Two Wheeling residents were charged in Ohio County on Friday for the murder of a couple whose remains were found in Raleigh County in August 2018, Raleigh County Sheriff Scott Van Meter reported on Monday.
Gerald Wayne Jako, Jr., 36, and Dana Marie Bowman, 33, both of Wheeling, were charged by Wheeling Police Department with three counts of murder and two counts of concealing a deceased human body, after Ohio County grand jurors on Monday returned indictments.
The victims were 26-year-old Trevor Vossen and 27-year-old Lauren “LuLu” Cree-Jenkins of Martin’s Ferry, who had been reported missing from the Wheeling area on Aug 3, 2018. Investigators reported that they believe Jako and Bowman lured Vossen and Cree-Jenkins, who family members reported was five months pregnant, into a house in Wheeling, where they are accused of murdering and dismembering them.
Officials believe that the victims’ bodies were later brought to Raleigh County and burned.
Cree-Jenkins’ murder allegedly resulted in an involuntary termination of her pregnancy. Grand jurors indicted Bowman and Jako on three counts of homicide, according to Wheeling police.
On Aug. 15, 2018, Wayne Browning of Raleigh County told local media that he and his son were collecting firewood for the winter when they visited a secluded spot that a logging company had left a few years earlier.
Browning said they saw “two skulls and an arm and some other bones and stuff laying there.”
Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department detectives reported in August 2018 that the killers had dismembered and burned the remains of the two victims. Police launched an immediate investigation, said Van Meter.
The state medical examiner later identified the victims, based on dental records.
By October 2018, Raleigh detectives had identified the remains as those of Cree-Jenkins and Vossen, who was the father of a little boy, according to his obituary.
“Some of our detectives went to Wheeling and worked with the Wheeling police on finding out who they were and finding out who did it,” said Van Meter.
The couple’s remains were later sent to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, Department of Anthropology in Washington, D.C., for forensic analysis.
Jako, who had a criminal history and was an early suspect, according to Wheeling authorities, had allegedly been in Wyoming County on Aug. 5, 2018. He has since been charged with burglarizing a house in Wyoming County on Aug. 5, 2018.
Ohio County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Shawn Turak told The Times Leader in June that some witnesses had initially been afraid to cooperate with authorities in the murder investigation of Cree-Jenkins and Vossen because they feared retaliation from Jako.
The State Supreme Court in June upheld Jako’s conviction and 100-year sentence for armed robbery of a convenience store in Ohio County. Afterward, Turak in a press conference urged witnesses to come forward with information on the couple’s murder.
He reported that Vossen’s car, a white, two-door Honda Accord SE, was still missing.
After Turak’s press conference, detectives began to receive tips from the public, eventually leading them to arrest Bowman and Jako.
Jako was serving his sentence at Mount Olive Correctional Complex in Fayette County when he was arrested for the murders and related charges.
U.S. Marshals Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force arrested Bowman on Monday in Wyandot County, Ohio, Wheeling Police said. She was incarcerated at the Seneca County (Ohio) Jail on Monday. Officials reported that she will return to West Virginia after an extradition hearing in Ohio and that both suspects will be arraigned in Ohio County Circuit Court at a future date.
“This week’s indictment means we are a step further in this case, but our work continues,” said Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger. “Thanks to the ongoing support from our community and local news outlets, law enforcement successfully gathered additional information to obtain a grand jury indictment in this years-long case.
“Once again, I am extremely proud of the hard work and dedication of the Wheeling Police Department, the Ohio County Prosecutors Office, the Raleigh County, W.Va. Sheriff’s Office and our federal law enforcement partners.”
Van Meter said Monday that Raleigh detectives had worked in Raleigh County and in cooperation with Wheeling authorities to make arrests in the case.
“They did an outstanding job, from the beginning,” he said.