80-year-old woman arrested for 1985 Polk County murder
Authorities say they have made an arrest in a decades-old murder case in Polk County.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says 80-year-old Mary Josephine Bailey was arrested in Maricopa County, Arizona on Monday. Formal charges were also filed on Monday in Polk County.
Court records show Bailey, whose current address is listed in Apache Junction, Arizona, is charged with first-degree murder for the death of 45-year-old Yvonne Menke and is awaiting extradition to Wisconsin.
Menke died on December 12, 1985, in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. According to Polk County’s cold case web page, Menke was shot in her head and neck three times shortly before 6:30 a.m. that day as she was leaving her home to go to work.
Authorities said a person of interest was seen leaving the alley where Menke’s car was parked shortly after the gunshots were heard. The person of interest was described as being under six feet tall, wore a grey 3/4 length coat and was wearing a dark colored stocking cap.
An autopsy result showed Menke’s death was determined to be a homicide and was shot three times by a .22 caliber weapon, according to the complaint.
The document states police interviewed a total of roughly two dozen people throughout the course of eight years after Menke’s death. In late 2021 and into early 2022, investigators once again began to re-interview witnesses, citing the believed some people may have not come forward with information due to fear of retaliation.
During an interview of one of Menke’s family members immediately after her death, the complaint says a phone call from an unidentified female was made to the Menke home the day before Yvonne’s death. The witness says the woman who called asked if her mother had left for work, and the family member said yes. It goes on to say the caller asked the family member what time Yvonne left for work, and once told, the woman said “ok” before adding she would try to get a hold of Yvonne that evening. However, the caller hung up before they were asked who was calling.
Police noted near Menke’s body, they found a footprint in the snow, and could see the word “Arctic” in the area where the front of the heel would be.
Court documents add multiple witnesses who were interviewed soon after Menke’s death told police that Menke, Bailey and a man named Jack Owen were involved in a love triangle, and his relationships with them were on-and-off.
In the days after Menke’s death, police went to Bailey’s home and interviewed her. She told police she was on vacation on Dec. 12, and had planned to go to Rice Lake, Wisconsin to do some shopping. Police say they found a black dress coat, shoes that didn’t match, and asked her if she had any firearms. That’s when the complaint states she told them he had a .22 piston with a .38 frame.
At one point, officers asked Bailey to show them her shoes and boots, including a pair of Arctic Cat snowmobile boots that were a size 5, despite having told them she wore a size 4. B
After the boots were sent to the state crime lab to be compared with the prints found at the scene of Menke’s death, officials found they were consistent in terms of tread pattern, size and wear pattern.
Bailey also denied having ever met Menke, or spoken with her face-to-face, although admitted to having called Menke once to discuss Owen’s relationship with the two of them. However, phone records showed multiple calls were made between Bailey and Menke’s phones. Records showed from Aug. 2, 1985, and Dec. 7, 1985, a total of four calls were made between the residences, and all were roughly one minute long. Of those, two were made between 12:50 a.m. and 1:20 a.m. on Nov. 13. The other two were made at 12:32 p.m. on Sept. 1 and at 5:58 p.m. on Aug. 17.
In Jan. 2023, investigators once again interviewed Bailey, who spoke with them in the interview room at the Maricopa County police substation. After the interview, her DNA, fingerprints and photo were taken, and a recording system activated while police were outside the room. Two months later, police watched that recording, and found she started talking on her cell phone at 1:3 p.m., and the voice on the other end appeared to be a male. During the conversation, Bailey was heard talking about boots and other pieces of evidence. A talk to text function was used after that call was made and appeared to be telling someone to call her.
After that message was sent, Bailey was heard calling Witness 1, and told the witness that investigators were talking to her and believed “they” were trying to pin something on her and asked if police had spoken to her. It then appeared the witness told Bailey “no”. Multiple calls were made again to Witness 1 due to disconnections.
Police say they also reviewed Facebook Messenger content associated with Bailey and found that on the same day she was interviewed and told she may be charged for Menke’s murder, multiple messages were sent to a contact named JW, including photos of Bailey’s passport.
In Feb. 2023, phone interviews were done with the former Director of Marketing for Arctic Wear, Inc. during the interview, investigators were told about 1,000 pairs of size 5 Arctic Wear boots had been sold across the country from 1973-1981. During the interview, investigators told the former director the heal wear of the boots from both Bailey’s boots and the cats of the prints at the scene were the same. That’s when, according to the complaint, the director indicated if the boots were used primarily as chore boots, it could account for the wear, but otherwise it would be unusual wear if they were primarily used for snowmobiling.
The complaint goes on to say through training experience the “up close and personal” attack appear to show a strong emotional reaction towards Menke, as well as personal knowledge of her. In addition, it says it’s probable that the person who shot Menke wasn’t a stranger but knew her daily habits.
A future court date for Bailey has not been scheduled as of this publishing. If you have information about the case, you’re asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 715-485-8300.