Thelma Pauline Melton

Melton, circa 1981

  • Missing Since 09/25/1981
  • Missing From Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
  • Classification Lost/Injured Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Age 58 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'11, 170 - 180 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A pink and white striped sleeveless blouse, tan pants, a diamond-studded white gold wristwatch, a wedding band and size 8 1/2 tan low-cut shoes with crepe soles. The sole of her left shoe had a crack across the ball of the foot.
  • Medical Conditions Melton has high blood pressure and also suffers from nausea. She was taking medications for both conditions at the time she disappeared.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Auburn hair, brown eyes. Melton wears eyeglasses. She smoked approximately two packs of Virginia Slims cigarettes per day at the time of her 1981 disappearance. Her nickname is Polly.

Details of Disappearance

Melton was hiking on Deep Creek Trail in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park with two friends on September 25, 1981. She was last seen shortly after 4:00 p.m. that day, when Melton suddenly sped up her pace and walked ahead of her companions. They saw her walk over a hill on the trail and out of their view at that time.

Melton's friends assumed that she had returned to the campground where the Airstream trailer she and her husband owned was parked. Her companions arrived at the campground at approximately 4:30 p.m., but there was no sign of Melton. Her husband was inside the trailer while his wife and the others hiked the trail, but he had not seen Melton since the group departed together.

Melton was reported as a missing person to a park ranger at approximately 6:00 p.m., two hours after her disappearance. She was familiar with Deep Creek Trail, which runs parallel with Deep Creek in the park. There was no indication that anyone had ventured off of the trail's path. Melton has never been heard from again. She was carrying her cigarettes with her when she disappeared.

She apparently followed her normal routine during the day preceding her disappearance. The only exception was that Melton decided against volunteering at a center where she served meals to senior citizens. She usually arrived at the center every day, but had decided against it for unclear reasons on September 25.

Melton did not have any cash, identification or medications with her when she disappeared. She was not permitted to drive her vehicle during September 1981, so she did not carry her car keys. Her husband had the keys to the couple's trailer.

Melton was not thought to be suicidal at the time of her disappearance. She had suffered through minor bouts of depression in the recent past. She used Valium, a muscle relaxant, frequently in 1979, two years prior to her disappearance. It was believed that Melton had stopped her usage of the drug by 1981, but her husband noticed that his own Valium prescription was missing after Melton vanished. It is not known if Melton took the pills with her.

Melton's minister stated that she was grieving over the recent death of her mother in 1981. He also suspected that Melton may have had an affair with another man at the time, but there is no evidence to support this theory.

Her supervisor at the center where Melton volunteered told authorities that Melton never used the center's telephone, but she did place a call to an unknown individual the day prior to her disappearance. It is not known if the phone call was related to her case.

Melton's disappearance remains unsolved.

Investigating Agency

  • Tennessee Bureau of Investigation 615-744-4000

Updated times since October 12, 2004.3 Last updated July 19, 2018; picture added.