After 40 years, case of slain teen goes to trial

OTTUMWA, Iowa (AP) — Judith Cabanillas was just 13 when a middle-of-the-night phone call conveyed the shattering news: Her older sister had been found murdered in an Iowa farmhouse.

That was in 1974. The slaying went unsolved for years, but Cabanillas worked tirelessly to keep it from fading away.

Now, almost four decades later, her quest could be near an end as authorities put a suspect on trial Tuesday in the death of Mary Jayne Jones, a carefree 17-year-old who worked at a drive-in restaurant.

Cabanillas hopes the trial in Ottumwa provides some justice for her family and eases their grief.

The suspect is a man named Robert “Gene” Pilcher, who had been accused of luring another woman to the same house days earlier. Genetic testing in 2010 linked him to the crime scene.

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