OTTUMWA — Years after Mary Jayne Jones was murdered, a highly trained law enforcement official took a second look at the case.
Marv Van Haaften is former Marion County sheriff and retired in 2007 as the director of the Governor’s Drug Task Force. He testified for the defense Wednesday that he was accepted at the FBI Academy, including the death investigation class. The FBI asked him to bring an unsolved case. That was in 1996, 20 years after the initial Jones murder investigation.
Robert "Gene" Pilcher is currently on trial for murder in the 1974 killing of the Ottumwa teen.
Questions by defense attorney Kenneth Duker focused on blood that would have sprayed out of the victim. Where did that blood end up?
Photos of Jones and of a blanket, both covered in blood, were introduced. On the blanket, Van Haaften pointed out a blank spot, where there was no blood. Duker asked if the killer could have been kneeling there.
Yes, Van Haaften said. Kneeling or standing right there. In fact, probably standing for one shot and lower down for the other shot.
Blood splattering onto the killer was significant because during testimony a day earlier, defense attorney Allen Cook established that not a single 1974 witness reported seeing blood on Pilcher.
The prosecutor, Denise Timmins of the Iowa Attorney General's Office, noted that the blood seen on the blanket had been soaked in. That was probably the chest wound, with blood running down the victim’s leg. She asked how much blood would have splattered onto the killer.
Surprisingly, said the defense witness, not that much.
So you say there may not have been a lot of blood to be seen, queried Timmins.
“It amazed me going from the civilian world [entering] law enforcement that you could have a very bloody crime scene, but when the perpetrator is found, they have very little blood on them,” said Van Haaften. “Or at least, not as much as you’d think.”