TYRONE, Pa. (WTAJ) — In June 1996, 11-year-old Melody Curtis was visiting her grandmother in Tyrone when she was raped and murdered by then 17-year-old Ronald Isenberg, Jr.
He lured her from the playground, across a four lane highway to a secluded spot where he attacked her and hid her body in a pile of brush. Witnesses saw him and Melody crossing Shea Field together on the night of the incident, making him a suspect.
It wasn’t until several months later, however, that Isenberg confessed, while at a juvenile detention center for another crime, during a conversation with his youth counselor Cheryl Capozzi.
In the disturbing confession, Isenberg spoke about his troubles with anger and hatred, stating that he became “aroused” after “beating up” on Melody, and that her murder “just happened.”
A statement that Cassie Curtis, Melody’s sister, doubts. “He knew what he was doing,” she said.
The controversial confession was a big issue in court, with debates over it being voluntary and eventually suppressed by the local judge.
David Gorman, the case prosecutor and former Blair County District Attorney, says the suppression was eventually over-ruled by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Isenberg was offered a plea deal of third degree murder, serving a minimum of 18 years and maximum of 40 years in prison, that he took in March of 2000.
Now, halfway through his sentence, Isenberg will be facing his second parole hearing this year. A hearing that the Curtis family says they will be present to fight.
“I would be mortified if he got out, not for Melody;s sake or for our sake,” said Melody’s mother, Tracy Curtis, “I’m just afraid of what he is capable of doing to somebody else.”
From now on, every two years the Curtis family will watch as Isenberg faces parole. The thought brings up the horrors of what happened in the past, they say, and Tracey isn’t sure how much longer she’ll be able to fight for him to stay behind bars. “I have autoimmune Cirrhosis of the liver,” Tracy said.
Melody Curtis’s memorial still sits at the site where her body was found. The fun-loving, bubbly little girl fell victim to the hands of a troubled teenager who was not getting the help he needed.
In a few months the Commonwealth will weigh the seriousness of his actions back then, and decide if Isenberg is ready to join society early, or if he needs more time to reflect before his inevitable release.