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1984 cold case of missing PA woman, Maryann Bagenstose, solved after handwriting analysis of note

December 27, 2022

On 5 June 1984, 26-year-old Maryann Bagenstose disappeared from her home at 167 West Willow Road in Pequea Township, Pittsburgh.

  • Bagenstose worked as a nurse aide, and was a mother of a two-year-old son, Jeremy. She was married but estranged from her husband, Jere Bagenstose, at the time she went missing and had been living with her boyfriend on West Willow Road.

Maryann attended Manheim High School, where during her senior year, she ran off with a boyfriend from her class whom she married. They were together for around a year before they decided to divorce. Maryann married Jere around 1979, and the pair had been married for over five years. Although she did not graduate from high school, Maryann was working on her diploma at the time she went missing.

According to Jere Bagenstose, he visited his estranged wife's home on the morning she went missing to pick up their son. Jere, who was staying with his parents in their home at the time, often dropped by to see his son, whom he had lost custody off after the pair split. Maryann had temporary custody of Jeremy while the two battled it out in court.

That day, Jere told police that he had stopped by to pick up his son and was planning to look at a new car.

Jere claimed that when he showed up to the residence, Maryann wasn’t ready to go out yet, so he took their son to feed ducks at the nearby Longs Park. He told police that when he returned to the house, at around 9:30am, Maryann was gone. He claimed that she left behind a note explaining her absence, saying that she had gone to the store on foot. When police later asked to see the note the missing woman had left behind, Jere claimed that he had thrown it away after reading it.

The store in question, Turkey Hill Mini Mart, was around a mile away from Maryann’s residence and would take approximately twenty minutes to walk each way. It was the usual store that Maryann shopped at. According to one of the original investigators on the case, the missing woman never made it to the convenience store that day and there were no witness sightings of her in the area.

Two days later, after she failed to return home or contact any of her relatives or friends, Geraldine Engongoro, Maryann's mother, officially reported her missing to police.

Police began interviewing and questioning those close to Maryann Bagenstose and even spoke with those who had been contracted to work in, or had driven through the area, on the day she went missing. The local area was searched, including wooded areas and an old train line, but turned up nothing.

Images and a description of Maryann was released to the public: 5'5, blonde hair, mid-twenties, dressed in a black T-shirt, jeans and sandals the day she went missing, however neither Maryann, nor the clothing she was wearing when she disappeared, was found.

When police searched Maryann’s home, there was no sign of a struggle, nor any indication that she had packed up any personal possessions to leave of her own accord. Because of this, Geraldine Engongoro had little hope that her daughter was alive and told journalists that Maryann would never leave her two year old son behind or neglect to contact her loved ones on purpose.

As soon as Maryann was reported missing, Jeremy began living with his father.

Without any witnesses or leads to go on, the police turned to psychics, several of which were of the opinion that Maryann Bagenstose was dead. They admitted the information was not helpful.

Police did not believe that Maryann had voluntarily walked away from her life, which suggested something had happened to her that day.

Maryann Bagenstose body has never been found, nor has her bank account been touched or any sighting been confirmed.

In late December 2022, the news of an arrest in the case was announced.

It was reported that  Jere Bagenstose had been charged with one count of criminal homicide in connection with the murder of Maryann Bagenstose in 1984.

Media outlets detail that several days after Maryann was reported missing, an officer spoke with Jere at the Willow Road address and discovered a six foot by three foot hole dug out in the garage floor concealed under a sheet of cardboard.

When asked what the purpose of the digging was, Jere allegedly changed his story multiple times, indicating he may have been lying.

Jere also appeared to have an injured arm, which was covered up by a bandage. He used this injury as an excuse for neglecting to show up to his job on the day Maryann went missing.

A search warrant was quickly obtained but despite excavating the area, police did not discover a body nor any evidence.

When police searched the residence, they discovered a crumpled up note in a wooden nail keg that stood by the couch in the living room. The note read: Had to run a quick errand, be right back.

 Jere continued to push the narrative that Maryann was alive and had left of her own accord. He claimed that he had received multiple postcards and letters from her, but had not contacted the police about this alleged additional correspondence at any point.

With no body and no DNA evidence to go on, police turned to the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Forensic Services Harrisburg Regional Laboratory for forensic analysis, for help solving the case.

They provided the lab with samples of both Jere Bagenstose handwriting and the notes Jere had alleged were penned by Maryann Bagenstose. Both handwriting samples were said to be from Jere’s own hand, making the note he initially claimed to be from his missing estranged wife, fraudulent.

Jere Bagenstose is currently being held in Lancaster County Jail without bond.

Sources: [X][X][X][X]

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