacturing slaying of 1997. Nelson Ivan Serrano was charged and convicted of all four of the Erie murders as a result. Danny Cerezo 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 the two cases.
In 2014, Danny Cerezo was indicted for lying to a Florida grand jury in relation to this case. He is currently the prime suspect in both Larry's murder and Melissa's disappearance.
- Melissa's case on the Charley Project
- Journalist On-Line Article on Melissa and Larry's case
- Ledger Article on Melissa & Larry's case
- Danny Cerezo Indicted on Perjury Charges