Mary Jayne Jones (courtesy Des Moines Register)

Mary Jayne Jones (courtesy Des Moines Register)

Mary Jayne Jones

Homicide — SOLVED

Mary Jayne Jones
17 YOA
Blakesburg, IA / Ottumwa, IA
Wapello County
Case Number: 74-00243
April 9, 1974

 
Mary Jayne Jones, 17, of Ottumwa, Iowa, was found slain in a farmhouse near Blakesburg, Iowa, on Tuesday, April 9, 1974. She had been sexually assaulted and shot once in the head and once in the heart at close range with a high-powered rifle.

 

UPDATE

OTTUMWA — On Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, Robert “Gene” Pilcher, 68, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the April 1974 slaying of 17-year-old Mary Jayne Jones.

Pilcher was charged with first-degree murder in November 2012 after authorities said DNA evidence linked him to the crime. Jones was beaten and shot twice at close range.

In January 2014, a judge declared a mistrial after jurors said they could not reach a verdict in the case.

Under the plea deal, both sides recommended a 10-year sentence, which Judge Richard Meadows imposed on Pilcher. Pilcher will receive credit for the two years served since his arrest, and also will quality for reductions for good behavior. He may be out of prison in as little as five years.

“I’m glad that it’s on record, finally, that he did what we always knew he did,” said Judith Cabanillas, Jones’ sister, who was just 13 when her older sister was killed. “Jayne was special and she would have done beautiful things with her life.”


Previous Update

Robert Eugene Pilcher, 67, will stand trial in Wapello County beginning Jan. 14, 2014.

Judge declares mistrial

On Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, a judge declared a mistrial in the case of the man charged with first-degree murder in Mary Jayne Jones’ death.

After trying for a week, jurors said they could not reach a verdict in the case of 67-year-old Robert “Gene” Pilcher and that any more deliberation would be pointless. Judge Richard Meadows agreed.

Pilcher’s trial began Jan. 14.

Pilcher was charged in November 2012 after DNA evidence linked him to the murder, and has been held in the Wapello County Jail on a $1 million bond since his arrest.

Prosecutors asked the judge for a change in venue for the second trial, but Judge Richard Meadows denied the request on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

Pilcher’s new trial is scheduled for this September. If eventually convicted, he faces a mandatory life sentence.


Case summary by Jody Ewing

Mary Jayne Jones, 17, of Ottumwa, Iowa, was found slain in a farmhouse near Blakesburg, Iowa, on Tuesday, April 9, 1974. She had been sexually assaulted and shot once in the head and once in the heart at close range with a high-powered rifle.

Shortly after 5 p.m. on April 9, the Wapello County sheriff’s office received a call from Ernest Marlin, who said his wife had discovered the body in a farmhouse about seven miles west of Ottumwa.

Wapello County in Iowa
Wapello County in Iowa
 
Blakesburg in Wapello CountyBlakesburg in Wapello County

The farm was owned by the Marlin’s son, Max Marlin, and the elder Marlin worked the farm. According to [then] Wapello County Attorney Sam Erhardt, the Marlin’s son was “out west on a vacation” at the time of the slaying. Erhardt said he believed no one was staying at the home at the time of the slaying, although Mr. and Mrs. Marlin had stayed at the house “a couple of nights” before the slaying.

Several guns were found in the house, though it wasn’t determined early in the investigation if any of those found was the murder weapon.

[Then] Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) agent Wayne Sheston, in charge of investigations, said Jones died of “multiple gunshot wounds.” Wapello County Medical Examiner Dr. Warren DeKraay confirmed that Miss Jones, an Ottumwa drive-in restaurant employee, died from gunshot wounds to the head and heart.

DeKraay said the girl was shot “once in the head and once in the heart from fairly close range with a rifle, apparently a pretty high-powered rifle, judging from the wounds.”

Miss Jones had not been beaten, nor were there signs of a struggle.

The BCI’s Crime Laboratory and local law enforcement conducted a thorough crime scene investigation, with several items of evidentiary value collected and stored at the Wapello County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office interviewed numerous people and circulated photographs of Jones in efforts to find persons who may have seen her Tuesday before her death.

By week’s end, at least one suspect had undergone a lie detector test conducted by the BCI, but authorities were unable to gather enough evidence to charge anyone with Jones’ murder.

