The Ottumwa Courier

September 18, 2013

1970s murder case delayed

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — A man accused of a 1974 murder has a second judge-ordered delay in his trial date.

Online court filings show Robert Pilcher is not scheduled to plead his case until Jan. 14, 2014.

Pilcher, 67, was arrested in 2012 by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Wapello County Sheriff’s Office at a Des Moines motel. He is accused of the shooting death of Mary Jayne Jones, a teen who had recently moved to Ottumwa at that time.

Investigators in 1974 said the alleged victim, Jones, 17, was sexually assaulted and shot to death at a farm west of Ottumwa near Blakesburg. At that time, Pilcher had been interviewed by police and released.

However, the case has changed. Felons are now required to submit a DNA sample to law enforcement, which goes on record similar to the way fingerprints are kept. Authorities say it was that DNA evidence which led them to the arrest. Pilcher has had at least one felony conviction.

The trial for the murder of Jones had originally been scheduled to take place in May, but a continuance was granted; that moved the trial to October. Pilcher had waived his right to a speedy trial. The judge has kept Pilcher’s bond the same: $1 million, cash only.

According to past Courier articles, in 1975, Pilcher was found guilty on charges of sodomy that occurred "in a farmhouse west of Ottumwa" April 5, 1974, four days before the body of Jones was discovered.

According to an October 1974 Courier article, a request that Pilcher be committed as a "criminal sexual psychopath" was dismissed following a psychological and psychiatric evaluation at Oakdale Medical Facility.

Murder in the first degree is a Class A felony, punishable by life in prison.

— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark