She had been shot once above the temple on the right side. The projectile had traversed forward and downward, coming out under the left eye.
The rigor mortis broke easily and Dr. Ray Justi, a medical examiner, eventually reached two firm conclusions: The canal bank couldn't have been the exact murder scene. Not nearly enough blood was there.
Secondly, from the condition of the body, he calculated the time of death at 20 to 40 hours earlier, or, quite probably, sometime shortly after she punched the timeclock the evening of Feb. 23.
The autopsy revealed chewed chocolate-covered peanuts. They had not been digested. Tests ran negative for alcohol.
Embedded within the skull was an earhook from the victim's prescription sunglasses, presumably severed by the bullet. Mary Meslener nearly always wore sunglasses while driving - even at night, her husband and brother said.
The sunglasses were missing. So were her pocketbook, billfold and, oddly, her shoes. Her sister-in-law said she sometimes would kick off shoes to drive. Most important, her car, a blue two-tone '58 Nash Rambler, also was missing.
There was no evidence of sexual assault, either by autopsy or appearance.
The first big break in the case came Thursday, Feb. 26. An airman had found Mary Meslener's plastic billfold in his locker at a barracks a few miles from where her body was found. The locker was at an Air Force installation, Miami Air Depot (MIAD), at the western edge of the airport. The locker had two padlocks on it, but the spring inside didn't work. It could be opened with a jerk.
Homicide detectives heard about the billfold on the 26th, two days after it was found, and descended upon the barracks in number and questioned scores of airmen.
They failed to establish who put the billfold there.
Six years later, even with a man convicted of the crime, this is still unresolved. The police assumption, purely speculative, was that maybe the killer threw it away and somebody picked it up and put it there. There was no other explanation.
An intensive search, meanwhile had begun for the missing Nash Rambler that February. The supposition was that it was in a canal and perhaps could be seen from the air. Police hired a Sun Line helicopter. The Coast Guard provided another.
Police did indeed find and recover two submerged cars by grappling hooks. Neither was Mary Meslener's.
Besides the airmen at MIAD, detectives interrogated Mary's co-workers, her classmates, neighbors here as well as in the Bronx 1,100 miles away, and all manner of known and suspected molesters and trouble-makers. They traced airport construction workers. The leads led nowhere.
CAR IN TAMPA
The second major break in Case 9006B occurred April 3, 1959, with a collect telephone call; Police in Tampa found the missing Nash Rambler parked in a warehouse district lot adjacent to the Ryder Co. and the Patten Printing and Label Co.
It had been there for weeks, perhaps since the night of the crime 40 days before.
Nine inches from the accelerator lay a mutilated .38 slug on the floormat. Bone fragments and tissue still clung to the bullet. Presumably, it had killed the girl, splattered brain tissue on the closed driver's window, struck the window frame and fallen spent.
Blood that had flowed to the back floormat was type O, the victim's type. In the car also was her umbrella, an unexplained cap from a whiskey bottle, a matchbook, and a Gillette blade wrapper.