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Woman who thought her dad had a heart attack learns he was actually murdered in his own home

Woman who thought her dad had a heart attack learns he was actually murdered in his own home

Madison McGhee launched an investigation to get to the truth of her dad's death

Imagine if you'd been told your whole life your dad had died of a heart attack, only to learn 10 years later that he was actually the victim of a heinous crime.

How would you shift your perspective to accept that new reality? How would you tell people that your dad's death wasn't really a health issue, as you'd spent years claiming?

"It really did feel like I lost my dad twice."

Madison McGhee was 16 years old when she learned her dad had been murdered on his doorstep in Ohio 10 years earlier, on 11 July, 2002. His killer has never been caught.

Madison McGhee was 6 when her dad died. (Supplied)
Madison McGhee was 6 when her dad died. (Supplied)

The truth came out after Madison asked a question about her dad's death which ended up 'cornering' her family, prompting her mom to tell her the truth. Until then, Madison had put it down to a simple, though devastating, health issue.

"I lost my dad to a heart attack when I was six. And it felt like I lost my dad to murder when I was 16," she told UNILAD.

"At 16, to find that out, it really sort of felt like I was right back to the beginning, as if my dad had just died."

Looking back now, Madison understands why her family didn't tell her the truth about her dad when she was a child.

"I definitely understand a six-year-old not being able to process such a great grief," she said.

But naturally, Madison was left with questions about what had happened to her dad.

Madison was told her dad died of a heart attack. (Supplied)
Madison was told her dad died of a heart attack. (Supplied)

On the morning of 11 July, 2002, police received two 911 calls; one reporting that Madison's dad, John Cornelius "JC" McGhee had been shot, and one reporting a home invasion at the house next door.

Police records have attributed John's death to a home invasion gone wrong, but Madison isn't so sure.

"There was one shot straight into his head. He died and they left," she said.

"The police really want to chalk it up to this home invasion. But it seems suspicious that if they were trying to rob someone, they never entered my dad's house... Besides killing my dad, they didn't even enter the home," Madison explained.

In 2020, Madison, who's now 28, contacted the Belmont County Sheriff's Office to request the case files, and began investigating her own dad's murder to try and figure out who pulled the trigger.

She's since launched a podcast titled Ice Cold Case to detail her findings amid her search for justice, but with 22 years having passed since John's death, Madison has her work cut out for her.

Madison's sharing her dad's case through her podcast. (Instagram/@madison_mcghee)
Madison's sharing her dad's case through her podcast. (Instagram/@madison_mcghee)

"Even the shiniest of police departments - if you've got a 20-year cold case, it's not like you're spending all of your time looking into this," Madison acknowledged, but she's hopeful that getting people to talk about her dad's death will encourage authorities to give the case another look.

Since a number of Madison's family members were in the area at the time of her dad's death, it's not been too difficult for her to track down witnesses.

However, Madison admitted she was 'shocked' by some of the other people who were 'willing to come out of the woodwork' to talk to her.

"People have been very interested in running their mouths and talking about what they think happened and who they think was there," she said. "And some of those people are implicated in the case files.

"And so I don't know if it's them trying to cover their tracks or protect themselves and throw blame on someone else. But it's very interesting."

With no physical evidence that she's aware of, it's witnesses that Madison believes are the key to solving her dad's case.

Madison is hopeful someone will come forward. (Supplied)
Madison is hopeful someone will come forward. (Supplied)

"I need someone who was there, or helped orchestrate or was around at the time to come forward with exactly what happened and who was there," she explained.

There's just one problem: "I don't know who would be willing to do that."

There's no statute of limitations on murder, so Madison would love to see the person responsible for her dad's death be held accountable.

"I want to figure out a way moving forward for this never to happen to someone else, ever again," she said.

However, with so many questions still unanswered, Madison has acknowledged that her investigation may end with nothing more than a theory about what really happened that day.

"If it doesn't go through the court system, then that's the way that it goes," she said. "But if I really want on-paper justice, I think it's going to take some witnesses to come forward."

Over the course of making her podcast, Madison did come up with one 'really strong theory' that left her believing she knew 'exactly what happened' to her dad.

However, when she tried to prove her theory, 'things got really complicated'.

Madison is hoping she'll get justice for her dad. (Instagram/@icecoldcase)
Madison is hoping she'll get justice for her dad. (Instagram/@icecoldcase)

"I started hearing from people who were adding new theories or negating my theory, and it got me really confused," she said.

"I heard from my main suspect, and the police's main suspect, and I interviewed with him, and it shifted my perspective a little bit.

"It got really confusing, because what if I'm wrong? What do I do then? ... but what if I'm right?

"What if I didn't just sit across a table from the suspect [but] I sat across the table from the killer?"

Madison still has a long way to go in her investigation, but while she's had years to come to terms with her dad's death, that hasn't stopped her from wondering about what might have been different if she'd known the truth a bit earlier.

"I'm not sure if [my family] ever really thought I would find out," she said.

"But even now, there is a little bit of anger in that - I wished I had known. I wonder, not that I really would have been able to do much... but if I had known, what could have happened sooner?

"Would 14-year-old me have been calling the police department - would that have helped? What could have happened because I knew sooner? It's hard to tell."

UNILAD has contacted Belmont County Sheriff's Office for comment.

Ice Cold Case is available to stream now.

Featured Image Credit: Supplied

Topics: Podcast, Crime, US News