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Muskego man charged with 1979 murder of his then wife

Posted at 5:09 PM, Feb 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-21 20:20:26-05

A Muskego cold case 40 years in the making finally leads to a suspect in custody.

Seventy-eight-year-old John Bayerl was in Waukesha County Court on Thursday for the 1979 murder of his then wife Dona Mae Bayerl.

Muskego Police had to go down to Fort Myers, Fla. to arrest Bayerl a couple days ago. He has been living there for the past 15 years.

Bayerl was flown back Wednesday to be placed behind bars at the Waukesha County Jail.

Way back in 1979, court records show Bayerl claimed his wife’s disappearance stemmed from an argument.

“John stated that Dona became very upset and stormed out of their home …. John stated that he wasn’t concerned at that point, because she had done the same thing before,” reads the criminal complaint.

Dona Mae was never seen again.

“This is a homicide and a rather unique homicide in that there is no body has been recovered,” said court commissioner Kevin Costello.

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 family and friends insisted that she would never leave her young daughters behind who were just four and seven years old at the time.

A year and a half ago, TODAY’S TMJ4 interviewed her daughters, Jodie and Jackie, who were hoping age progression pictures of what Dona Mae may look like would possibly help find her.

“The pain never goes away, the searching never goes away,” Jackie Kort said in 2017.

Now, the closure they’ve long been yearning for may come with their father spending the rest of his life behind bars.

The biggest question that remains is what was Muskego Police’s break in the cold case. The criminal complaint doesn’t share any new evidence that led police to determine Bayerl was allegedly responsible.

Bayerl is due back in court next week.