The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


January 31, 2014

Mistrial extends wait for family in 1974 slaying

----- — OTTUMWA, Iowa (AP) — After 40 years of seeking justice, the family of a 17-year-old girl beaten and shot to death at an Iowa farmhouse in 1974 will have to wait a little longer.

A judge declared a mistrial Thursday in the case of Robert "Gene" Pilcher, who was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mary Jayne Jones. Jurors said they could not agree on whether Pilcher was guilty after a week of deliberations.

The outcome of the trial disappointed Jones' relatives, who had traveled from across the U.S. to attend the trial at the Wapello County Courthouse in Ottumwa. In a statement Thursday afternoon, they said they remained convinced that Pilcher was guilty of a "brutal and senseless murder" despite the jury's split, and called on prosecutors to continue pursuing the case.

"Obviously we wish that in this trial there would have been some justice for my sister, Jayne, and a guilty verdict, but I do not think that any of us will give up on seeing justice in this matter," Jones' sister, Judith Cabanillas, wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

After granting the mistrial, Judge Richard Meadows said Pilcher would face a second trial on March 25. Prosecutors indicated that they would retry Pilcher, who is back in the county jail.

Jones grew up in North Carolina and moved to Ottumwa in 1973 to live with a sister. Remembered as a free spirit, Jones stayed longer than she anticipated, got a job as a waitress at a popular drive-in restaurant and started dating.

Investigators say she was last seen at a downtown Ottumwa bank on April 9, 1974. Hours later, her naked, bruised and bloody body was discovered on a bed in a farmhouse down a gravel road about seven miles away. Investigators say she was beaten with a shotgun found broken in the home, possibly sexually assaulted and then shot at close range with a rifle — once in the heart, once in the head.

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