81-Year-Old Woman Sentenced to Life for Killing Rival in Love Triangle in 1985

An 81-year-old woman was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday, July 2, after she was convicted in June for the 1985 murder of her romantic rival, reports Kare 11, WQOW and The Osceola Sun

Published Time: 03.07.2024 - 06:31:05 Modified Time: 03.07.2024 - 06:31:05

An 81-year-old woman was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday, July 2, after she was convicted in June for the 1985 murder of her romantic rival, reports Kare 11, WQOW and The Osceola Sun.

Mary Jo Bailey was convicted of the first-degree murder of Yvonne Menke on June 5. In the July 2 sentencing hearing held at the Polk County Courthouse, Bailey was sentenced to a mandatory life term. However, due to a Wisconsin state law from the year of Menke’s murder, Bailey was granted the possibility of parole in just over 19 years. Bailey's defense team said her conviction may be appealed.

Due to the 1985 Wisconsin law, Judge Scott Nordstrand could not add or subtract time from her sentence. But he said in court he would have set her parole eligibility at 38 years, per WQOW. "I think it needs to be said how brutal and how horrific this crime was. And cold-blooded," Nordstrand said. 

“Other than her lack of denial, Ms. Bailey has not admitted what she did, she has not taken accountability for her actions, she has shown no remorse,” Assistant District Attorney Holly Wood-Webster said, per The Osceola Sun. “In fact, she told the bailiff after she was convicted that she can now retire and not worry about it. This is first-degree murder … Ms. Bailey should not be eligible for parole.”

Before Bailey’s sentence was announced, three of Menke’s children - Julie Connors, Sue Raska and James Menke Jr. - provided statements.

"You waited in a dark stairwell to maliciously murder my mom. You sentenced us to a life filled with pain, sadness and hurt," said Connors, who was 20 at the time of her mother’s murder. Connors also read a statement from her sister Raska, who was pregnant at the time of Menke’s death.

“To me, this is not justice,” said James Jr., who was 16 in 1985. “She got to lead her life. We didn’t live ours. But it’s as close as it’s going to get. So, now we can finally put this behind us. But Bailey should never be let out again.”

The cold case into Menke’s death wasn’t reinvestiga -

ted until 2021, when a criminal complaint reported the two women were romantically involved with the same man, Jack Owen, at the same time. (Owen married a different woman and moved to Montana. He died in 2021, per WQOW.)

On Dec. 12, 1985, Menke — who was a 45-year-old mother of four children — was fatally shot once in the neck and twice in the back of the head, allegedly by Bailey outside of her apartment building. After telling her daughter she was going outside to warm up her car before work, her daughter allegedly heard the gunshots and then looked out the window and saw a person running from the crime scene. Her mother was then found dead at the bottom of the building’s exterior stairs.

Evidence revealed that Bailey’s boots matched the shoe prints in the snow and a note in the victim’s purse with Bailey’s car information. Additionally, Menke’s family alleged that they received repeated phone calls from an unknown woman who inquired about what time Menke left for work in the morning.

Thirty-six years later, in 2021, Lt. Andrew Vitalis and Polk County Investigations Liaison Deputy Mark Biller started to reinvestigate the cold case with new interviews with witnesses. 

"Since the initial investigation was conducted, it was probable that many subjects had learned additional information about the case that may be relevant and not yet reported to law enforcement. Additionally, officers suspected there were subjects who had been living in the area at the time of the homicide that did not come forward with information about the homicide for fear of retaliation," the criminal complaint states, per WQOW.

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A representative for the Wisconsin Courts did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for more information on Tuesday.

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