WAUKESHA — The murder trial has begun for a 40-year-old Muskego cold case. John Bayerl of Florida is accused of killing his wife in 1979, but her body was never found.
Court documents show that prosecutors plan to use Dona Mae’s DNA as evidence at some point in the trial, but they have yet to share how that ties Bayerl to her murder.
Bayerl, 79, took a seat at the defense table Monday morning wearing headphones to help him hear the witnesses called to testify against him. One of whom was a familiar voice, his daughter Jodie Jarvis who asked not to be shown on camera.
“I pretty much just remember being in the McDonald’s drive-thru and them arguing,” said Jarvis.
That’s what Jarvis recalls as a 7-year-old girl on the night her mother disappeared.
“Had you ever seen your parents fight before that?” asked District Attorney Susan Opper.
“It was in the front room, and my mom was kind of crouching down between the couch and the end table and my dad kind of standing over her with a bottle,” Jarvis replied.
Bayerl claimed his wife’s disappearance stemmed from an argument, and soon afterward, Dona Mae went for a ride. Authorities say Bayerl admitted to beating his wife on several occasions and to having an affair, but he never even hinted at any involvement in her disappearance.
Dona Mae’s sister Joan Bourgeois moved in with Bayerl a couple days later to help watch his daughters. Bourgeois said she was suspicious of John’s role in Dona Mae’s disappearance from the beginning.
“Are you asking John questions about Dona Mae?” Opper asked.
“Because Dona Mae never would have left her girls. He said police had put those thoughts in my head. I said no, I know my sister and she would never leave her daughters. Never.” — Joan Bourgeois
“I asked him three times when the children weren’t there and I accused him,” replied Bourgeois.
“Why did you accuse him?” Opper asked.
“Because Dona Mae never would have left her girls,” she said. “He said police had put those thoughts in my head. I said no, I know my sister and she would never leave her daughters. Never.”
More than 30 witnesses could be called to testify in Bayerl’s jury trial. It’s expected to last all week.