Came to Iowa to visit pregnant sister

Investigators believed Jones was last seen about 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, April 9, at the Union Bank and Trust Co. in Ottumwa. She had been employed at Henry’s Drive-in restaurant in Ottumwa for the past nine months, and restaurant employees said Jones had not been at work since the previous Friday, believed to be because of illness.

Mary Jayne JonesAP Photo/Courtesy Judith Cabanillas
This 1973 photo provided by Judith Cabanillas shows her sister, Mary Jayne Jones, a year before the 17-year-old girl was found dead in an Iowa farmhouse.

Mary Jayne Jones had come to Iowa from North Carolina nine months earlier to visit her sister, Mrs. Pat (Jacque) Williams, who was expecting a baby. Jones stayed with her sister until the sister had the baby in November, and had decided to remain in Iowa rather than return to N.C.

Friends described the 5′ 2″ auburn-haired Jones as an “outgoing girl,” and fellow employees said she was “a bubbly, super girl.”

Roy Ware, owner of the apartment building where Jones had occupied a second-floor, one-bedroom apartment for “about four or five months,” said he’d received a letter Wednesday, dated April 9, 1974, from Miss Jones. Her rent check was in the letter, which said, “You told me to inform you when I have a roommate. Her name is Lynn Guyette,” Ware said the letter stated. Ware said Miss Jones was a very good tenant and a great girl.

Vernon Guyette, Jr., Lynn Guyette’s brother, said his sister met Miss Jones at Henry’s Drive-In, where both were employed. Miss Guyette had been living with Jones for about a month.

Authorities confirmed Jones had written a letter, postmarked Tuesday, April 9, 1974, to friends in N.C. telling of a boyfriend named Art who did not want to get married but who had given her a beautiful ring for Valentine’s Day. The BCI said the boyfriend was not a suspect in the case.

DNA “Hit” through CODIS links Pilcher to Crime

On Tuesday, November 13, 2012, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) agents and Wapello County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Robert Eugene Pilcher, 66, of Des Moines, Iowa in connection with Jones’ unsolved 1974 homicide.

DCI agents said Pilcher — who was arrested at the A-1 Motel in Des Moines — was questioned in the case years ago and released. He is now accused of sexually assaulting Jones and shooting her in the head and chest before leaving her body in his cousin’s Wapello County farmhouse. He has been charged with first-degree murder in the teen’s death.

A-1 Motel where Robert Pilcher arrestedCourtesy photo Google
Robert Pilcher was arrested at the A-1 Motel in Des Moines on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012.

Pilcher had a long list of other crimes committed since 1974 — with DNA samples taken along the way.

New DNA technology finally caught up with him, thanks to the DCI’s Cold Case Unit, which operated from 2009 through 2011 under a federally funded grant.

Members of the Cold Case Unit resubmitted items collected from the crime scene and from Jones’ body to the DCI Crime Laboratory for additional DNA testing using analysis technology not available at the time of the homicide. A DNA profile was developed from the resubmitted evidence and entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). The CODIS database searches DNA profiles from convicted offenders, unsolved crime scene evidence, and missing persons.

As a result of this search, the DNA profile developed from the evidence matched that of known offender Robert Eugene Pilcher.

Pilcher was arrested and taken to the Wapello County Jail, where he was held on a one million dollar bond pending his initial appearance.

“A Family Responds to Arrest in Mary Jayne Jones Cold Case” (reprinted from the ICC blog)

The following text appeared on the Iowa Cold Cases blog on November 30, 2012, posted by ICC founder Jody Ewing:

Late last week, I received an e-mail from Judith Cabanillas — one of two sisters of Iowa Cold Case victim Mary Jayne Jones. Judith wrote to thank us for including her sister on our site, and said she and her family “were in shock” when they learned Robert Eugene Pilcher had finally been arrested based on DNA evidence legally collected from Pilcher’s long list of crimes after 1974.

“Our family has waited for 38 years for this man to be arrested,” Judith wrote.

She was quick to praise the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Wapello County Sheriff’s Office, and all those involved over the years in her sister’s case.

“Wayne Sheston, a former agent, worked her case after he retired,” she said. “Mike Berrier kept our family abreast of her case and what was occurring, and Wapello County did a wonderful job of preserving the evidence in her case.”

Who would have thought in 1974, she wrote, that there would one day be computers that could break down one’s cell structure and record it exactly, and that this DNA code would be identifiable to only one person?

