A Stafford County man who is under investigation in connection with the slayings of three Spotsylvania County girls said yesterday that he is being unfairly targeted by law enforcement officials and that he has alibis for the days that the girls disappeared.
Investigators last week obtained hair, blood and saliva samples from Melvin Hogan, 32, who works at a carpet cleaning business in Prince William County. He has not been charged with any crime, and a spokesman for the Spotsylvania sheriff's department said Hogan is "a lead like any other" in the slayings of Sofia Silva, 16, Kristin Lisk, 15, and Kati Lisk, 12.
Hogan said in a telephone interview yesterday that the police investigation is ruining his family's life. He said that his employer has asked him not to come back to work until the questions about his possible involvement in the slayings have been resolved and that the publicity has been traumatic for his three children.
"I have not and would not ever take the life of another human being," Hogan said. "I do have children of my own that I love very dearly. The thought of being accused of taking the life of another child is painfully insulting to me and my family."
Hogan's wife, Concetta, said police have collected enough evidence to prove her husband was not involved in the slayings and are simply "grasping at straws."
"They want to hold someone responsible because they don't have a clue who it could be," she said.
Maj. Howard Smith, a spokesman for the Spotsylvania sheriff's office, defended the actions of investigators, saying they have a duty to pursue any lead in the unsolved slayings.
"This is a county with three girls murdered. We have an obligation to the public and the citizens of Spotsylvania to look into that," Smith said.
Law enforcement officials have said they first interviewed Hogan after the Lisk sisters disappeared on May 1, 1997, and residents in the Lisks' neighborhood reported seeing a white van in the area. Hogan was working a half-mile away and had a white van, according to police. Investigators said they obtained a warrant to gather DNA samples from him after an incident two weeks ago in which he allegedly approached a 15-year-old Spotsylvania girl at her home and commented on her "attractive looks."
It could be several weeks before the FBI is able to determine whether Hogan's DNA and the fibers collected during searches of his home, van and workplace match evidence found at the Lisk and Silva crime scenes, investigators said.
Hogan said yesterday that he believed the Spotsylvania girl he spoke to earlier this month was older than 15 and that he is guilty only of poor judgment and "disrespecting" his wife.
"My husband may have been wrong by flirting and a bad judge of character on age, but he's no killer," Concetta Hogan said. "It's as if our lives are being taken from us, and I know that we're not going to be able to get our dignity back."
Hogan and his wife both said they were at a Ford dealership in Orange County on Sept. 9, 1996, the day Sofia Silva disappeared from her home. They went to the dealership to have the engine of their van replaced and have receipts to prove it, they said.
Hogan said that on the day the Lisk sisters disappeared, he spent the morning on the job in Spotsylvania, picking up rugs, and later went to Fredericksburg, where he was cleaning carpets with a co-worker.
Smith said investigators still are checking those alibis.
The Hogans also disputed a police account that Melvin Hogan refused to provide DNA samples when he was interviewed by the FBI after the Lisks vanished. Smith said that investigators have taken saliva samples from as many as 100 people in the probe of the three slayings and that Hogan is one of about 10 people who did not voluntarily provide samples.
Investigators said they did not have probable cause to obtain warrants to collect evidence from Hogan until his conversation on Oct. 11 with the 15-year-old Spotsylvania girl.
According to a police affidavit, Hogan was cleaning rugs with a co-worker at a nearby home when he knocked on the girl's door to ask directions and he later returned alone to question her further.
The girl, Chrissy Tenhoeve, said in an interview yesterday that when Hogan returned, he asked to borrow the phone, saying he and his co-worker still hadn't found the house they were looking for. She said Hogan asked her what her name was and whether her parents were home. He then asked her questions about her sexual experience, she said, and she told him that it was none of his business.
"It was frightening because he was standing there and asking these questions," she said. "I started to get nervous." Then the phone rang and she retreated into the house, she said.
Before leaving her house, Hogan asked her for a hug, and she refused, she said.
Smith said yesterday that a 22-year-old woman has told police that Hogan made inappropriate comments to her six years ago while he was working inside her family's home. Smith declined to say where the woman lived at the time of the alleged incident.