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Forged Handwriting led to the Arrest in 1984 Slaying

Forged Handwriting led to the Arrest in 1984 Slaying

Jere Musser Bagenstose (67), a Pennsylvanian man has been arrested after 38 years for the murder of his wife Maryann Bagenstose in 1984.

Maryann Bagenstose (then 25 years old) vanished from her home on West Willow Road in Pequea Township on 5th June 1984, and was reported missing to law enforcement two days later. 

The couple had a two years old son and at the time of Maryann’s disappearance, they were separated. However at that time a “boarder,” who had a “relationship” with Maryann Bagenstose, was also residing at the property.

The motive of the killings is not clear yet, however, it has been reported that months prior to the Maryann’s disappearance, she’d won a court custody battle for the couple’s young son. She vanished just over a week before a formal court hearing was scheduled to resolve the matter.

Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams, said that this case unlike other cold cases is not solved with DNA. Rather, the arrest of Jere Bagenstose is the result of decades of hard work and dedication by law enforcement personnel, beginning in 1984 with members of the Pequea Township Police Department and continuing with numerous criminal investigators in the Pennsylvania State Police leading up to the present day.

He appreciated the dedication of the police members to the pursuit of justice in this case and their willingness to devote resources to this investigation, combined with the review and analysis of the decades long investigation and evidence compiled in this investigation led to the arrest after almost 40 years.

Maryann’s family members told the police that she looked forward to going with her estranged husband to trade in her car and buy a new one.

When the police interrogated Jere Bagenstose, he said that he arrived at the West Willow Road home on June 5th to pick up his wife and son, but Maryann Bagenstose was not yet ready. So he took his son to a nearby park to feed the ducks for a while before returning to the house.

According to him when they returned, Maryann was gone and she had left a note telling him she was walking to a Turkey Hill convenience store about a mile from her home. Since then she was never seen alive nor her body was found ever.

During the searching of the house, the investigators found a piece of freshly dug dirt and a piece of cardboard covering a five-foot hole in the garage, however it didn’t reveal any human remains. When Jere Bagenstose was interrogated about it, he was unable to specifically articulate why he’d dug a hole in his garage that was large enough to conceal human remains.

A crumpled up note was found in a wooden nail keg in the house’s living room, which stated, “Had to run a quick errand.” Later Jere Bagenstose allegedly provided conflicting statements pertaining to the purported note left by Maryann.

Jere told officers during the search warrant that the note did not say she was walking to Turkey Hill and that he only assumed that Maryann went to Turkey Hill.

The forged note wound up being the key investigators used to implicate Jere Bagenstose in the 1984 slaying.

The investigation of this case was restarted in 2018, where the investigator directed their investigation towards handwriting analysis.

Detectives connected Jere Bagenstose to his estranged wife’s killing after scouring online databases to access public records and “other documents containing the writing of the defendant. Then finally in September 2022, the investigators collected numerous items that bore Jere Bagenstose’s handwriting.

The handwriting samples were sent to the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Forensic Services and were compared to the handwritten note found at the couple’s home in 1984. The forensic analysis revealed a handwriting match with that of Jere Bagenstose.

At last on 22nd December 2022, Jere Bagenstose was arrested for killing his wife and he’s been held at a Lancaster County jail without bail.

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