“While we understand that this is only the beginning, at least we know there is proof, and while he walked free basically for 38 years, he will never be free again,” she said.

I asked Judith, who resides in Redding, Calif., if she would like to share any information about Mary Jayne with our readers. She responded with the following, in which she describes a beautiful young woman known not just as “Jayne,” but a daughter, sister, aunt, grandchild, and most of all, a friend — one who has been missed and loved every moment of the past 38 years.

Judith wrote:

What can I say about Jayne… she was an amazing individual. Always happy with a smile, full of energy and life. She had strong family beliefs and was always there to help another.

There was a mischievous twinkle in her brown eyes and she laughed a lot and freely.

I am not certain what Jayne wanted to do when she became an adult. I could always picture her in a field where she helped people. At 17, when she was murdered, I am not certain that she had decided what field of study she planned to go into.

Our family has grieved for thirty-eight years. That does not change nor go away. We have missed her every day since she was so callously taken from us.

Our older sister Jacque, who lived in Ottumwa at the time, has three boys. I had a daughter, and in memory of Jayne named my daughter Marijayne.

We intend to come to Iowa whether Robert Pilcher takes a plea or stands trial. My sister and I intend to make victim impact statements during sentencing. We want the Judge/Jury to understand that Jayne was not a throwaway person, without family or friends.

I have prayed that Pilcher would one day be caught, and my prayers have finally been answered.

“This is our beginning and hopefully the peaceful resting of her spirit,” Judith told Iowa Cold Cases.

For other families who’ve lost one they loved due to violence, Judith says:

“I pray for you and I pray for justice in honor of your loved one(s).”

Court maneuverings begin

A pretrial conference held Monday, June 17, 2013, determined the trial for Pilcher, then 67, would begin Oct. 15, 2013, at the Wapello County Courthouse.

Robert Pilcher jury deliberationsCourtesy photo The Ottumwa Courier
Robert “Gene” Pilcher, center, reads over the instructions being presented to the jury before deliberations began Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, at the Wapello County Courthouse in Ottumwa. On Thursday, Jan. 30, Judge Richard Meadows declared a mistrial after jurors said they could not reach a verdict. Pilcher will be retried March 25, 2014.

In September 2013, a Wapello County judge pushed the trial date back to Jan. 14, 2014.

Pilcher’s trial began Jan. 14, and on Jan. 30, 2014, Judge Richard Meadows declared a mistrial after jurors said they could not reach a verdict.

Prosecutors said they would retry Pilcher, who’d remained held at the Wapello County Jail since his November 2012 arrest.

After granting the mistrial, Meadows scheduled the second trial for March 25, but that was postponed after prosecutors asked the judge for a change in venue for the second trial. Judge Richard Meadows denied the request on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, and scheduled the new trial to begin Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014.

Jury selection began as planned on September 9. Testimony began on Thursday, September 11.

Pilcher admits guilt, takes plea deal

On Tuesday, Sept. 16, Pilcher, 68, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Jones’ slaying.

Under the plea deal, both sides recommended a 10-year sentence, which Judge Richard Meadows imposed on Pilcher. Pilcher will receive credit for the two years served since his arrest, and also will quality for reductions for good behavior. He may be out of prison in as little as five years.

“I’m glad that it’s on record, finally, that he did what we always knew he did,” said Judith Cabanillas, Jones’ sister, who was just 13 when her older sister was killed. “Jayne was special and she would have done beautiful things with her life.”

Mary Jayne Jones gravestoneCourtesy photo Frances Allen Titsworth, Findagrave.com
Mary Jayne Jones had come to Iowa from North Carolina nine months before her death to visit her sister, Mrs. Pat Williams, who was expecting a baby. Mary Jayne was buried in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
About Mary Jayne

Mary Jayne Jones was born September 10, 1956.

Survivors included her mother and stepfather, who lived in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and two sisters, Miss Judith Cabanillas of Fort Bragg, N.C., and Mrs. Patrick (Jacque) Williams of Fairfield.

Mary Jayne was buried in Woodlawn Memorial Park in Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas.

Sources:

 

Copyright © 2018 Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

18 Responses to Mary Jayne Jones

  1. Mike says:

    With the help of DNA maybe more cases will be solved.At least I hope so.Nobody should get away with murder.

