State and defense rest their case in Robert Pilcher murder trial

Wapello County Courthouse

Day six of the Robert Pilcher murder trial commenced in a Wapello County Courtroom at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

To get things started, Defense Attorney Allen Cook requested additional cross-examination of Special Agent Don Schnitker. The defense brought up a man by the name of John Spring who was one of several initial leads. Agent Schnitker went to interview this spring at his home in Denver, when the case was reopened.

â??Anytime we get a lead or information like this, several interviews were done, referenced John Spring and his associates at that time again those were followed up to the best of their ability when I reopened the case,â?? Schnitker said, â??and we could not find any information that tied him back to Mary Jayne Jones, or anything that would have specified that he had any personal knowledge of what had happened out there.â??

Another lead investigators had was Ron Nichols, who was 22-years-old at the time of Mary Jayne Jones' death. The prosecution called Nichols to the stand. Agent Schnitker interviewed Nichols in October of 2013. Nichols said based on the statements he reviewed from 1974, he knew the victim for about a month prior to her death.

â??Reviewing the statements and stuff, I met her at either where she worked or the Holiday Inn where I hung out quite a bit,â?? Nichols said.

After that testimony the state rested its case. The defense called two witnesses to the stand before they too rested their case, setting the stage for closing arguments

The first witness defense attorneys called to the stand was Martin Van Haaften, a farmer and former Sheriff of Marion County. In 1996, the witness took a homicide investigation class, and with some familiarity of the Mary Jayne Jones cold case, he decided to investigate the unsolved murder. The only materials he used in his analysis were the autopsy report and photos taken of her body and photographs of the blanket at the crime scene.

In the cross-examination, Prosecutor Denise Timmons held the long-barreled gun that was broken at the scene of the crime, asking the order of events leading up to her murder based on Van Haaftenâ??s observations and expertise. He said it appeared that Jones was beaten first; then she was shot in the chest, and she was shot in the head last. He says sometime either before or after being shot in the chest the perpetrator sexually experimented with the victim's unconscious body.

â??This action I observed here speaks of sexual activity,â?? Van Haaften said. â??It speaks to the person being unconscious or dead and in that sense, it's not a normal sex, it's more of experimentation or what I can call an abnormal sexual activity.â??

The witness said the person who killed Jones would have left the scene with a small amount of blood on them. Special Agent Schnitker testified one last time, concluding the evidentiary portion of the trial.

Judge Richard Meadows dismissed court for the rest of the day around 12:15 p.m. Court will meet again at 9 a.m. Thursday morning. Then, Judge Meadows will read his instructions to the jurors, and they will deliberate after the state and the defense present closing arguments.