Day five of the first-degree murder trial of Robert Eugene Pilcher got underway in a Wapello County Courtroom. Pilcher is accused of the 1974 murder of Mary Jayne Jones of Ottumwa.
The prosecution began Tuesday's questioning with the first witness of the day, Tim McDonald. He was called in to assist with the investigation when Jones' body was found in the Blakesburg Farmhouse back in 1974. Assistant Attorney General Denise Timmins asked McDonald to read through nearly 20 transcribed interviews conducted during the investigation. A significant interview McDonald mentioned was with a woman by the name of Roma Waterhouse. Waterhouse told investigators that she had a sexual encounter with Pilcher in the bedroom of the Marlin House just three days before jones' body was discovered. An encounter prior to that left Waterhouse â??angry.â??
â??At this time, Gene [Pilcher] stripped her down, handcuffed her hands behind her, and threw her on the mattress, which was on the floor,â?? McDonald said. â??It should be noted that at this time Roma described the house and the rooms very precisely leaving no doubt she was in Max Marlin's farmhouse.â??
State prosecutors called two witnesses to the stand Tuesday.
The second witness was Don Schnitker, the current DCI agent who was assigned the case when it re-opened in November 2012. He says locating Pilcher was a challenge, but the cold case was re-opened after two agents who specifically work on cold case files matched DNA evidence linking Piltcher back to the scene of the crime.
On November 2, 2012, the agent interviewed Pilcher, and an audio recording of that interview and transcript of the deposition was presented as an exhibit for the jury to review. In that audio, Pilcher remembered being interviewed by the DCI many years ago when he lived in Ottumwa, but said he had no recollection of the name of the girl who was murdered when he was asked by the agent. Three days later, Schnitker interviewed Kim Armstrong, the former girlfriend of Pilcher who gave her testimony before the courtroom last week.
â??The interview was about an hour long,â?? Agent Schnitker said. â??Within the first five-to-six minutes she was talking about him offing someone down in Blakesburg, Ottumwa. Within the first 10 minutes she gave me the timeframe of 30 to 40 years ago.â??
Schnitker got the warrant to arrest Pilcher on November 13, 2012. Defense attorney Allen Cook asked about other suspects in the case, but the DCI agent said Pilcher was always the primary suspect, even in 1974. Schnitker investigated and eliminated other leads as suspects.
Court was adjourned for the day just before 3:30 p.m. Proceedings for Wednesday continue at 9:30 a.m. at the Wapello County Courthouse.