July 16, 2024

A woman convicted of a killing that went unsolved for decades has been sentenced to life in prison.

Mary Jo Bailey, 81, was charged with first degree murder in the 1985 death of Yvonne Menke.

A jury found her guilty of the single count this past May.

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The judge said he had little to no discretion in how to sentence Bailey on the murder charge.

She is eligible for parole in 20 years, and is credited with the 232 days she has already served in jail for this case.

The case was cold for almost 40 years until it was reinvestigated starting in 2021.

The criminal complaint detailed how Bailey and Menke were dating the same man at the same time.

On the morning of December 12, 1985, Menke told her daughter she was going outside to warm up her car before work.

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Her daughter heard what sounded like a “whip-like” noise, and thinking it was gun shots she looked out the windows of the apartment.

She saw a person walking and then jogging away from the scene wearing a grey dress coat, scarf, and stocking cap.

Menke was found dead at the bottom of the stairs going from the apartment to the street.

Evidence in the case included boot prints in the snow that matched Bailey’s, and a note in Menke’s purse that indicated she wrote down details about Bailey’s truck.

Family also reported receiving phone calls at their home from an unknown woman who wanted to know what time Menke left for work.

“Why does talking about that make you feel emotional?” Polk County Assistant District Attorney Holly Wood Webster asked Menke’s daughter Julie Connors during the May trial.

“Because I feel the caller was the person who murdered my mom, and I told her everything she wanted to know to make it happen.”

In the years after Menke’s death, Bailey had moved from Wisconsin to Arizona. That is where she was arrested last fall.

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