Man Charged With 1984 Murder of Maryann Bagenstose

Jere BagenstoseJere Bagenstose (Submitted Image)

LANCASTER, PA — The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office and Pennsylvania State Police filed charges regarding the 1984 murder of 25-year-old Maryann Bagenstose in Pequea Township, announced Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams.

Pennsylvania State Police Troopers Chadwick Roberts and Brian McNally charged 67-year-old Jere Bagenstose of the 100 block of West Willow Road with one count of Criminal Homicide. The defendant was arrested on Thursday, December 22, 2022, arraigned, and remanded to Lancaster County Prison with no bail.

“An arrest in this 38-year-old case has certainly been long awaited,” Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said. “This is not a case 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.

“It was their dedication 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 by attorneys in my office that culminated in and led to this arrest today.”

Maryann Bagenstose disappeared from her home on West Willow Road on June 5, 1984.

In June 1984, 25-year-old Maryann Bagenstose was separated from her estranged husband, Jere, and resided at the West Willow Road home with her two-year-old son, who was shared with Jere, and a boarder with whom she had a relationship.

In April of that year, Maryann was granted custody of her son. However, a formal custody hearing was upcoming and scheduled for June 15.  Maryann was described as a devoted mother to her son, who people say would have never been left behind. Maryann did not appear at the custody hearing and Jere was awarded custody of their son. Jere was the last person to see Maryann alive.

None of Maryann’s family or friends have been contacted by her since the day of her disappearance.

The investigation into the disappearance of Maryann began on June 7, 1984, when authorities were contacted by Maryann’s mother who learned that her daughter had not returned home for two days. Jere never reported the mother of his child missing.

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Police spoke to Jere on multiple occasions, who relayed that he last saw Maryann alive on June 5, 1984, when he arrived at the house that morning to take Maryanne to trade in her car. Jere relayed that he took his son to Long’s Park because Maryann was not ready to go. He claimed that when he returned home, Maryann was not there and had left a note that she had walked to the Turkey Hill in Willow Street and that he had not heard from her since.

On June 8, 1984, a Pequea Township Police Officer spoke with Jere at the West Willow Road address. The officer observed a piece of carboard covering freshly dug dirt during a check of the garage.  He lifted the cardboard and observed a digging area that measured approximately three feet by five feet. A search warrant was executed on June 13, 1984, based on these observations. The hole in the garage was reopened and measured three feet by six feet and was approximately five feet deep. The body of Maryann was not located.

However, investigators discovered a note when conducting the search warrant on June 13, 1984. The note was found crumbled in a wooden nail keg in the living room beside the couch and stated, “Had to run a quick errand, be right back.” It was seized and retained as evidence at PSP Lancaster.

Additional evidence gathered and relied on over the course of the investigation and cited in the affidavit of probable cause includes the following:

  • Records obtained from Jere’s place of employment indicated that he had an unexcused absence for June 5, 1984, the date of Maryann’s disappearance.
  • Jere had an unexplained injury to his left arm which was covered by a bandage. He provided inconsistent statements to law enforcement on how and where he injured himself.
  • Jere provided multiple inconsistent statements to police on what the note left by Maryann said, why he would have dug a hole in his garage mere days after the victim’s disappearance, why he was present at the house that day, and what Maryann was doing when he arrived.
  • The defendant stated that Maryann was having car trouble and walked to a store. Interviews with the victim’s neighbors and acquaintances revealed the car was working fine in the days leading up to the victim’s disappearance.
  • An assistant manager at Turkey Hill stated she had not seen Maryann at the store on the day of her disappearance.
  • 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 the Turkey Hill.
  • A Maintenance Supervisor at Long’s Park related he had not seen the defendant’s vehicle in the park on June 5, 1984, after being provided a picture of the vehicle. Two additional employees also had not seen the vehicle.
  • In 1985, Jere told investigators that people had relayed to him they recently saw Maryann. The defendant never reported this information to police. Multiple notes and postcards sent to Jere purportedly from Maryann were never relayed to the police by the defendant.
  • Witnesses relay that leading up to her disappearance, Maryann was in a good mood and looking forward to getting a new car.
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In late 2018, investigators with the Pennsylvania State Police began reworking this investigation focusing on a note that was seized during the June 13, 1984 search warrant at the West Willow Road residence. Investigators searched online databases to obtain public records and other documents containing the writing of the defendant.

This initial gathering of data led to the execution of a search warrant at the same residence on September 20, 2022.  Troopers seized numerous items that allegedly contained the handwriting of the suspect.

The handwriting samples collected by investigators were submitted to the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Forensic Services – Harrisburg Regional Laboratory for forensic analysis. The analysis compared handwriting contained on a note recovered by police on June 13, 1984, purportedly explaining her whereabouts, to the items seized on September 20, 2022. The findings in the report stated the note recovered by police in 1984 was written by Jere Bagenstose.

The body of Maryann has never been recovered in this decades-long investigation. Investigators cite the following factors to establish that this is not a missing persons case:

  • None of the victim’s associates or family have been contacted by her since her disappearance.
  • Multiple checks of Police, Federal, and open-source databases have not been able to locate the victim.
  • No evidence has been discovered that the victim packed belongings for a trip or to leave home.
  • The victim has not opened any bank accounts or claimed income.
  • There has been no activity on the victim’s credit or social security number.
  • The victim has not been discovered to have established residency or legal identification in other states or ever held a passport/left the United States.
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“I want to thank Troopers Roberts, McNally, Cpl. McCurdy, and all of the investigators who have dedicated countless time and effort into this case, as well as attorneys in my office,” Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said. “This begins the criminal process in a 38-year-old case, and we hope it brings relief to Maryann’s family and friends. We will do everything we can to see that justice is done in this case.”

Information, a criminal complaint, or an arrest is not a declaration of guilt. A suspect, arrestee, or defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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