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Marfa Family Still Searching For Justice After Officials Pronounce Death a Suicide

Almost two years ago a Marfa girl died after being hit by a train. Officials said it was a suicide, but the family claims the incident was not investigated properly.
By: Alexa Williams
NewsWest 9

MARFA- Almost two years ago a Marfa girl died after being hit by a train. Officials said it was a suicide, but the family claims the incident was not investigated properly.

The tragic death of Melaney Parker Rayburn all started at a local bar in Marfa back on August 7th, 2013. Melaney was recently married and her and her new husband went to the Lost Horse Saloon that night to watch some friends play with their band.

"She got there about 9 O'clock," Liz Parker, Melaney's mother, said.

Liz explained that Melaney cashed out her tab at the bar at 12:01 a.m. It was now August 8th. Liz said that Melaney kissed her husband on the cheek and told him she would see him at the house. Then Melaney left the bar alone to walk home. Something Melaney's best friend told NewsWest 9 wasn't unusual. It was a short walk.

"It was probably about an 8 minute walk. We've made the walk together before," Melaney's best friend, who wanted to remain anonymous, said.

The friend said that he was with her at the Lost Horse Saloon the night she went missing.

"We were having a good night. It was a pretty normal night but she just seemed so full of life that night."

Liz said that she got a phone call from Melaney's husband around 1:00 a.m.

"Her husband called me. He said he couldn't find her. She wasn't at home."

But that wasn't the only unusual thing going on in Marfa that night. A train going through the area had stopped on the tracks. Friends and family said that never happens in Marfa.

"Normally the train just rolls through town with the horn blaring and you can hear it from all around and I remember it had just stopped and I was thinking why? why did it stop," Melaney's friend said.

Little did they know the train stopped because someone had been hit, and that someone was Melaney Parker Rayburn. They found out hours later after searching for Melaney.

"I didn't know what to think. I was in a state of shock, I was hyperventilating, I couldn't breathe," the friend explained.

Liz told NewsWest 9 that she had a weird feeling about what was going on. In fact, she said that officials handed her Melaney's purse and cell phone right away. She thought they would need that for evidence.

"I was very upset because I thought it was going to be covered in blood or tissue but it wasn't. It was very clean. The only thing wrong with it was that the strap was broken off on one side on one corner and I was very puzzled about that. I thought they should have kept them."

Liz and Melaney's best friend said no one has ever given any reason as to why officials labeled Melaney's death as a suicide. They wanted answers, and they wanted a further investigation.

"They have not told us what happened. We have submitted open records request on August 23rd, 2013. They have released very few documents and they have never told us why they made and immediate determination of suicide," Liz said.

"The Sheriff immediately ruled it a suicide. No questions asked," the friend added.

A memorial still lays in Marfa nearly two years after Melaney's tragic death. Although family and friends said they will never believe she took her own life, authorities argue that there is just no other answer.

"Nobody was ever indicted. It was never brought to a grand jury because there was never any evidence whatsoever that there was any kind of crime," Rod Ponton, the District Attorney, said.

Ponton said the answer might not be the family wants to hear but it's simple. He said Melaney died because she committed suicide.

"The Justice of the Peace ruled suicide by train basically. Mrs. Parker had laid herself in front of the train."

Ponton added that officials came to that conclusion after looking over her medical records. They discovered that she was depressed.

"The evidence in the case indicated that the young lady had been treated for some mental issues and had been treated at the clinic in Marfa for those issues."

But Liz explained that Melaney had been taking medicine for quite sometime and she believes that she was doing great.

"She was planning on going to graduate school. I was telling people before she died that I had never seen her happier."

However, Ponton said that another key piece of evidence was the Union Pacific train footage where you can see Melaney on the tracks just before she got hit. Officials and family have two very different versions of that footage.

"She was laying on the track with her arms on her chest and her head on the tracks short of with a half smiling facing the direction of the train." Ponton said.

But Liz doesn't agree. She said that according to their attorney who saw the footage, it appeared that Melaney had been placed on the track and that she didn't move or flinch when the train approached her. To them, that meant she was unconscious or already dead.

And we asked Ponton about the purse and cell phone that was handed back to the family just hours after Melaney's death. He said that's not unusual.

"It just depends on the case. I mean if there is no thought from any source in law enforcement that there is any kind of crime that has occurred it would be normal for the person's belongings to be returned to the family."

Officials in Marfa said there is no investigation because, for them, the case is closed. As for family friends, they said they'll continue to search for more answers.