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 Kathleen Mitchell, formerly Lynn Guyette and roommate of Jones, to the stand. Mitchell also worked at Henry’s Drive-in, and she echoed Williams’ statement 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.