The Ottumwa Courier


January 22, 2014

Last witnesses take stand


“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, he testified, 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.

Van Haaften said he could not determine that.

Due to where different types of blood were, he was able to theorize an order of occurrences in the murder of Mary Jayne Jones: She was first beaten, knocked unconscious, sexually experimented upon, shot in the chest and finally, shot in the head.

Yet Mr. Pilcher, said defense council Wednesday, was not the only one who could have killed the victim. Cook and Duker wanted to know why investigators didn't pay closer attention to other suspects.

Ron Nichols knew Mary Jayne Jones had a boyfriend but still pursued her romantically. Did the DCI take Nichol's fingerprints, the defense asked Special Agent Don Schnitker, who took over the cold case in 2012. They did not. But they did take a DNA swab. Why hadn't anyone investigated Nichols further, Cook asked the agent. DCI had not been able to place him at the farm, nor find anything that indicated he was even involved in the crime.

Nichols had moved out of Iowa years ago. Still, the prosecution brought him in as a witness.

Now 62 years old and wintering in Florida, Nichols was polite and perhaps a little overwhelmed on the stand. There was a lot he said he'd forgotten in the 40 years since the crime. He knew detectives had talked to him at the time about his whereabouts. During his most recent questioning last year, he was asked if he remembered a girl named Mary Jayne Jones. He said he did not until he had a chance to review his 1974 statements.

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