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 as the director of the Governor’s Drug Task Force in 2007. He testified for the defense 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.
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 Tuesday’s testimony, defense attorney Allen Cook established that not a single witness reported seeing blood on Robert "Gene" Pilcher, who is charged with first-degree murder in the case.
The prosecutor, Denise Timmins, 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.”
“It’s not like TV,” asked Timmins, “where we see someone shoot … and then they’re [all] covered in blood, is it?”
“That would be atypical.”
In fact, some of it may just be “micro spray” that is not visible upon casual viewing.
Timmins then asked if the investigator could even tell whether or not the assailant was dressed at the time of the shooting.
“No,” said Van Haaften.
Due to where blood and fecal matter and dried blood were, he was able to theorize an order of occurrences for the murder: She was first beaten, knocked unconscious, sexually experimented on, shot in the chest and finally shot in the head.
— News reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark