The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

November 15, 2012

Suspect pleads not guilty to 1974 murder

Pilcher has sexual criminal history

OTTUMWA — The man accused of killing a teenage girl nearly 40 years ago made his initial appearance before a judge.

Robert Pilcher, 66, of Des Moines, was arrested Tuesday by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Wapello County Sheriff’s Office at a Des Moines motel.

In an appearance Wednesday before Judge Samuel Erhardt, Pilcher entered a not guilty plea. Initially, the single charge listed in court records is for murder in the first degree. Investigators in 1974 said the victim, Mary Jayne Jones, 17, of Ottumwa, was sexually assaulted and shot to death.

 The meeting between the judge and defendant was done by video court, with the judge in the courtroom and Pilcher in a secure location in the Wapello County Jail during the appearance early Wednesday morning.

The judge kept Pilcher’s bond the same: $1 million, cash only.

The video appearance was not unusual, said Mark Miller, the newly elected Wapello County sheriff. Nearly all initial appearances from the jail are done via video-phone conferencing.

Investigators say Pilcher has declined to speak with them about the 1974 case. Back then, he had been interviewed and released.

However, 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 that led them to the arrest.

According to past Courier articles, in 1975, Pilcher was found guilty of perjury in connection with a 1974 trial which ended in his conviction on charges of sodomy that occurred in a farmhouse west of Ottumwa April 5, 1974, four days before the body of Jones was discovered. In October 1974, he was sentenced to a prison term not to exceed 10 years and was then released on a $10,000 appeal bond the same day.

According to an October 1974 Courier article, “A request that Pilcher be committed as a criminal sexual psychopath, filed May 9 by county attorney Sam Erhardt, was dismissed by District Court Judge Michael Enich on July 21, following a psychological and psychiatric evaluation at Oakdale Medical Facility.”

In another Courier article dated Feb. 8, 1975, regarding the sentencing of Pilcher’s perjury conviction: “According to Donald Sether, court reporter, (Tom) Walter (defense attorney) said during the hearing, ‘I am well aware of the motives of the state, both in filing the charge of sodomy and in the charge of perjury. I think Mr. Ruschmeyer (Max Ruschmeyer, assistant county attorney) has made it evident to anyone concerned — he has certainly made it evident to me — and the court well knows that Mr. Pilcher is under the suspicion of the charge of murder. It’s the intent of this state to have Mr. Pilcher locked up so that witnesses who allegedly couldn’t come forward to testify will come forward to testify if Mr. Pilcher is incarcerated.’” Walter told the Courier later that day the murder he was referring to was that of Jones.

Since then, Pilcher has had multiple arrests, including convictions for felony car theft and probation violation in 1999, a 2000 conviction for operating a motor vehicle without owner consent and a felony burglary case in 2002.

Pilcher has faced multiple other convictions, primarily on theft charges, and served time behind bars several times.

He has been found guilty of aggravated or serious misdemeanors in 1992, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2004.

He was also arrested for escape of a felon from a work release program in 2004 and had a recent arrest (September 2012) for suspicion of felony theft.

Pilcher’s next appearance in Wapello County on the murder charge is scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 21.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Ladies Night Out through downtown Ottumwa Friday OTTUMWA — Ladies, are you ready for a night on the town? Then grab your passport and head downtown Friday evening. Beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday, 28 downtown businesses will keep their doors open late for a special Ladies Night Out. Everyone will mee

    April 20, 2014

  • 0422 Eagle photo On a wing and a prayer

    LAKE RED ROCK — Protective gloves aren’t uncommon when dealing with a sick patient, though they’re not usually heavy, leather welder’s gloves. But, then, the patient usually doesn’t have toenails designed to puncture flesh. Or a sharp beak. Diane Mas

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0420 OTT Gothic house easter web-color photo American Gothic House celebrates Easter weekend Kids participate in an egg roll competition Saturday on the American Gothic House lawn in Eldon. Families were invited to come and participate in Easter-themed events and make crafts. They also had the opportunity to dress up and pose in front of the

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0422 OTT Egg hunt color photo -L On a roll this Easter ELDON — If you pulled up to the American Gothic House Center Saturday afternoon at moments before 1 p.m., you probably had to park halfway down the road. Cars filled the parking lot and spilled out onto the street as parents and kids from all over so

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ups and downs OTTUMWA — Iowa's governor and his lieutenant seemed thrilled with part of the employment news Friday. Gov. Terry Branstad's Twitter page said: "BREAKING: Iowa's employment reaches all-time high of 1,615,200." Iowa Workforce Development confirms the n

    April 18, 2014

  • Those who came before OTTUMWA — There is so much information on researching genealogy, beginners may not know where to start. But experts and knowledgeable amateurs will offer help as they gather for a free Family History Fair to share which websites are worthwhile and wh

    April 18, 2014

  • 0419 OTT Tree planting color photo -T -M -L Young Ottumwans show their green thumbs OTTUMWA — Several of Ottumwa’s cemeteries and parks were recipients of new trees this week as Ottumwa High School students and Eagle Scouts dedicated their time to planting dozens of trees around the city. Students from the OHS JROTC class were at Ot

    April 18, 2014 4 Photos

  • 0419 OTT Prayer Walk 2 bw photo -L -M -T On a journey OTTUMWA — The seven blocks through the center of Ottumwa took more than an hour and a half to walk as 25 people prayed and read Scripture to reflect on the events of Good Friday. Led by the Ottumwa Area Fellowship of Pastors, the walk began at First

    April 18, 2014 3 Photos

  • 0419 OTT drought map -L -T -M Drought weakens grip on Iowa OTTUMWA — Last weekend saw the first significant rains in quite some time for the Ottumwa area. How long? The last day with at least a half-inch of rain was back on Nov. 20. It was a welcome rain, arriving after the ground had thawed. That allowed at

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Eugene Clark STOCKPORT — Eugene Morris Clark, 90, of Stockport, died at 5:30 p.m. April 17, 2014, at Good Samaritan Health and Rehabilitation Center, Ottumwa. Graveside services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Spencer Cemetery northeast of Stockport; Pastor Richard

    April 18, 2014

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook
E-edition