Thunder Street Ministry

Barbara and Melissa

Barbara Ann Foshaug and Melissa Ann Lee

September 7th, 1963


Disappearance: In the area of 17th St. and 4th Ave., Minneapolis, MN.

Recovery: 36th Ave. N, near Missions Farms Rehab Center and Medicine Lake


Barbara Ann Foshaug (4) and her playmate Melissa Ann Lee (5) disappeared in the early evening hours while wandering unsupervised. Their remains were discovered ten miles away in Plymouth, MN.


Minneapolis Police Department

Federal Bureau of Investigation


Sources: MPD Police Report/Newspaper archives

Barbara Ann Foshaug (4) and Melissa Ann Lee (5) were abducted during the early evening hours of September 7th, 1963. They were last seen alive walking out of a laundromat not far from where they lived. Newspapers widely reported that the girls, according to ‘sole witness’ Virginia Engen (5), were taken by a man luring them into his car with candy. This was dismissed as a lie by law enforcement two weeks later, finding that Viriginia had been confined to her room until 7pm. However, many details of her story align with reports of a man giving kids around the neighborhood candy and money. This man was identified as Denny Bryant (below), who lied about being a member of a local seminary.

The girls were reported missing at approximately 7:30pm and again at 9:00pm by Melissa’s mother, Ann Leverett (23).

50 volunteers from the Citizens’ Band Radio group joined Minneapolis police squads in the search the very same night. Bloodhounds were brought in the next day, and a careful sweep of the neighborhood commenced. Detective Inspector Calvin Hawkinson asked city residents to search any abandoned cars, refrigerators, nearby buildings  and any other locale that would capture the interest of a child. Police Chief Pat Walling headed up a 42-block search for the missing girls. Several squads were dispatched, covering streets and intersecting avenues throughout the night into early morning.

The girls were allegedly last seen at a laundromat with another girl at approximately 6:30pm, which had been moved to a new location the day after they went missing. The attendant at the time, Ernie Nelson, was questioned at his apartment and stated that Barbara and Melissa had stopped into the laundromat with two other girls, 7-year-old Evonne Denny and her cousin ‘Charlie’, which was common for neighborhood kids at the time. The kids then proceeded past the laundromat going south. Roughly ten minutes later, he said, “the children’s parents came looking for them.” (Minneapolis Police Department) It is not clear whether he meant Melissa’s parents or Evonne’s. When police questioned him a second and third time, Nelson would contradicts this, saying he had seen Melvin only once between 10:00 and 10:30pm. Evonne and Charlie were questioned, and neither remembers Barbara and Melissa continuing any further with them.

On October 1st, 1963, the bodies of Barbara and Melissa were discovered ten miles west of Minneapolis by a Plymouth, MN Street Department employee by the name of Jesse Theis while he was trimming grass along the side of the road across from Mission Farms, a facility for recovering alcoholics. He had walked a short distance into the woods intending to relieve himself when he discovered the scene.

The bodies were in an advanced state of decay. Barbara and Melissa were lying next to each other under an elm tree, on their sides back-to-back. A coroner could not determine a cause of death due to the amount of tissue loss. A white powder substance found around the girls’ bodies tested positive for hydrochloride salt, a byproduct of hydrochloric acid coming into contact with an organic base. Other evidence recovered from the scene included sawdust-like material as well as “excelsior-like material” (also known as wood wool). Both of these substances were later discovered in vacant spaces near the laundromat. Melvin G. Leverett, stepfather of Melissa, was brought to the scene to identify the clothing found on the scene and made a positive identification. The detective who brought him to the scene described him as being emotionless, save for turning pale and acting nervous when he saw the bodies. After confirming the clothing worn by the girls, he and his wife Ann Leverett (23) were taken to the police station for questioning, where they were given polygraphs.

It was later determined that Melvin Leverett had been in possession of a half-full bottle of hydrochloric acid, which was brought to the attention of the police by a friend of his wife Ann. One witness had seen Melvin pouring it on a half-dead mouse near the laundromat. The Leverett’s left this behind when they moved out of state, and was recovered by police. The label read ‘18% Lyons Chemical’.  There was a mummified cat found in the area of the laundromat that tested slightly acidic. The police report indicated that Melvin had brought home a cat that both Melissa and her mother protested having in the house. Melvin was eventually dropped as a suspect.

Another person of interest, Richard Philippi, was brought in for questioning by the police after having been named by two ex-cons as being a ‘good suspect in this homicide.’ Searching his apartment, they found a number of disturbing items including a photo of two nude blonde haired girls the same age as Barbara and Melissa. Having a record as a sex offender and a list of other crimes, the detectives learned he was warned by a neighbor that police were looking for him. Police caught him in a sequence of lies, which he would simply admit to and then wait for the next question. He made a number of disturbing admissions, from his sexual exploits during the military to being a self-described sex pervert who had ‘tried everything.’ After passing a polygraph test, he was dropped as a suspect.

Ten years after the murder, an individual by the name of Wayne W. was arrested for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and her sister. He was questioned intensely regarding the murder of Barbara and Melissa, but he vehemently denied the accusations.

If you or someone you know lived in this area at the time of the case and are able to shed light on these events, please contact us at [email protected].


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