  2. Marcia Smith says:

    The murder of this young woman. DNA is worth it’s weight in gold. Her killer is not fit to live among civilized citizens. The sight of him turns my stomach. I’m grateful that the family has sought to put that animal where he belongs.

  3. River Tribe says:

    Notified by the Iowa State Parol Board that his release date is 5/31/2017. The letter further stated that he may be eligible for work release or parole prior to the May 31st date. If you feel an injustice in his only serving five years, please join my in writing the Parole Board and demanding he pull the ten year sentence his was given for the brutal beating, sadistic rape and ultimate murder of my sister, Marijayne Jones. Thank you for your time .

    • John says:

      Maryjayne, sorry for your list as well as this unbelievable sentence this sick POS received, I don’t see how someone can take the life of a beautiful human being and get out of prison in 5 years . I lost a father in law and my best friend both to murder. My son is a police officer and it sickens me to see and hear what he sees. As a victim family member are you made aware of his parole information and his whereabouts? My father in laws murderer died on scene, but my best friends muderer received life without parole and the 2 men that aided in the murder only received 15-20 years .

    • Brenda says:

      Someone needs to take that WORTHLESS out

  4. Stay Strong, Keep Fighting For Justice! says:

    I too am sorry for your loss of Mary Jayne, River Tribe, This very light sentence for this worthless, substandard, waste of air is disturbing.

    As it turns out, this case happened to be profiled on the ID Discovery network “Murder for Menu” series today (1/13/18). I took particular note to the segment and the case as my wife is from Ottumwa.

    Again, sorry for my loss. She didn’t deserve this.

  5. Judy Richards says:

    It’s 2018 did he get out of prison

  6. anon says:

    Both the prosecution and defense were to recommend a 10-year sentence, but there was no requirement that the judge actually had to issue a 10-year sentence; he could have sentenced him to 25 years, for example. Shame on the judge for not protecting the rest of us from someone whose criminally-versitile behavior demonstrates that he is a psychopath.

  7. rascalete says:

    I just saw this case on the ID channel and could not believe that the ‘piece of crap’ got out of prison so soon. I hope he has nightmares for the rest of his miserable life.

    • Cynthia says:

      Its unbelievable this monster is out of prison. I feel horrible for the family of Mary Jayne. I know this is a double whammy as they waited so long for justice and the justice was so short . I’m praying for them to find some kind of peace. Our justice system stinks!

  8. rieann says:

    just seen this again on ID sorry he only got 10 years and is only going to do 5 he will be out this year 2017 after what he did to that poor girl

  9. Edward Teach says:

    Shame on the DA who offered that plea deal. shame on you!!! I understand that you don’t want to leave it up to a jury but he murdered and raped her dead corpse…. you’re telling me you thought that a jury was going to come back and not convict this guy. I can’t believe with the evidence, DNA MATCH, witness testimonies, the fact that the guy turned around and smiled at the dad when the picture of his dead daughter was up on the projector, and everything else yet still they didn’t have a rock-solid case????????you roll that dice on this one…he was guilty and I’m sure 10 years in prison is not going to satisfy what the family has suffered and what the victim suffered. you put them away for as long as possible or in other terms you throw the book at him and hope the jury does the right thing even if they acquit the man he still is seen as the monster that he is because of the evidence that proved it….. if a jury let him walk then let him walk.. 10 years isn’t going to make anybody feel better and you know it. Did you not take into consideration that he’d been living free and clear for 38 years since this murder???????? The state literally gave the man free room and board and food for 10 years…. the family deserved a longer sentence the victim deserved a longer sentence. I understand that he paroled after like 5 but I’m trying to make a point that I’m disgusted by this story disgusted and hurt that this girl her family had to suffer like this she didn’t deserve to die like that the family didn’t deserve to have their loved one taken away like that and the state screwed up and gave this man seriously a pass on this…..

  10. Is this man dead yet?, can’t find anything on IIT as yet from a different country, but very sure new guilty of a lot more crimes as such

  11. Wilson Fontanella Goss says:

    DNA has been around since 1992.
    Why did it take 40 years to do the DNA test?

  12. Yubin says:

    Wow I cant believe the audacity of state officials and poor judicial policy

    There should be a petition for the DOJ to look into raising the penalties

    Its a joke to give someone that small of a sentence for killing another who did not wrong

    Get those dirty politicians out

    lawlessamerica.com

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