Authorities in Pennsylvania have arrested the husband of a woman who vanished without a trace in 1984 after leaving behind a note allegedly claiming she had stepped out to run an errand.
Maryann Bagenstose, a 25-year-old nurse’s aide in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, was supposed to meet with her estranged husband, then 29-year-old Jere Musser Bagenstose, to trade in her car and purchase a new one, KIRO 7 reported. Those close to her told police that Maryann was really looking forward to getting the new car and that she and her husband spoke frequently despite being separated.
Jere told Pequea Township police that he arrived at the home where his wife, their two-year-old son, and a boarder lived to pick her up, but that she wasn’t ready. Jere said he then took his son to nearby Long’s Park and when he returned to the house, Maryann was not there and had left a handwritten note saying she had walked to the Turkey Hill store.
She was never seen alive again.
Jere never reported his wife missing, but her mother did on June 7 after she couldn’t reach her daughter.
On June 8, 1984, while speaking with Jere, a police officer noticed some cardboard covering freshly dug dirt while examining the garage. A search warrant executed on June 13 did not find Maryann’s body, however. During that search, investigators did find a crumpled note in a wooden nail keg that read: “Had to run a quick errand, be right back.”
When asked about the note, Maryann’s mother Geraldine Engongoro told reporters that her daughter wouldn’t have walked to the store because she had a limp from a previous car crash and wore a lift in one of her shoes, KIRO 7 reported.
Maryann and Jere had a custody hearing for their son scheduled for June 15, 10 days after she disappeared. When Maryann didn’t appear at the hearing, custody of their son was awarded to Jere.
Jere had also moved back into the couple’s home.
Witnesses at the Turkey Hill store told police they hadn’t seen Maryann on the day of her disappearance, and workers at Long’s Park said they never saw Jere or his truck on that day. Police also discovered Jere had an unexcused absence from work on the day Maryann disappeared and an unexplained injury to his left arm, for which he provided inconsistent statements.
Though police suspected Jere was behind his wife’s disappearance, he maintained that he had nothing to do with it and that she was still alive. He claimed people had told him they had seen Maryann and that he had received postcards from her, which he never turned over to police.
Last week, Lancaster Online reported that it was actually investigators who sent those postcards to Jere, as well as a private detective hired by Maryann’s mother. The idea behind the postcards was to “provoke something new in the investigation. … The idea being if she’s still alive, perhaps you want to make somebody aware of that,” Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said at a press conference on December 22, 2022.
Maryann’s disappearance was reopened in late 2018, with investigators focusing on the note found during the June 13, 1984, search warrant. Investigators collected handwriting samples from Maryann and Jere and determined that the note was actually written by Jere.
Jere was arrested on December 22, 2022, and is being held without bail.
“An arrest in this 38-year-old case has certainly been long awaited,” Adams said at the press conference. “This is not a case solved with DNA. Rather, the arrest of Jere Bagenstose is the result of decades of hard work and dedication by law enforcement personnel, beginning in 1984 with members of the Pequea Township Police Department and continuing with numerous criminal investigators in the Pennsylvania State Police leading up to the present day.”
Maryann’s body has never been found.