When Mary Jane Fonder was a young girl, she was plagued with emotional problems and found it difficult to interact with her peers. At 45-years-old, after drifting from job-to-job, rarely dating, and never really connecting with anyone, Mary Jane decided to move home to care for her ailing parents. In 1992, her mother passed away leaving Mary Jane with her father who was bereft and deeply depressed over the death of his wife. This put a strain on his relationship with Mary Jane. One year later, her father went missing. Law enforcement was unable to find him after an extensive search.
Sad and lonely, Mary Jane did what many often do in times of trouble. She joined a church. At the Trinity Lutheran Evangelical Church she quickly became an active member. She was a regular presence at mass, volunteered for committees and activities, and even attempted to make friends with some of the other women. One of those women was Rhonda Smith, who was another well-loved and active member of the church.
Mary Jane was one of the first people to welcome the church’s new pastor, Greg Shreaves, who she took a very quick liking to. The pastor was warm and friendly. He was also unmarried and handsome to boot. Pastor Shreaves was often the topic of conversation among the single ladies in the group, especially Mary Jane who often sought his counsel.
Rhonda Smith also spent time with Pastor Shreaves, having one-on-one meetings with him in his office. She suffered from bipolar disorder, and like Mary Jane, found it difficult to connect with others. With no job Rhonda was unable to pay her bills so, Pastor Shreaves offered her a part-time job in the church office to help her make ends meet.
On a cold morning in January, church sexton Judy Zellner arrived to take care of some church business. As she entered the church office she stopped short: in front of her was a woman lying in a pool of blood. When Judy was finally able to get a good look at the victim, she was horrified to discover that it was Rhonda Smith, with two gunshot wounds in her head.
Police canvased the scene and questioned Judy. Did she see a gun? What did she know about the victim? Was Rhonda suicidal? Judy has no answers but she, Mary Jane, and Pastor Shreaves are clearly shaken to hear of Rhonda’s murder.
Soon after the murder, congregants became frightened for their lives. Some recall seeing a strange man who made an appearance in their church, a man who had no ties to the community. They told police the stranger made comments about how easy the church would be to rob.
Who would want Rhonda dead? Could the strange man be responsible for Rhonda’s murder in a robbery gone wrong? Mary Jane had an airtight alibi, but could she be connected to this cold-blooded act?