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I gave him my life, and he just threw it away. I am not a used piece of furniture, Mr. Stone! I am not an end table that you replace because it gets nicks and chips and the styles change!
~ Melanie Cullen justifying killing Edward and Alexandra.

Melanie Cullen is the main antagonist of the 1991 Law & Order episode "The Wages of Love". She is a vengeful housewife who murders her estranged husband and his girlfriend.

She was portrayed by the late Shirley Knight.

Biography

Early life

Melanie was married for 25 years to businessman Edward Cullen, with whom she had a son, Jamie. Edward left her 15 months prior to the events of the episode for a younger woman named Alexandra Beckett, leaving Melanie with nothing, as she had been financially dependant on him for their entire marriage, and had come to define herself entirely by him and their family. She attempted to reconcile with him several times, but he rebuffed her. Her anger grew more intense when she found out through their accountant that Edward was hiding money in an attempt to avoid paying alimony.

The final straw was when Edward told her that he and Alexandra were getting married. Melanie manipulated Jamie into giving her a spare key to Edward's apartment, stole Edward's gun, and then showed up at his apartment, where she shot Edward and Alexandra dead while they slept.

"Wages of Love"

NYPD detectives Mike Logan and Phil Cerreta investigate the murders, and question Melanie, who claims to have been eating dinner with Jamie at the time of the murders. After briefly suspecting Alexandra's ex-boyfriend, they question Jamie, who confesses that Melanie had called him, panicked, and told him to lie about her whereabouts. After further investigation reveals that that she had stolen Edward's pistol a few days earlier, they arrest her for murder.

Melanie's lawyer, Frank Lehrman, claims that she killed Edward and Alexandra in a state of extreme emotional stress after walking in on them in bed together. Executive District Attorney Ben Stone is convinced that she committed the killings in cold blood, however, so he and Assistant District Attorney Paul Robinette reexamine the evidence and find that Jamie had made his mother a spare key to Edward's apartment. They question Jamie under threat of arrest, and he admits giving her the key. He then breaks down and says that she told him she did not mean to kill Edward and Alexandra.

During the trial, Edward's accountant reveals Edwqard's financial situation, while one of Alexandra's coworkers testifies that Melanie had been harassing her at work. Melanie and Lehrman try to arrange a lenient plea deal, but when Stone insists that she serve either a long prison sentence for murder, or a somewhat shorter one for manslaughter, she refuses, arrogantly stating that the women on the jury will sympathize with her marital problems and acquit her.

When Stone calls Jamie to testify, he lies under oath that Melanie had her own key to Edward's apartment, which would make it seem as if the murders were not premeditated. When Stone presses him about his earlier testimony, Jamie replies that he merely told Stone what he wanted to hear. His case in jeopardy, Stone tries a new, risky strategy, as in order to make sure Melanie serves the longesr sentence possible, he persuades the trial judge to drop the manslaughter charge so she can only be charged with murder.

After Stone makes a persuasive closing argument to the jury, Lehrman gets nervous and offers a plea bargain in which Melanie serves nine years in prison for two counts of manslaughter. Stone agrees, although he later finds out that the jury would have voted to convict. Melanie is last seen giving an interview in which she claims to have always loved Edward.

Trivia

  • Melanie Cullen is loosely based upon real-life murderer Betty Broderick.
  • Shirley Knight was nominated for an Emmy Award for her performance as Melanie Cullen.

External Links

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