Jill K. Behrman (b.1981 - d.circa May 31st, 2000) was a 19 year old Bloomington resident and Indiana University student who disappeared on the morning of May 31, 2000 while riding her bike. Behrman was a 1999 graduate of Bloomington High School South and an experienced bicyclist. Her disappearance triggered a massive search and media effort, which continued for three years. Behrman's partial remains were found March 9, 2003 in a wooded area near Warthen Road in Morgan County. Although a confession was obtained in the case in 2002 from Ellettsville resident Wendy Owings, it was later recanted, leading to the controversial arrest and conviction of Ellettsville man John R. Myers II.
The morning she disappeared, Behrman left her parents' Hyde Park home for a short bike ride before work. She was expected to meet her father and grandfather for a late lunch that afternoon and did not arrive. The next day she was reported as missing by her parents. Behrman became the subject of a nationally publicized media campaign, with her story appearing on America's Most Wanted, Unsolved Mysteries and Greta Van Susteren's program "Crime Scene" on Fox News Channel. The show was titled "Murder in the Heartland."
The Bloomington community and surrounding areas spent much time and effort in the search for Behrman. Notably, in 2002 a large portion of the north fork of Salt Creek was dammed in the search for her. Despite search efforts, Behrman would not be found until March 2003 in a wooded area near the intersection of Warthen and Duckworth roads in Morgan County. It would be October 2006 before a conviction was obtained against Myers.
The Confession of Wendy K. Owings
Wendy K. Owings confessed to FBI Agent Gary Dunn on March 22, 2002, implicating herself and two others. Also implicated by Owings were Uriah J. Clouse and Alisha T. Evans(Sowders). Clouse, Owings and Evans had been named as suspects as early as June 2000, less than a month after the disappearance, based on comments they had each separately made to others regarding Behrman.
The day following the confession, investigators began a search of Salt Creek, the location Owings said Behrman's body was placed. That search was cut short by flooding, and was resumed in July and August 2002 after flood waters subsided. During these searches a large sheet of industrial plastic was found, consistent to that mentioned by Owings. On September 9, 2002 a large portion of Salt Creek was drained in the search effort. That effort yielded another sheet of industrial plastic, a bungee cord and a knife, also consistent with items mentioned by Owings. The search of Salt Creek ended, however, without the discovery of Behrman's remains.
At that point, Agent Dunn compiled a Probable Cause Affidavit detailing the confession, the search, and the results of the the search and presented it to prosecutors, but charges were not filed. Owings, Clouse and Evans all were administered polygraph examinations, and when asked if they had knowledge of Behrman's disappearance, the exam indicated that Owings was not showing deception when she stated that she did. Evans and Clouse were found to be showing deception when they answered the same questions with negative answers.
However, Owings later recanted her confession, and Carl Salzmann, then Monroe County Prosecutor, declined to pursue charges against the three.
The Arrest and Conviction of John R. Myers II
With the discovery of Behrman's remains, attention shifted away from Owings, Clouse and Evans, and onto Ellettsville resident John Myers. Myers was arrested April 9, 2006 and charged with the murder of Jill Behrman. The prosecution presented a case that was, admittedly, circumstantial. Previously, the theory investigators had been utilizing was that Behrman rode her bike south of town that day, which was consistent with the discovery of a white water bottle identical to the one she carried on the frame of her bike and eyewitness accounts. In particular, she was spotted by a former classmate riding on Harrell Road, near the area where the water bottle was found.
However, Behrman's bike was discovered within a mile of Myers' residence in a hayfield owned by local farmer Joe Peden. The new theory investigators employed was that she had ridden her bike north of town, Myers spotted her from the interior of his home, and in a fit of rage over the break-up of his relationship with another woman he left his home, abducted Behrman and subsequently murdered her. Although dogs were used to aid in the search for Behrman at the time of her disappearence, no scent of Behrman was detected north of the bike dump site across from Peden's hayfield gate on N. Maple Grove Road.
The prosecution said, although offering no evidence, that Myers spotted Behrman near the intersection of Lost Man's Lane and North Maple Grove Road; this intersection is south of the hayfield gate. No evidence was offered as to how Myers forced Behrman into his red Honda CRX and loaded her bike into the small car. No claim has been made that Myers took her to his trailer, located 0.9 miles NW of the hayfield gate on West Maple Grove Road, near the Blucher-Poole Sewage Plant. Myers offered to take a polygraph exam, however that offer was refused.
Due to extensive media coverage of the case, Myers' attorney asked that the trial be moved to the southern end of the state. That request was denied, and it proceeded in Morgan County. Other controversial points concerning the trial were that evidence technician Jason Fajt was called to testify as a witness for the defense about evidence found in Behrman's bedroom, but he was unable to answer any questions as he was not present when Behrman's room was searched. The evidence technician who collected the evidence had moved to another state. Patrick Baker, the attorney representing Myers, opted to present very little in the way of a defense, stating that the State had not proven its case. Concerns also arose over juror conduct during the trial. Jurors were allowed to drink alcoholic beverages, access to cell phones and televisions and conducted themselves in a manner described by one juror as a "fraternity party like" atmosphere. Despite the lack of evidence, the jury returned a guilty verdict in less than one hour. Myers is currently appealing the verdict to the Indiana State Supreme Court.
In Jill's Memory
In honor of Behrman, Jill's House was built. Jill's House is a home for cancer patients undergoing treatment at the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute in Indiana. It opened in 2008. Additionally, the Jill Behrman Run for the End Zone, a 5K run/walk, began in October 2000 and has continued since.
- Herald Times,
- The Indy Channel,
- State vs. John R. Myers Trial Transcript, Probable Cause Affidavit of FBI Agent Gary Dunn