In cold-case break, 78-year-old man charged with 1979 murder of his wife

78-year-old man arrested in 1979 murder of his wife

MUSKEGO, WI (WITI/CNN) - After decades of work, police have arrested a 78-year-old Florida man and charged him with the murder of his wife, who disappeared in Wisconsin in 1979.

John Bayerl appeared in court Thursday, to face a first-degree murder charge the longtime cold case.

His wife, Dona Mae Bayerl, disappeared from Muskego when she was 38. Her body was never found.

According to Muskego police, in 1979 John Bayerl told authorities his wife stormed out of their home after an argument and never returned.

Police officials said an exhaustive investigation followed.

They would later learn allegations that John was abusive, and blood evidence was found in the home.

Family and friends said over and over that Dona Mae would never leave her two daughters.

The judge presiding over the case said she was known as “devoted” to them.

Dona Mae Bayerl was described as devoted to her two daughters.
Dona Mae Bayerl was described as devoted to her two daughters. (Source: WITI/CNN)

Police said by 1980, John was granted a divorce from Dona Mae.

By 1986, she was declared legally dead. But the investigation was never closed.

The case eventually went from missing person to homicide.

On Thursday, prosecutors asked for a $500,000 bond.

Prosecutors said when he was recently questioned by police, the 78-year-old said he cheated on Dona Mae when they were married.

He described her as a perfect wife and mother. He said that if he was guilty of anything it was of being a “bad husband.”

The court granted a bail increase.

John Bayerl faces life in prison if convicted.

Copyright 2019 WITI via CNN. All rights reserved.