OTTUMWA — Thursday was the first full day of testimonies at the Robert “Gene” Pilcher trial.
The first witness called by prosecuting attorney Denise Timmins was Jacque Williams, the oldest sister of the victim, Mary Jayne Jones. Jones was murdered on April 9, 1974.
Williams, who now lives in Georgia, explained that she moved to Ottumwa in 1971 after getting married. In 1973, while Williams was pregnant with her son, Jones came from Fayetteville, N.C., to help with the baby and decided she would stay in Iowa and get her GED instead of returning to school.
In January 1974, Williams and her husband moved from Ottumwa to Fairfield and asked Jones to come with them. But Jones said she would stay in Ottumwa because she had a job at Henry’s Drive-in, located where Taco John’s is now, and she had numerous friends in town.
Williams also was a waitress at Henry’s Drive-in for a period of time, and it is there where Jones came into contact with Pilcher, who was apparently a frequent customer.
“He came in for lunch when I worked there … on almost a daily basis,” Williams said on the stand.
Later in the morning, the prosecution asked Cathleen Mitchell, formerly Lynn Guyette and roommate of Jones, to the stand. Mitchell also worked at Henry’s Drive-in, and she also said that Pilcher came into the restaurant very often. Not only was he a regular customer, but Mitchell said he also made very sexual comments to the waitresses, including Jones.
“It was always something sexual,” Mitchell said.
Although Pilcher would make sexual comments to Jones and the other waitresses, Michell said she never saw the two together outside of the restaurant. He would ask the waitresses out, according to Mitchell, but to her knowledge Jones never accepted.
The prosecution also called Max Marlin, the owner of the farmhouse where Jones was found dead and cousin of Pilcher, to the stand Thursday morning.
Marlin was a recently divorced 27-year-old in 1974, and he lived alone at the house on Route One just west of Ottumwa, where Jones was discovered. He was an avid hunter and owned the .22 caliber rifle that was found at the scene, but there was also a shotgun found in pieces at his home that he said he did not recognize.
Since he was a bachelor at the time, Marlin said he had occasional parties at his home, but he never remembered seeing Jones at his home and did not recollect ever meeting her. He was close with Pilcher, since they were cousins, and at one time Pilcher told him he was hoping to get to know a waitress at Henry’s Drive-in a little better. However, he never mentioned the name of the girl.
Marlin was in California on a recreational trip when Jones was murdered in his home. His parents, who were in Ottumwa so Marlin’s father could tend to the farm, were the ones who found Jones’ body in the living room of the home.
The other witnesses called to the stand Thursday morning included Diana Fairchild. She is the ex-wife of Pilcher, and the two were married in 1974. The most interesting part of her testimony was that Pilcher picked her up from her job at approximately 5 p.m. on the day of the murder, but she did not notice anything suspicious from his behavior and did not recollect ever having to wash blood off of his clothing.
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