Friday, January 26, 2024

The Murder of Melissa Peskey


Melissa Peskey was shot to death while on a road trip with her two children on December 13th, 2018. 

Missouri State Patrol troopers were alerted around 10:30 PM that evening about a single car crash into a median on Interstate 70 near Boonville. When the troopers arrived at the scene of the crash, they found the 40-year-old woman deceased in the driver's seat. Her two children, then aged 5 and 11, were not physically harmed in the crash. 

At first glance, it appeared that Melissa had been killed as a result of a car accident. Shortly thereafter, Melissa's autopsy confirmed that she actually "died of a gunshot wound, from a weapon fired from outside the vehicle." Melissa crashed her vehicle into the median after she had been struck by the bullet.

Melissa and her children were over 450 miles away from their home in Hartford, South Dakota at the time she was killed. Detectives initially thought she might have been the victim of a random shooting, but the investigation soon led them to believe that Melissa was targeted by her killer. 

Years have passed without justice for Melissa. In December 2023, five years after the murder, it was reported that police do not have any suspects or persons of interest in the case. However, there is a lot of speculation about one person in particular: Melissa's husband/father of her children, Ryan Peskey. 

As of today, police have never publicly labeled Ryan as a person of interest. Still, there are several occurrences involving Ryan, both before and after his wife's death, that have fueled the speculation about his potential involved in her death. 

Information from Melissa's friend.

A friend of Melissa spoke to reporters at KELOLAND six weeks after Melissa's death. According to the friend, who opted to remain anonymous, Melissa was having several issues with her husband, Ryan Peskey. Melissa reportedly asked Ryan for a divorce shortly before he was deployed with the South Dakota National Guard. 

Melissa's friend told reporters, "She told me that she had asked for a divorce from Ryan right before he went for deployment. And there were all kinds of problems from the minute she asked for the divorce, including the kids being put into the middle."

The friend also stated that Melissa was afraid of Ryan. In fact, the friend provided text messages that Melissa had sent that expressed her fears for her husband.


Melissa's friend explained that she spoke to Melissa on the phone after this text exchange. During their conversation, Melissa told her friend that Ryan had threatened her life. She then told her friend, "If anything ever happens to me, you have to promise me that you will let the police know that Ryan did this."

Ryan denies involvement.

Ryan Peskey has denied involvement in Melissa's death. While police have not publicly confirmed this, Ryan told reporters at KELOLAND in January 2019 that authorities told him that he was a person of interest. He claimed that investigators labeled him as such because he did not answer the phone at 11:00 PM on the evening of the shooting, when investigators called him to inform him about his wife's death. Ryan said that he eventually did call them back around 2:00 AM.

Many reports state that Melissa and Ryan's children were taken into foster care after Melissa's death. This was only for a short period of time as Melissa was killed in the state of Missouri, where they had no nearby relatives. The children were eventually returned to South Dakota and Ryan's custody, where it appears they still remain today. 

Melissa's life insurance money.

In 2020, it was reported that Ryan was seeking the money from Melissa's life insurance policy. Melissa reportedly had two taken out two life insurance policies years earlier, in 2003 and 2008 respectively. Both policies totaled in listed Ryan Peskey as the primary beneficiary. The two combined totaled in $550,000. 

The insurance company, New York Life, filed a complaint against Ryan Peskey on March 9th, 2020. According to the lawsuit, "South Dakota and Missouri have statutes that disqualify a beneficiary who willfully and unlawfully causes or participates with another in causing the death of the owner, or the insured individual under a life insurance policy or certificate.”

While Ryan has not been charged with anything related to Melissa's death, he has also not been ruled out completely. New York Life reportedly feared the company would be sued due to "possible conflicts of interest due to Ryan Peskey being named as the administrator of Melissa Peskey’s estate."

The judge ultimately decided to have the money paid to the U.S. District Court Clerks Office of South Dakota. 

The investigation.

As previously mentioned, investigators have never publicly named any suspects in the murder of Melissa Peskey. Hundreds of leads have been followed, but nothing has led to an arrest. There were reportedly "little to no" witnesses to the crime, which has made it even more difficult to solve. 

While there are numerous suspicions about Ryan Peskey, investigators do not appear to have any direct evidence that would warrant an arrest. It does not appear that there are any strong leads on any other potential suspects either. Investigators are still hoping that somebody with information about the murder will come forward.

Know something? Please report.

There is a monetary reward available for anyone with information that could lead to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for Melissa's death. If you have any information that could help the investigation, please contact the Missouri Highway Patrol at 573-751-1000.

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