INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It was at about the 10-minute mark of my interview with Charles Jones that things started to go south with the widower of 1978 murder victim Heidi Jones.
“I want you to get off my property. I want you off my property,” Jones repeated, pointing at my photographer and the camera pointed at him. “I’m not answering nothing more for you. I don’t like your attitude. Get off my property.”
It was shortly before dusk last Thursday evening as we stood in what passes for Jones’ front yard on a back street off downtown Noblesville.
I explained to Jones that Indy Unsolved was giving him every opportunity to answer questions about his thoughts on the motives, theories, evidence, speculation and knowledge he may have on the mysterious murder of his bride nearly 40 years ago.
Detectives said the last time they talked with Jones he was reticent to help.
“Did you hear me? Off!” said Jones as the 60-year-old Kokomo auto worker struggled to rise from his lounge chair. “I don’t need an opportunity for nothing. Off my property! Now!”
My photographer and I both took one step back which put us on the public street outside Jones’ house.
“How about if I stand over here,” I said. “How about if I stand over here and ask you if you killed your wife?”
“You go right ahead,” Jones answered.
“Did you kill your wife?” I asked again.
“You stupid p….” Jones muttered as he turned his back and walked to the front door of the house.
“Does it bug you that it weighs on somebody’s conscience that they wouldn’t answer this question after all these years?” I asked.
Jones slammed the door shut without an answer.
Heidi Jones was 20 years old, the mother of a toddler named after his father, and in the midst of moving on from an abusive marriage when she disappeared on the night of Aug. 25, 1978.
“It was a fact that she was abused at very least physically and she also confided in my parents to that and I can remember on more than one occasion that I joined my dad coming right here to this trailer park to get her to what I would say rescue her,” said Scott Fulkerson who was 15 years old the summer his sister disappeared. “I can tell you at the time that she disappeared they were at the least separated.”
“That’s crazy,” said Jones when I told him of Fulkerson’s memories of rescuing his sister from an abusive household. “That’s not right at all. That’s a lie. He’s a liar. He’s just a liar 'cause that never happened.”
Heidi was last seen by a neighbor who was watching over her son as she left that last night to visit friends on Indianapolis’ east side.
“At that point when she pulled out of the parking spot of her trailer nobody’s ever seen her but the person who killed her,” said IMPD Cold Case Detective Greg West who estimates IMPD and Marion County Sheriffs deputies have spent “thousands of hours” investigating the young woman’s disappearance.
“They never did investigate it very good,” said Charles Jones, “because they never did find anything about her.”
Investigators think Jones was one of the last people to see his estranged wife alive.
“He had had a conversation with her earlier that evening and paid her $25 toward child support,” said West. “They had an argument. He left and went to a party. Later that night I don’t know what all happened.”
West may not know exactly what happened to Heidi that night, but witnesses and evidence and the discovery of her skeletal remains nine months later offer some clues.
Heidi’s purse was found soon after her disappearance discarded on the side of the road not far from the South Franklin Road trailer park where she lived with Jones. The straps from the purse were missing.
When her body was discovered by a mushroom hunter in the 7600 block of Edgewood Avenue in Franklin Township, it was apparent Heidi had been tied up with those straps and an extension cord that may have come from her trailer and was shot in the head.
“That was my thinking that she went to a liquor store and asked somebody to buy her liquor and that somebody was, you know, was the one that got in her car or something like that, they never did find her car or nothing,” said Jones on that warm spring night last week as his neighbors celebrated a birthday party next door in their driveway.
“If she led some secret life, I don’t know. You know what I mean. I mean, I don’t know if she led some sort of secret life but my contention is that the only thing happened was she went after beer and because of that she got…
“There was never any kind of a motive for anything like that. We were just separated for a couple weeks and then all of a sudden she was gone.”
The discovery of Heidi’s body, coupled with circumstantial evidence and accounts, led detectives to arrest Jones on a charge of pre-murder in 1979.
