July 24, 2016

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Timeline of Wiley’s disappearance

Saturday, July 27, 1985 — Hinckley Police Chief Mel Wiley is last seen when he visits his girlfriend of six months.

Sunday, July 28 — Wiley tells his girlfriend he is meeting a friend from out of town at Edgewater Park in Cleveland. He does not tell her who he is meeting.

Monday, July 29 — Wiley misses a date with his girlfriend. He has not been seen at the Police Department in four days.

Tuesday, July 30 — Cleveland Metroparks rangers find Wiley’s car around 4 a.m. His clothes are neatly folded and inside the car, along with other belongings. The rangers begin an investigation. “It’s possible he could be in (Lake Erie), or it’s possible he could have gone somewhere and not told someone,” Jim Frabotta, search coordinator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, tells The Gazette. Coast Guard officials are informed and Hinckley police look for clues at Wiley’s home.

Week of Aug. 4 — The Medina Police Department is asked to assume control of the investigation and works in cooperation with the ODNR. Jim Bigam, investigative specialist for Medina police and a close friend of Wiley’s, says the department is looking into the possibility of a homicide or of a suicide. He says Wiley may have left willingly. A nationwide missing person report is filed. Investigators say a drowning is unlikely because a body would have surfaced. Hinckley Sgt. David Yates is appointed acting chief in Wiley’s absence.

Tuesday, Aug. 13 — Bigam announces at a press conference he created a copy of the last letter Wiley wrote using his typewriter’s ribbon. “We have come up with one strong piece of evidence to lead us to believe that (Wiley) is alive,” Bigam says. The letter, written to a friend, describes Wiley’s dissatisfaction with life and a desire to go far away.

Thursday, Sept. 26 — Bigam reveals he has found a handwritten July 28 Greyhound bus schedule with Wiley’s dry cleaning. The dry cleaners removed the schedule and other items from the shirt before it was washed. “This proves (Wiley) left on his own accord,” Bigam says. He says investigators are treating the disappearance as a missing person case, and the investigation is not a department priority.

January 1986 — Hinckley trustees officially appoint Yates as police chief.

Monday, Nov. 15, 1993 — Medina County Probate Court Judge Thomas L. Skidmore enters a legal presumption of death in Wiley’s case. Wiley’s mother, Doris Wiley, his ex-wife Cynthia Northrup and a family friend are named in a court document as parties having an interest in the decision. The decision allows the court to probate Wiley’s estate, which The Gazette reports includes about $3,500 in one pension fund and an undisclosed amount in another pension fund. The judge’s decision doesn’t provide any definite answer on Wiley’s whereabouts. “The court can’t say he’s dead anymore than you or I can,” the Wileys’ attorney Jonathan Steingass says.

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The Gazette is Medina County's daily local news source, serving the community since 1832. Contact The Gazette's news department at (330) 721-4065 or areanews@medina-gazette.com.