EVIL LIVES HERE: How Mel Ignatow got away with murdering girlfriend Brenda Schaefer in 1988

In 1991, Mel Ignatow got away with murder. Now, his son Michael is sitting down with I.D.s Evil Lives Here to tell his story.

MIchael Ignatow

Not only does Michael feel like his father let down the family, but he also has hatred for Mary Ann Shore, who he believes in responsible for this.

While looking at old photographs of his Michael still has troubling believing his father did what he did to “another human being.” He says he always had a good personality, and came across pretty happy. However, when Mel divorced Michael’s mother in 1973, he says things changed.

At home, Michael feels like his father Mel, who had custody of the kids after the divorce became a control freak who would inspect their rooms every day after school. He would yell and verbally abuse the kids. In public, however, he was still a genial, likable guy.

To this day the trauma he experienced from his dad’s abuse makes Michael break into tears. However, he feels like “evil” did not enter the household until Mel started dating his secretary Mary Ann Shore. She was about a decade younger than their dad, and would watch the kids while their dad was away on business trips.

At first she seemed nice, but Michael didn’t know how to feel about her when she tried to buy his love. She found out he liked Alice Cooper, so she offered him a deal: she would buy him every Alice Cooper album if he told his dad how much he liked her and wanted her to stay around. She didn’t just bribe him, she also blackmailed him. If he didn’t give his dad this flowing report of her, she would tell his dad the cigarettes she found in his room.

Michael was so afraid of Mary Ann that he did whatever she wanted him to do, and mostly what she wanted him to do was be her personal positive P.R. team to his dad. Michael would often give his dad glowing reports about how wonderful Mary Ann was, how she took good care of them and was fun to be around.

According to Michael, Mary Ann further meddled in the kids’ lives by playing them against each other. In one instance, she took a shirt out of one sister’s drawer, made a burn hole in it, and then put it in the other sister’s drawer, which would start a fight between them. They soon realized that she kept doing things like this, and they started to suspect that Mary Ann was manipulating the kids to want to leave home so she could have the house to herself.

During one of their father’s three-week business trips away, a hole was cut in the couch. Mary Ann Shore told their father about the hole. He was so angry, it became one of the worst days in his life. Mel told the kids to leave the house. After this incident, Michael says his mind went to some dark places, and he even considered killing Mary Ann Shore.

They broke up several times, but they broke up for good when Michael was 16 or 17. His two older sisters had graduated high school and moved out. His dad was going to have go on a business trip for an entire month. He would usually have someone staying with kids when he would leave for a long time. This time, however, he just gave Michael grocery money and told him he’d see him in a month.

Later in life Michael found out his father had actually be in prison during that time serving a 30-day sentence for tax evasion. It was Mary Ann Shore who had turned him for tax evasion. At the time, Mel may not have known it was Mary Ann who turned him in, but it was Mary Ann who was with him when he returned in a taxi.

When Michael turned 18 he enlisted in the Army, and spent three years away from home. When he returned his dad had a new girlfriend named Brenda Schaefer. Michael met her when he was bartending. Dad Mel had brought in Brenda while Michael was working to introduce her. Brenda seemed the completely different from Mary Ann Shore.

One night Mel wanted the kids, their grandmother, and their aunt, to come have dinner for an announcement, which was that he proposed to Brenda and she said yes. Oddly enough, Brenda wasn’t there during this announcement. Still, Michael thought this was just part of Mel’s “quirky personality.”

They didn’t know that Brenda had been engaged to Mel, but by the time he made the announcement, she had actually given the ring back and called off the engagement.

Soon after, Mel called Michael while he was at work and let him know, through tears, that Brenda was missing. Later Mel shared that they had spent the day together and went go to eat at one of their favorite spots.

The police found her car abandoned with the radio stolen and blood on the seat that was not Brenda’s or Mel’s. Mel didn’t know what happened, and said he feared the worst. He could not stop crying and, looking back, Michael now thinks Mel’s reaction was over-the-top, like a performance.

Brenda’s family didn’t like Mel, and stayed vocal to the press about their suspicions about him. The whole time Mel was adamant that he was innocent.

Brenda’s body was found in early January, 1989. Mel was arrested and charged with murder. Mary Ann Shore was the one who found Brenda’s body. Mel’s family had no idea Mary Ann shore was in Mel’s life.

The FBI had been surveilling Mel and had his phone bugged. They heard a call between Mary Ann Shore and Mel where she told Mel that they needed to move Brenda’s body, which was buried behind her house, because the land was set to be developed.

The FBI pressured Mary Ann Shore into talking to the FBI. She told them Mel killed Brenda with chloroform after sexually assaulting her. When the family found out that Mary Ann Shore was involved, the family believed that she was the one who killed Brenda because of jealousy. They thought Mel was innocent.

During jail visits with their father, Mel confirmed that he didn’t do it, and that Mary Ann Shore was the sole murderer. In retrospect, Michael feels that during this time Michael didn’t seem to mourn Brenda’s death.

Mary Ann was the prosecutor’s star witness at Mel’s trial. She said she helped dig the hole for Brenda after Mel sexually assaulted, tortured, and suffocated Brenda Sue Schaeffer. Mary Ann said there were pictures of it, but police could not find the pictures.

Mary Ann Shore testifying.

Mel’s defense was that Mary Ann Shore was so jealous and angry over being rejected by Mel that she set out to ruin his life. They were successful in convincing the jury of this, and Mel was found not guilty on December 21, 1991.

Mel is seen above leaving the court a free man after being found not guilty of Brenda’s murder. He looks extremely joyful and triumphant.

Mary Ann Shore cut a deal in order to testify against Mel, so she only received a five year sentence for tampering with evidence. Michael thinks she served about 2-3 years of that sentence.

After he was freed, Mel had to sell his house and all of his possessions in order to pay for his defense lawyer fees. He went to live with Michael. One night, Michael came home and couldn’t find his dad. He wasn’t there the next morning.

Mel had been arrested again because they found the photograph evidence Mary Ann Shore was talking about at the trial. The new owners of Mel’s house had ripped up the carpets to replace them, the carpet company found a bag of jewelry and the film roll of photos of Brenda’s murder hidden in the floor.

The could not charge Mel with murder again because he had been acquitted. Instead, they charged Mel with perjury. He ended up admitting to everything in court. Michael was devastated, and felt betrayed and used. Mel was charged with two charges of perjury and was sentenced to nine years, of which he only served seven.

Michael feels like Brenda’s family was cheated by this light sentence and he believes Mel deserves the death penalty for taking Brenda’s life.

Still, he told Mel in for nine months after he got out of prison. Mel apologized for the murder, but Michael doesn’t think his dad had ever accepted full responsibility for what he did to Brenda, and hasn’t ever forgiven him.

One day Michael went to see his dad, who had moved out, and found him dead. He had bled to death from a wound on his arm after falling from his wheelchair into a glass coffee table. Michael felt relief at Mel’s death.

“That was a tough way to die,” Michael says. “But I’m a big believer in karma.” Brenda had been taped to a glass coffee table when they murdered Brenda. Michael feels like the fact that Mel’s death was also tied to a glass coffee table is real karma.

Mary Ann Shore also died soon after her released of either cancer or a heart attack. Michael still believes Mary Ann Shore was the mastermind of Brenda’s murder because she wanted to get Brenda out of Mel’s life for good. Mel did it, but Michael believes Mary Ann Shore pushed him to do it.

Michael thinks that Brenda’s rejection of him crushed Mel’s dream of a perfect life, and that he lost his mind after that.

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