“They felt they had enough probable cause to make the arrest,” said Detective West. “I think he was in jail for a few weeks. He never was formerly charged. He was released and no formal charges have ever been filed on him or anyone else in this case.”
“They didn’t….just suspicion,” Jones said when asked if detectives had any evidence to hold him. “They couldn’t indict me 'cause there was nothing. I was the victim of the crime.
“I’m her husband and she’s dead. I mean I loved her and now I’m the victim and they’re after me.”
Jones said his mother’s faith in “the Holy Ghost” and the support of his family helped him through the trying times.
“It was a horrible thing but I had faith in God because I was a God fearing man.”
Jones said that while he was “the victim,” he also recognized that Heidi’s family suffered, too.
“I just had to let it go because for my life the only thing I could do was let it go because nobody would let me try to find out on my own because every time I tried to find out anything about the case then they think I’m trying to cover my tracks or something.
“I just felt like that was a travesty,” he said. “A travesty of justice that they were after me. I’m the victim regardless of whatever history they want to think about and how they wanna judge my relationship with her.”
Scott Fulkerson said about his older sister, “of the three of us kids she was likely the most intelligent.
“Motherhood was an answer for her. She loved that little boy like there was no tomorrow and sadly because of the timing neither one of them ever got to know each other.”
Little Charles was 18 months old when his mother was murdered and went on to be raised by various relatives including his father’s family.
Detective West theorizes Heidi’s killer had help because her car along with the murder weapon have never been found.
Neighbors told investigators they thought they had spotted Jones watching his wife’s home from nearby railroad tracks after their separation and before the killing and saw him again a couple hours after she disappeared driving through the trailer park in a Ford Pinto and answering nonsensically when they asked what he was doing.
“I can’t remember if we had that Pinto or not,” said Jones when I told him witnesses spotted him driving through the neighborhood in the middle of the night. “Really? I don’t know.”
Jones also said he didn’t recall details about the discovery of his wife’s body or any conversations he may have had with another inmate inside the Marion County Jail after his arrest.
West said witnesses re-interviewed decades later had better recall.
“Some of these people probably sick and tired of seeing me and hearing from me because I go back and talk to them several times,” he said. “So myself and another detective went out to track this one witness down and we had a heart to heart conversation with him and he came forward with a lot of good information that we believed on our suspect on this case.
“This was an isolated incident. This is not some guy coming out here and some guy deciding he wants to kill a 20-year-old kid for no reason. This was specific.
“I learned a lot of new information. I believe the suspect we have we’re on the right track. I think the suspect now after 40 years he’s had to live with this. I think the suspect now it's his time to come in and tell his side of the story and talk to us. I think that the person who helped him dispose of the car needs to come forward.”
Scott Fulkerson said his sister’s murder haunted their father until his death.
“The bottom line is it still hurts,” he said. “At this point anyway somebody’s getting away with murder.”
“Does it bug you all these years that nobody’s ever gone to jail for this?” I asked Charles Jones a couple days later.
“If we knew if we had a suspect and he hadn’t went to jail for it,” said Jones, “that would bug me but there’s no one that they’ve ever found to who’s have murdered her. If they had somebody found that they that would bug me. If I knew that they had a person who had murdered her but did not get convicted that would be the only thing that bugged me.”
I tried again.
“Does it bug you that nobody’s ever been tried for this?” I asked.
“That’s a silly question,” Jones.
“I don’t know,” I said. “You tell me.”
“I just told you that’s a silly question,” said Jones, who then ordered me off his property and went into his house without an answer.
Back at IMPD’s cold case office, Detective West flips through the box containing the Heidi Jones file, re-reading detectives’ notes from 40 years ago.
“People gotta realize, we don’t go away,” he said. “We don’t forget about these victims and we’re not gonna forget about Heidi.”
If you recall the murder of Heidi Jones in the summer of 1978, or ever heard an account that would help detectives put names with faces and fill in the blanks of a young mother’s last hours in the company of her killer, call Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at (317) 262-TIPS.
Your information could be worth a $1,000 reward and answer this Indy Unsolved.