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'He could scare you a little bit': Former Muskego man charged in 40-year-old cold case

Posted at 9:04 PM, Feb 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-22 09:22:01-05

Muskego Police made an arrest in a 40-year-old cold case that they now say was a murder.

John Bayerl, 78, is accused of killing his wife. The Fort Myers, Florida, man was brought back to Waukesha County to face charges.

Since 1979, there has been a mystery in a small Muskego neighborhood about what happened to Dona Mae Bayerl. The wife and mother to two small children disappeared one night. Her husband told police she left him after they argued.

"Over the years we would see police cars coming by every once in a while," said neighbor Rose Crnkovich. "It's like they never really closed the case."

Forty years earlier, Bayerl had told police on the night his wife disappeared she stormed off. He admitted at times there was some violence in their marriage and that he had hit and pinched her.

Two years ago, Muskego Police released a time lapse picture of Dona Mae.

TODAY'S TMJ4 also spoke to her daughters in 2017, and they were still looking for answers.

"The pain never goes away," said daughter Jackie Kort. "The searching never goes away."

"Just imagine if you didn't know where your mother was," said daughter Jodie Jarvis. "It's not a nice way to grow up."

Newly released court documents say police found spattered blood in the garage in two places in 1979. Also, John Bayerl washed a rug and a quilt the day after his wife's disappearance when he had never done laundry before. Police took them in 1979 and sent them to a crime lab. At that time, there was no such thing as DNA evidence.

When police mentioned the blood to Bayerl, records say he told them he cut himself working on a lawnmower. Over the years, though, there was never any body found despite numerous searches.

It's why some longtime neighbors like David Tomczyk did not think Bayerl was involved.

"I had no idea what happened," said Bayerl. "I prefer to believe she just left. I couldn't imagine anybody killing anybody."

But other neighbors say that changed over the years.

"He could scare you a little bit so we always had that in the back of our mind that it was possible he could do something," said Crnkovich.

Despite the charges and new records released, there is nothing that says there was any new evidence that lead police to charge Bayerl with murder.