February 12, 1997: Man Arrested for the Murder of Nancy Manni


Nancy Manni was a 33-year-old ship steward, and a part of the Seafarer's that sailed all around the world. (1) She was one of the only female members of the Union. At the time of her death, she was studying at the union-run training center called The Harry Lundenberg School of Seamanship in Piney Point, Maryland. (2)

On August 30, 1993, a woman's body was found floating in the Chesapeake Bay, but the cause of death was unclear. It could not be determined if she was murdered, committed suicide, or if her death was an accident. But her family and friends believed there was foul play. (1)

Despite ex-boyfriends being investigated for her murder and the Seafarer's Union investigated for potential drug trafficking and a murder to cover it up, ultimately, on February 12, 1997, a man was arrested who had no prior relationship with Manni or the Union - he was just a murderer at a bar. He was sentenced to 15 years for her death.


The primary suspect at the beginning of the investigation was Manni's ex-boyfriend William "Billy" Mesmer. He was questioned a few days after her body turned up. He was immediately suspicious due to some dark poems he had written before her death, including one called "The Night Stalker" with loving lines such as "no one will ever hear your screams as the predator begins to bite." (1)

But, despite a healthy dose of murder poetry and lyricism, he claimed he loved her and he used the poems to express his emotions, and they weren't about her. He also claimed to have an airtight alibi, and lead investigators to the Seafarer's Union, which he thought had something to do with her death. (1)

Her current boyfriend was in the Seafarer's union and became a suspect after Mesmer told her a few days before her death that her job was going to become more difficult if she didn't listen to him. Allegedly, he was a part of a secret drug trafficking ring within the Union, something that was corroborated by many witnesses. It was assumed that she was going to blow the whistle on their operation and so he murdered her. But, he also had an alibi. (1)

The Union seemed to be a plausible explanation because in 1998, a woman named Elizabeth Greenberg, who was studying at the same school as Nancy, was murdered, the case having far too many similarities to be coincidental. (1)

Manni's sister believed that her death was a murder, and also believed it was in some way related to the Union. When she received Nancy's personal effects, her photos with her boyfriend weren't there, and her camera was missing its film. (1)

But, despite the pressure put on the Union, 23 years ago today, 32-year old John David O'Meara was arrested and charged with Manni's murder, years after her body was found. He had no apparent ties to Nancy or the Union. (2)

He had confessed to an informant while in jail for an unrelated crime that he had killed a girl. When asked who, he said "the one on Unsolved Mysteries". He confessed that he had met her at a bar and took her out on a boat where she fell overboard and drowned. However, he told the informant (and a few others, as well) that he had thrown her off the boat when she rejected his sexual advances, and then ran her over with the boat a few times. (2)

He was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He died on March 5, 2019, no longer behind bars. (2)


In May of 2018, a poster claiming to be Nancy's ex-boyfriend Billy made a post on a random forum, giving his side of the story and disagreeing with the narrative that Unsolved Mysteries perpetuated. (The episode aired in 1996 and he his complaints about the story in 2018.) (3)

He said that they met when she was 31 and he was 22, saying, "if that alone doesn't tell you that she was up to no good, then nothing here will surprise you." He claimed Manni was a master manipulator, a smuggler, a dominatrix and a liar. (3)

He also claimed that O'Meara was merely a patsy, and the international crime organization that the Union and Nancy were involved with was paying off the state attorney and circuit judges, citing expensive cars and big houses that some of the state employees had. He said that the people in the training center of the school would be "wearing prison stripes" at best, charged with murder more likely. (3)

Mesner claimed that, despite being a suspect in the murder for only a short time and not being charged with the murder, that he has been persecuted for her death and blacklisted. In his post, he indicated he'd be spilling more, but didn't post again. (3)


On July 5, 1988, 34-year-old Elizabeth Greenberg of Annapolis was found floating in the Chesapeake Bay, the same as Manni. She had been raped and beaten to death. She was last seen the night before at a bar in Eastport where a man "spooked" her.

Greenberg looked very similar to Manni. They had the same color hair and eyes, were nearly the same height and weighed about the same. They were both ship stewards, members of the Seafarer's union, and attended the same school.

Though Nancy's assumed killer was brought to justice, he was not charged with Elizabeth's murder, and her case is still considered cold.

Despite being a really interesting, mysterious case, not a lot of information is out there on Nancy Manni's death, the connection to Elizabeth Greenberg's, or about O'Meara.

Though it is still a strange, mysterious case, it appears the right man was brought to justice, 23 years ago today.


1. https://unsolvedmysteries.fandom.com/wiki/Nancy_Manni


3. https://community.fandom.com/wiki/Thread:1459754?useskin=oasis

4. https://unsolvedmysteries.fandom.com/wiki/Elizabeth_Greenberg

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