No foul play in Mel Ignatow's death

Published: Sep. 2, 2008 at 11:41 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 9, 2008 at 3:26 PM EDT
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Mel Ignatow
Mel Ignatow
Brenda Schaefer (Photo courtesy: Schaefer family/WAVE 3 Archives)
Brenda Schaefer (Photo courtesy: Schaefer family/WAVE 3 Archives)
Bob Hill, author of "Double Jeopardy"
Bob Hill, author of "Double Jeopardy"
John Stewart, former Asst. Commonwealth Attorney
John Stewart, former Asst. Commonwealth Attorney

By Connie Leonard - bio | email  
Posted by Charles Gazaway - email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The day after the body of Mel Ignatow was found, the coroner's office says one thing is certain - there was no foul play. Now, those close to the case continue to react to Ignatow's death. It's been 20 years since the brutal sexual assault and murder of Brenda Schaefer and still the memory of Mel Ignatow sends chills to many in the Louisville community, especially those who knew his crime well.

"He will probably go down as one of the most hated men in Louisville," said Michael Ignatow, Mel's son.

Michael Ignatow knew what his father was to most people - a monster. After his release from prison in 2006, Ignatow spent a lonely existence in the apartment where he was found dead Monday.

According to Michael, his father's death occurred after he fell and hit a glass coffee table. "Double Jeopardy" author Bob Hill says if that's the way Ignatow died, it's instant irony.

"I'm not sure it's poetic justice, but it's pretty damn close," Hill said.

That's because Ignatow tied the 36-year-old Schaefer to a glass coffee table where he sexually assaulted and tortured her before killing her. Hill says even in death, he has utter contempt for Ignatow, knowing what he put the Schaefer family through.

"This was a man that the day after he murdered Brenda Schaeffer, went over to the family's house, sat around the kitchen table, held hands with the family and cried - and he just murdered their daughter," Hill said.

Nine of 12 jurors who acquitted Ignatow in 1991 told Hill they thought he was guilty, but said the prosecution did not prove its case. Former First Assistant Commonwealth Attorney John Stewart says they didn't properly prepare key witness Mary Ann Shore, who helped Ignatow in the murder. Stewart says the late Commonwealth Attorney Ernie Jasmin had too much on his plate and should have given the case to someone else.

"I frankly thought that the pressures of being an administrator conflicted with the pressures of being a trial attorney," Stewart told WAVE 3 News.

When photos of the crime were later found, Stewart and other prosecutors felt vindicated, but Ignatow could not be tried again for Schaefer's murder. Later, Ignatow served prison time on perjury charges for lying to federal prosecutors. Stewart hopes Ignatow's death brings some kind of vindication to everyone and some kind of closure for the family.

"It does bring closure," Stewart said. "It does bring finality to a black mark on the criminal justice system here in Jefferson County."

The Jefferson County Coroner's Office is waiting on additional tests from the Medical Examiner and toxicology tests before making an official cause of death.

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