(Ottumwa)— The first degree murder trial of 67 year old Robert Eugene Pilcher got under way Wednesday afternoon in Wapello County District Court.
Opening statements began after a jury of 11 men and 4 women were seated. Three of the jurors are alternates.
In opening statements State Prosecutor Denise Timmons said 40 years has passed, now a person has been charged through DNA. She said on April 9th of 1974 Mary Jane Jones’ body was found in a farm house in a bedroom where she had been beaten and shot in the head and chest. Timmons said Pilcher had access to the farm owned by his cousin Max Marlin. She said in 2012 through DNA testing of a blanket and jeans Pilcher’s DNA was detected.
Defense attorney Allen Cook said it’s a sad case and was a tragic event. Cook said what ever happened doesn’t mean his client Robert Pilcher is guilty. Cook described Ottumwa as a tough town in the 70’s and noted several murder cases were never solved. Cook said Pilcher became a suspect because the crime occurred at his cousin, Max Marlin’s house. He told the jury evidence will show DNA samples were not Pilcher’s and noted the DNA of Max Marlin was found on a blanket. Cook said the prosecution doesn’t have a theory and his client didn’t commit the crime and said it appears the crime began as a friendly encounter.
As Judge Richard Meadows was getting ready to release the jurors for the day, the prosecution called it’s first witness Steve Day who was a deputy sheriff at the time of the murder. Prosecution said Day, from Columbia, Missouri, had to get back home Wednesday. Day testified that on April 9th he was called to the Marlin farm house. He said when he arrived at the house he took pictures of a body identified as that of Mary Jane Jones.
Testimony will resume at 9:00 a.m. this morning.