PEQUEA TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) – A Lancaster County man has been charged with criminal homicide for the 1984 disappearance and presumed death of his estranged wife.

According to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, Jere Bagenstose was arrested on Dec. 22 for one count of criminal homicide after a review of evidence from the 1984 disappearance of Maryann Bagenstose.

The District Attorney’s office says in June 1984, Maryann and Jere were separated and planned to have a custody hearing for their son. Maryann did not show up to the hearing, and Jere was granted custody of their son.

Days later, Maryann’s mother reported her missing after not hearing from her for several days. Jere told police he went to Maryann’s home to take her to a vehicle appointment but she was not ready. He claimed he went to a park with their son and when he returned there was a note saying Maryann walked to Turkey Hill on Willow Street.

Police observed a piece of cardboard covering a 3-by-6-foot hole about 5 feet deep in the home’s garage. Maryann’s body was not recovered, but police determined the hole to be recently dug.

Investigators found the note Jere claimed Maryann left that said, “Had to run a quick errand, be right back.” Investigators say this contradicted Jere’s claims that the note indicated Maryann went to Turkey Hill.

The District Attorney’s office says other evidence including Jere’s unexplained work absence on the day of Mayann’s disappearance, an unexplained injury on Jere’s arm, inconsistent statements on why Jere would have dug a hole, and other witness interviews were used by investigators while reviewing the case.

In 2018, State Police began reworking the investigation focusing on the note seized at the home. In September 2020, a search warrant obtained numerous pieces of Jere’s handwriting that a forensic investigator says allegedly match the 1984 note.

Maryann’s body has not been recovered and no activity has been reported on any of her financial accounts.

“An arrest in this 38-year-old case has certainly been long awaited,” Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said. “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.”

“I want to thank Troopers Roberts, McNally, Cpl. McCurdy, and all of the investigators who have dedicated countless time and effort into this case, as well as attorneys in my office,” said Adams. “This begins the criminal process in a 38-year-old case, and we hope it brings relief to Maryann’s family and friends. We will do everything we can to see that justice is done in this case.” 

Jere Bagenstose is being held by law enforcement after bail was denied.