POLK COUNTY, Wis. (TCD) — An 80-year-old woman was taken into custody in Arizona on suspicion of shooting and killing a woman in a nearly 40-year-old cold case.
WEAU-TV reports the Polk County Sheriff’s Office announced Mary Jo Bailey was arrested in Maricopa County, Arizona, in connection with Yvonne Menke’s unsolved death from 1985. Wisconsin court records show Bailey is charged with first-degree murder.
According to the Polk County cold case unit, Menke was fatally shot in the early morning hours of Dec. 12, 1985, in St. Croix Falls. She sustained three gunshot wounds to the head and neck while leaving for work. A witness reportedly saw a person of interest wearing a gray coat and dark hat flee the area.
The affidavit shared by WEAU says one of Menke’s daughters told investigators Menke had an on and off relationship with a man named Jack Owen, though they had issues because he reportedly had a “‘roving eye’ and was always looking the ladies over.” Owen reportedly also had a relationship with a woman named Mary Jo, but the daughter did not know Mary Jo’s last name at the time.
The daughter reportedly said the “relationship with Mary Jo had caused problems between Jack and her mother.”
At the scene, investigators reportedly noticed a shoe print in the snow with the word “Arctic” near the heel. The print reportedly followed the direction where the suspect fled following the shooting.
According to the affidavit, Menke was killed on a staircase near the parking garage. Based on Menke’s injuries and locations of the gunshots, investigators said the suspect “would have been positioned above Menke’s body at the time and/or positioned near Menke’s head, indicating that the suspect walked up the stairs, walked over a portion of Yvonne Menke’s body, and then fired two additional rounds into the side of Menke’s head.”
She was shot with a .22 caliber gun.
Owen reportedly said he learned about Menke’s death from a bank teller the same day.
The affidavit says investigators learned Owen, Menke, and Bailey, who was known as Mary Jo Lunsmann at the time, were “involved in somewhat of a ‘love triangle.'” Owen reportedly simultaneously dated Bailey and Menke, and both couples often broke up, but “always seemed to rekindle their relationship(s).”
Officers spoke with Menke the day after the shooting, and she allegedly started crying. She allegedly said she and Owen stopped seeing each other “on a steady basis” three years prior. She said she saw Owen of Dec. 10, but only because they share an interest in horses. She said she and Menke talked on the phone once “about Jack and his behavior.”
She described the talk as “good” because until then, “neither one of them knew where the other stood.”
Menke told officers she owned a .22 caliber pistol that her ex allegedly gave to her. She also showed them a pair of Arctic Cat boots, which matched the shoe prints found at the scene.
One witness allegedly told police they “believed Mary Jo was capable of killing Yvonne.” The day before the shooting, Bailey reportedly became upset with Owen because he did not invite her to his birthday party, and a few days before that, Owen and Menke were seen in public together.
The witness “speculated that whoever killed Yvonne Menke did it to erase competition.”
Over the initial course of the investigation, detectives interviewed 19 people, but the case eventually went cold.
Polk County investigators reopened Menke’s case in late 2021 and “made it a priority to locate and re-interview witnesses and others who had knowledge of Jack Owen, Mary Jo (Lunsmann) Bailey, and Yvonne Menke before, during, and after the homicide.”
Investigators spoke with Bailey, who lives in Arizona, on Sept. 21, 2022, and continued to interview several new people, including one person who said she “always figured that Mary Jo was one who had the audacity to think she could kill someone.”
One of the witnesses from the original investigation said Owen allegedly “couldn’t fake it anymore and wanted to be with Yvonne.”
Bailey would allegedly call Owen, but he reportedly did not pick up or refused to see her.
The affidavit says detectives believe the “crime and the ‘up close and personal’ attack appear to show personal knowledge and a strong emotional reaction towards Yvonne Menke.”
Additionally, her killer was “not a stranger to Yvonne Menke, but rather someone who was aware of her and her daily habits.”
The affidavit said that based on the witness interviews, evidence taken from the scene, and Bailey’s “suspected animosity towards Yvonne Menke,” there was enough suspected proof to issue a warrant for her arrest.
- Charges filed in 1985 Cold Case – WEAU
- Mary Josephine Bailey Criminal Complaint
- State of Wisconsin vs. Mary Josephine Bailey
- Woman in Arizona arrested for 1985 St. Croix Falls unsolved murder – KARE-TV
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