Nearly four decades after an Ottumwa teen was found shot to death, police have made an arrest in the case.
The Department of Criminal Investigation says updated technology helped investigators link the alleged crime to a Des Moines man
It’s a case many may have forgotten. Back in 1974, seventeen year old Mary Jayne Jones was found dead inside a rural Wapello County farmhouse; she had been shot and sexually assaulted.
The investigation failed to turn up any suspects and eventually the case went cold.
That’s until the Department of Criminal Investigation re-opened the case.
“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.
That evidence led to a hit in the national DNA database, CODIS, technology that wasn’t available back in 1974.
That DNA evidence connected 66-year-old Robert Pilcher to the crime.
Police tracked him down to the A-1 Motel in Des Moines and arrested him on Tuesday.
“You understand someone has gotten away with murder for 38 years and to be able to come back and now say you’re under arrest for the murder of Mary Jayne Jones from 1974 that’s a lot of satisfaction, knowing he’s been doing whatever he wants,” says Agent Motsinger.
DCI agents say this all was possible because of a federally funded grant that paid for a cold case unit.
That unit of agents dedicate their time and resource to solving crime for two years.
The funding is now gone, and the unit is now closed, but the DCI hopes more funding will be available in the future to solve more of Iowa’s cold cases.
“We feel strongly enough, we’re continuing to try and get grant money to get it up and running again so we can have some more successes like this,” says Agent Motsinger.
DCI agents were able to track down some of Jones’ family out on the East Coast.
They told agents that they gave up hope in the crime ever being solved, and plan to travel back to Iowa to be at the trial.
Robert Pilcher, he is being held at the Wapello County Jail on a one-million dollar bond.