In 1974, a 17-year-old girl was found dead in a farmhouse in Wapello County. And for nearly four decades, the mystery of what happened in that farmhouse remained unsolved.
But that all changed in November 2012 , when the case of Mary Jayne Jones went from cold to very hot. The Wapello County Sheriff's Office announced the arrest of Robert Pilcher, who was charged with Jones' murder after DNA testing on re-submitted evidence finally yielded results.
"[It was] just a joint effort between the DCI and the Wapello County Sheriff's Office and over the years, fortunately, we had saved evidence related to the case," said Sheriff Miller of the Wapello County Sheriff's Office. "And as it turned out, we were fortunate for the lab to get something back on that evidence."
The date for Pilcher's trial is tentatively scheduled to be set in June, but the breaks in this one case begs the question - are there more cold cases out there that technology could solve? Sheriff Miller said it's rare, but it could happen. While cases do go dormant after some time, they're never forgotten.
"Actually, I think with a cold case, they're cold, but they're not closed," Sheriff Miller said. "I think any law enforcement agency that has cold cases consider them still open and at this point right now, if we had any type of lead on any other case we had, we would open it back up and pursue it because that's just the nature of this business, and you want to get to the bottom of these things when you have the opportunity to do so. There wouldn't be any case that we wouldn't be willing to look into or re-investigate if we saw a benefit come out of that."
That's good news, because there are at least nine unsolved cases , most of them homicides, in Wapello County alone. And while time is a cold case's biggest adversary, technology is changing all the time, so much so that maybe we'll get to a point where cold cases are a thing of the past.
"I think we might see that in 50 or 60 years from now, long after we're out of the business... but I think as we get better in developing our databases that keeps DNA profiles on it, which Iowa does to a certain extent now, if they expanded that some, I think down the road, we won't have these cold cases," said Sheriff Miller.
For now, the family and friends of Mary Jayne Jones hope to find closure and finally put to rest what happened at that farmhouse all those years ago.