Apr 3, 2013 - By Christina George, Staff WriterAuthorities arrested an Ohio man Tuesday for charges in connection with a stolen vehicle belonging to a man who went missing in Fremont County nearly 40 years ago.
Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett said James Franklin Jagers, 66, faces charges of grand larceny and theft of an automobile‚ felonies that each carry sentences of up to 10 years in jail.
Jagers is accused of stealing a 1966 Ford LTD belonging to Larry Marvin Morris on or about April 27, 1974, but Bennett declined to say whether police believe there is a connection between Jagers and the disappearance of Morris.
"This is an open investigation," Bennett said. "We're looking into all the facts and circumstances surrounding these charges."
According to The Ranger's archives, Morris had been reported missing from Riverton since April 27, 1974. The 24-year-old Tulsa, Okla., man was last seen in his Ford LTD on Main Street. The vehicle was described as being dark green in color with a black vinyl top, four doors and Oklahoma license plates.
The newspaper article said Morris transferred to Riverton from Tulsa with the Seismograph Service Corporation. He had been living at the Park Avenue trailer court for a few months prior to his disappearance.
Bennett said Morris has since been declared deceased.
Jagers's name has been linked to the case since Morris went missing.
According to an affidavit from Riverton police Detective Mike Phillips that accompanies charging documents filed in Lander's 9th Judicial Circuit Court, Jagers was released from the penitentiary in Canon City, Colo., on or about March 6, 1974. More than a month later, on April 24, 1974, his cellmate, Jack Raymond Lincoln escaped the prison.
Phillips said Morris was last seen in Riverton on April 27, 1974, and was said to be traveling to Yellowstone National Park before his work sent him back to Oklahoma. According to the affidavit, Morris's credit card was used in Jackson that day for a gas charge, and the signature on the receipt did not match Morris's. His credit card was reportedly also used several times in Nevada, California, Oregon and Idaho.
Morris's vehicle was later found in San Francisco, Calif., where Jagers and Lincoln reportedly left it for repairs and used Morris's credit card to rent a Ford Mustang.
Phillips said the two men were arrested on May 8, 1974, in Idaho and found to be in possession of Morris's identification and credit cards as well as the rented Mustang. Evidence, including fingerprints and eyewitness statements, were gathered from Morris's vehicle and in locations Jagers and Lincoln reportedly visited.
According to the affidavit, Jagers in an interview with FBI agents on July 11, 1975, stated he had heard of Morris but did not wish to speak at that time. Four days later, Jagers's cousin reportedly told authorities Jagers borrowed camping equipment the previous year to use in Wyoming.
Phillips said Jagers refused to be interviewed multiple times about Morris until May 16, 1983, when DCI received a letter from Jagers.
"Jagers offered information regarding Morris in exchange for a transfer to another facility," Phillips said. "During that interview, Jagers stated that Morris is dead and Jagers would be able to show where the body was buried. On a later interview Jagers further stated he could never forget the location and details regarding Morris."
Bennett said Lincoln's name has not come up regarding charges.
"Right now, (Jagers) is the only person charged in the information," Bennett said.
When asked about what made the arrest happen now, nearly 40 years later, Bennett talked about county agencies that worked together on the case.
"The arrest comes through the collaboration of the Riverton Police Department, the Fremont County Coroner's Office, the Division of Criminal Investigation and the FBI," Bennett said Tuesday. "Those four agencies put the time and effort in putting the case together against Mr. Jagers, which resulted in his arrest today.
"All I can really say is it's truly because of the interagency collaboration," he continued. "It was probably far more scrutiny than that case has ever had."
Bennett said the working agencies put together the case and presented it to him.
"It was determined by my office now was the time to file charges," he said. "Had it not been for those four agencies working together, we probably wouldn't have charges today."
Bennett was unsure when Jagers, who was taken into custody at his home, would make a court appearance in Fremont County.
"It's hard to say because it depends on extradition," he said.
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