In 2008, Ben Oxley was murdered while he slept — and his wife, who was sleeping beside him when he was shot, was initially the prime suspect.
Melissa Oxley woke up just after the murder, not realizing that the sound that had awakened her was a gunshot, and that her husband was the victim. Once she discovered the front door of her house open and her husband unresponsive, she called 911 — and unexpectedly found herself the suspect in his murder case.
On Friday, Melissa Oxley told TODAY’s Ann Curry she was “very numb at first and overwhelmed. I didn’t know what was going on, really.” She said that she felt sick that she was being thought of as the murderer. Her full story airs on NBC’s “Dateline” at 10 p.m. (ET) Friday.
Melissa was interrogated but released. Then, just as the case was growing cold, Ben’s ex-wife, Dawn Oxley, came forward and said that her current boyfriend, James Matlean, had killed Ben in order to please her.
“It’s done,” Matlean reportedly told Dawn after the murder. She was granted immunity from prosecution for turning him in.
The revelation shook Melissa, because Matlean had been spending time with her stepdaughter, Alyssa, daughter of Dawn and Ben, after the murder. “He lived with her for over 19 months afterwards,” Oxley said. “I saw him numerous times. He’d pick her up from my house for visitations together.”
Matlean confessed to the crime and is serving life in prison. However, he claims that Dawn Oxley orchestrated the crime and was with him the night of the murder. He also said that Dawn wanted him to kill Melissa too, but he was too scared to shoot her and fled.
“I'm taking full responsibility for what I did,” Matlean said in an interview. “Dawn needs to take full responsibility for what she did.”
Dawn Oxley has denied her involvement, and said that while she had complained about her ex-husband, she would never condone murder. Matlean’s attorney, Ken Stover, said, “The prosecutor made a deal with the devil.”
On Friday Melissa Oxley agreed that first wife Dawn bears responsibility for the murder of her husband: “I’m hoping that the truth just comes out at the end of it all, when it’s all said and done, and I believe that she should have a punishment for her part in it and own up to that,” she told Curry. She also said that she hopes Dawn will claim responsibility not only for the sake of herself and Melissa, but for daughter Alyssa, who is currently being raised by Melissa.
Melissa calls Alyssa, age 5 at the time of the murder, a “strong little girl.” After Matlean was convicted of the crime, Alyssa asked to speak to him. “I told him that I decided to forgive him and that I wanted him to have hope,” Alyssa said.
Melissa said that from the first, she told Alyssa that they would approach her father’s murderer with compassion, no matter who it turned out to be. “I always told her, pretty much from day one, whenever we found out who did this we’d have to be able to forgive them at some point in order to go on.”
The widowed stepmother emphasized the importance of forgiveness as a way forward in her grief, and said she wants Alyssa to be able to grow up without anger being a part of their lives.
“I know it’s such a big part to be able to move on and not be so angry and held back by it. We have to still live our lives, so I thought it was super important for her to be able to go on with hers too.”
Melissa Oxley’s full story is featured on NBC’s “Dateline” at 10 p.m. (ET) Friday.