Melissa Collins was skeptical when the producers of a new true-crime TV show called “Cell Block Psychic” called her about being in the debut episode.
They told her that she and her brother would be filmed meeting with the show’s star, Maine psychic Vicki Monroe, 51. They said Monroe would try to help them find out more about the circumstances surrounding their mother’s murder.
“I grew up Baptist and we don’t believe in psychics. But I had some unanswered questions that I felt I needed help with,” said Collins, 32, of Wichita, Kan. “(Monroe) told us things I knew she got from my mother. She told me my mother wanted me to slow down, not to rush everywhere, which I do. I had just gotten a speeding ticket.”
“Cell Block Psychic” premieres at 9 p.m. Monday on the Investigation Discovery cable channel and will run for at least three episodes. The one-hour show features Monroe delving into closed murder cases. Someone has been convicted of the crime, but Monroe tries to help family members find out more information. Family members, for instance, sometimes want to know if their loved one suffered during the crime.
For Monroe, of Kennebunk, this starring role comes after 15 years of working as a psychic. She does paid readings for people and performs public demonstrations in Maine and around the country. For several years she appeared regularly on Portland radio station WJBQ (97.9 FM) during morning drive time, doing readings on the phone.
Monroe’s audition for the show was to “read” people by communicating with the spirits of dead relatives or friends. First she communicated with dead people connected to someone in the production company, then with the spirits connected to a prison inmate.
To film the show, Monroe traveled around the country, visiting family members in their homes and inmates in prison. On the show it becomes clear that Monroe sees dead people standing behind just about everyone she talks to.
“When I see (deceased people), they are crystal clear to me and have a beautiful, radiant light shining on them. They look young and healthy,” Monroe said.
In the introduction to her show, in a version sent out to TV reviewers, text and narration tell viewers that Monroe helped Portland police find the body of Amy St. Laurent. It’s a claim disputed by police.
St. Laurent was a 25-year-old woman who disappeared from Portland’s Old Port in 2001, and whose body was eventually found in Scarborough. Jeffrey “Russ” Gorman was convicted of the murder and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
The head of Portland’s detectives at the time, Joseph Loughlin, said he did ask Monroe for help but that Monroe’s input did not lead to breaks in the case.
“She did not help us find the body, but she told me things about our investigation, things about our suspect and about the fact there were three men involved, that I thought were uncanny,” said Loughlin, who was also contacted by “Cell Block Psychic” producers. “In my view, she has talents. The use of a psychic in an investigation can stimulate thinking and help the thought process.”
Monroe says she knows some people dismiss what she does, because they don’t believe communicating with the dead is possible. She says she can see dead people anywhere, any time of day. She says she can communicate with people who spoke another language during their lives, because they know she only speaks English.
“You meet skeptics every day. I’m not there to make them believe. If I can give people information that helps them, that’s what I’m hoping to do,” Monroe said.
Monroe, who grew up in California, said she could see and communicate with spirits as a child. She remembers getting in trouble with teachers for saying she could see spirits.
Monroe first came to southern Maine in the late 1980s, when her husband was in the Air Force and stationed at Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, N.H. She has a degree in holistic health and worked a variety of jobs, including at a health food store, before starting to do psychic readings in 1999.
Monroe and her husband, Bret, have been married for more than 30 years.
“To live with a wife that does what I do, and be there for me? He’s a rare breed,” Monroe said.
In the first episode of her new show, Monroe is seen talking with Collins and her brother, with an investigator, with a domestic abuse expert, and with the man convicted of the murder. She sees or senses spirits in each encounter.
Monroe tells Collins her mother wants her to know that she was clinically depressed, though she never sought treatment. Monroe also says Collins’ mother wants her to know that she did not suffer during her murder. Collins and her brother both said they had both wondered a lot about that.
“In these cases the family doesn’t know everything that happened, even after a conviction. They’re looking for some peace of mind,” Monroe said.
Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: