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‘The feeling just doesn’t go away’: Family seeks answers 2 decades after Taunton mom’s disappearance

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TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — It was June 20, 2000, when Debra Melo vanished without a trace.

Her husband, Luis Melo, told detectives that the last time he saw her was when she’d gotten out of their car on Route 18 in South Weymouth after the two had an argument.

Police scoured the area for signs of Debra, but to no avail.

Her younger sister, Patricia White, said she didn’t learn of her disappearance until the following day.

“We started calling every hospital, we started calling every friend, everybody that we could possibly try to get a hold of to find out where she was and what happened,” White recalled. “She was my best friend. We did everything together.”

12 News reached out to Massachusetts State Police for an update on where the search for Debra stands. In a statement, a spokesperson said the investigation remains active.

“Detectives continually pursue new leads and revisit old ones,” the spokesperson said. “We will not cease until our efforts to bring resolution and justice to Debbie’s family are successful.”

At the time, investigators stopped short of identifying Luis as a suspect, though they did call the circumstances surrounding Debra’s disappearance suspicious.

12 News reached out by phone to a man who identified himself as Luis Melo, but the line went dead in the midst of him learning what the call was about.

In the meantime, her family continues their own search for answers.

“The feeling just doesn’t go away,” Debra’s best friend Lori Briggs said. “It doesn’t fade, it doesn’t get better, it doesn’t get easier. It’s just always there.”

White and Briggs both find it hard to believe that Debra would willingly walk away from her children. They think something more sinister took place that summer afternoon.

“It’s like a bad dream recurring every year, every day,” White added. “I mean, there’s not a day that goes by … I think about it every single day. There’s always something that comes up or things that are said or I see something that reminds me of her.”

Debra’s family has spent the last two decades ensuring that no one forgets her. Each year, they hold a vigil in her honor.

Her brother-in-law, Steven DeMoura, said they hope at some point, someone will come forward with a critical piece of information that will lead them to Debra.

“There’s so many rumors about what, where, why, where she could be,” DeMoura said. “There’s hopefully somebody that still remembers what happened on that day. They have nothing to lose except to just come forward.”

Debra’s niece, Olivia DeMoura, has always lived under the shadow of her aunt’s mysterious disappearance. She too hopes to one day learn the truth about what happened.

“It would be a little piece of a heart put back together,” Olivia said. “She’s a missing piece.”

Anyone who believes they know what happened to Debra Melo is urged to contact Massachusetts State Police at (508) 820-2300.

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