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Law Enforcement Today | July 25, 2016

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Iowa Cold Case Solved

Christal Sizemore

Recently, deputies in Wapello County, Iowa were able to solve a cold case after almost forty years.

Authorities arrested Robert Pilcher, 66, at a hotel on November 13, for the brutal murder and sexual assault of 17 year old Mary Jayne Jones in 1974.

According to official reports, Jones had been found in a farm house that had belonged to Pilcher’s cousin, who had been out of town at the time the murder occurred. Jones had been sexually assaulted and shot to death. Pilcher had access to both the farmhouse and the cousin’s vehicle.

Picher had been interviewed as a “person of interest in the case”, but investigators lacked any hard evidence to link him to the murder, and the case went cold.

According to Wapello County Sheriff Mark Miller, it was lack of technology, not lack of interest , that has kept this case from being solved sooner . Like a lot of small agencies, the department lacked the resources to pursue the case. The evidence had been carefully preserved, and the case remained open.

“We were just fortunate that when they did the crime scene, that they collected everything, and part of that in drying it out before they stored it a lot of things had to align for that DNA evidence to still be there and not be destroyed,” says DCI Agent Mike Motsinger.

Thanks to a federal grant that was acquired in 2009 under the previous administration,  DNA  technology, and the diligent efforts of the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations, authorities identified Pilcher has the perpetrator of the heinous crime.

According to Sheriff Miller, the most satisfying aspect of solving the case is the ability to bring closure to the Jones family.

“This case has haunted the Jones family, the community, and law enforcement all these years,” Sheriff Miller said. “Mary Jayne has never been forgotten. The biggest obstruction to solving the case is a matter of technology. We hope that, using new advances in forensics, more unsolved cases will be closed, that the victim’s families will have closure, and that the victims will now be able to rest in peace.”

Pilcher is being held in the Wapello County Jail on a one million dollar bond.

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  1. Christal, great article and hats off to all who brought this monster to justice. I am from Iowa, not far from where this occurred, but I was only 6 months old at the time this young lady was raped and murdered. Cold cases can leave many to lose hope that their loved ones will ever see justice, it is the determination of those who work these cases to bring justice to both the victim and the perpetrator. Thank you for your article.

  2. absolutely wonderful,goes to show that crime does not pay and will not expire,even after so many years!!hats off to the LEO,s that are doing this major job without relent!

  3. Thanks y’all! God bless everyone who worked on this case, for their tenacity in bringing this monster to justice. Now her family has closure. What a lovely girl she was, with such a sweet smile. It is tragic that she never got to live to her full potential. May she rest in peace.

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