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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Christmas 2018 is a painful reminder of the worst day of Barbara Runnels’ life.

Back on a Friday in June, while she was wrapping up the final touches on her son’s graduation party, Runnels was told her 20-year-old daughter Melissa was found dead following a west side garage fire.

News that followed was even more devastating. The coroner discovered that Melissa was shot to death the night before, at around 8:30, before her body was found in the fire.

“It was the worst news of my life, I just recently spoke with her about setting up paperwork for her new job,” Barbara said.


The Runnels, who live on the southwest side, do not know why she ended up in the 1100 block of Warman Ave. The day of her death, she was on the east side and told her family and friends she planned to attend a party that night.

Melissa’s friend received a text that night from her saying, “I am going to die. I love you girls so much.” That was the last time anyone heard anything from her.

“She was educated, college and high school graduate…it just doesn’t make sense, somebody had to see something,” Barbara said.

Runnels was about to turn 21 and her mother was looking forward to taking her daughter out for a drink.

“Those firsts I think about.. that I’ll never get to see them,” she said.

Melissa’s phone, purse and ID are all still missing.

Since it was still light out at the time she was killed, family is hoping someone saw something. While Melissa typically sported blonde hair, family says she recently dyed her hair red and was wearing glasses prior to the murder.

To donate to the family’s GoFundMe in hopes of raising a reward, click here.