The Ottumwa Courier

January 30, 2014

Mistrial granted

By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — After deliberating for five full days, the jury in the case of Robert “Gene” Pilcher concluded Thursday that more deliberations would not result in a verdict.

Pilcher is accused of the 1974 murder of Mary Jayne Jones, a 17-year-old girl who moved to Ottumwa from North Carolina just months before she was beaten and killed in a farmhouse a few miles west of Ottumwa.

The jury started deliberations Thursday, Jan. 23, at approximately 4 p.m. and informed Judge Richard Meadows, the presiding judge in the case, on Tuesday that they were not confident they would come to a verdict. Meadows then sent them back into deliberations, but at roughly 3 p.m. Thursday, the jury was brought into the courtroom and again stated they would not come to a verdict.

“We have reviewed all of the evidence and statements,” the head juror stated. “Some of the jurors have issues with some of the evidence and statements. We’ve done about everything we possibly can.”

After the jury stated they could not come to a unanimous decision if given more time, defense attorney Allan Cook requested a mistrial. The request was granted by Meadows with no objection from prosecuting attorney Denise Timmins.

“At this time, given the jury’s indications … we would move for a mistrial,” Cook said.

Once the motion for a mistrial was granted, Meadows sent the jury home for the last time before the attorneys and Meadows met in the judge’s chambers. He sincerely thanked them for all of their time and hard work throughout the trial, which started with jury selection on Jan. 14.

A retrial was requested by the prosecuting attorneys after the mistrial was granted, and a little after 4 p.m. the order for a retrial was filed as public record. The retrial has been scheduled for March 25 and is expected to last 10 days.

“Again, our sympathies go out to the family,” Timmins said. “They’ve waited 40 years for this, and now we have a little bit longer to wait. But we do intend on going forward.”

Judith Cabanillas, Jones’ sister, issued a statement on behalf of Jones’ family following the announcement of a mistrial and retrial. In the statement, the family extended gratitude to everyone involved in the case and trial “for their time and diligence,” and reiterated the fact that they are seeking a retrial in the case.

“Although the jury in this matter could not come to a unanimous decision on the verdict in this trial, our family firmly believes that the defendant, Robert Pilcher, is guilty of the brutal and senseless murder,” Cabanillas said in the statement. “It is our hope that the county along with the attorney general’s office will continue to pursue this matter and one day obtain justice for my sister, Mary Jayne Jones.”

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh

A retrial was requested by the prosecuting attorneys after the mistrial was granted, and a little after 4 p.m. the order for a retrial was filed as public record. The retrial has been scheduled for March 25 and is expected to last 10 days.