80-Year-Old Woman Charged In 1985 Cold Case Murder Of Romantic Rival

A love-triangle resulted in the tragic murder of Yvonne Menke nearly four decades ago. The alleged killer, now 80, has finally been arrested for shooting her three times in her head and neck.

Yvonne Menke, pictured here, was killed on the morning of Dec. 12, 1985, in St. Croix Falls. Nearly 40 years later, an arrest has been made in her murder.

A love-triangle resulted in the tragic murder of Yvonne Menke nearly four decades ago. The alleged killer, now 80, has finally been arrested for shooting her three times in her head and neck.

Photo by: Polk County Sheriff's Office

Polk County Sheriff's Office

After nearly four decades, police in deputies in Arizona's Maricopa County arrested 80-year-old Mary Josephine Bailey for allegedly killing her romantic rival. She was arrested at her Apache Junction home and charged with first-degree murder.

On the morning of Dec. 12, 1985, Yvonne Menke died after being shot three times in her head and neck as she prepared to leave for work around 6:25 a.m. Her daughter called police after hearing a “whip-like” noise that she assumed were gunshots and seeing someone walk, then run, from the apartment building, according to WQOW. She observed that the person fleeing the scene had on a grey dress coat, stocking cap, and scarf.

Menke’s body was found in the stairwell going from the apartment to the street in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. Boot prints were found in the snow leading away from the crime scene, and investigators deduced that the shooter likely left in a vehicle. Evidence was preserved, and casts were made of the boot prints. A criminal complaint filed in the case revealed that the boot print was matched to a pair of boots that were later seized from Bailey’s home.

When police talked to Menke’s daughter, she said that she feared something like this would happen. Someone had recently called that week asking for Menke and inquiring about what time she left for work in the morning. Before her daughter could reply, the caller hung up. Bailey had allegedly been calling the house and making threatening phone calls.

Star Tribune reported that multiple witnesses told police that Menke and Bailey had been dating the same man, Jack Owen, who ultimately married someone else and moved to Montana, where he died in 2021. He was described by one of Menke’s daughters as having a roving eye at the time of Menke’s death.

Menke’s autopsy revealed that she died of blood loss after being shot three times with a .22 caliber weapon while she was walking down the staircase of her apartment building. She had been shot once on the left side of her neck and twice in the back of her head behind her right ear. The manner of her death was ruled a homicide.

According to Pioneer Press, Bailey was initially considered to be a suspect early on in the investigation. She was first interviewed at the bank where she worked shortly after the murder, but she told police she had stopped dating Jack Owen three years earlier. She did admit to having a .22 caliber gun but had given it away to be sold.

A witness said that Bailey had gotten upset when she wasn’t invited to Owen’s birthday party the night before Menke’s murder. The witness also shared that Bailey was knowledgeable about guns. WQOW shared that Bailey had called Menke before to try to convince her to give up Owen.

When Owen was interviewed, he had an alibi for the murder, and he said he had seen the victim the night before at his birthday party. He admitted that he had dated both women for several years.

Although the case went cold, police continued to work on it through the nearly 38 years since the murder occurred. In 2009, police re-interviewed some witnesses. Then, in 2021, investigators took a fresh look at the case and went over evidence and re-interviewed witnesses who then shared new evidence in the case. At this time police learned that Bailey had been emotionally upset at the time of the murder and that she had asked a friend to burn some clothes for her.

CBS News shared that this is an ongoing investigation. Anyone with any information about Menke’s murder can contact the sheriff’s office at 715-485-8300.

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