The Days Inn Murders: Jeanne Gilbert

Jeanne GilbertJeanne Marie Gilbert 34, has spent her entire life in Jasper County, Indiana. The past few years haven’t been easy for this recently divorced, beautiful mother of twelve year-old Scott and seventeen year-old high school senior Kimberly. She and the kids are living in the small town of Rensselaer, twelve miles north of Remington. Family is her foundation, she has no plans of moving away from her parents, Andy and Patricia Mitchell. Even in 1989, most households need a second income support a family. For the last five years she’s earned a decent living as the bookkeeper at Carter Oil Supply. She just don’t want to “just get by” anymore. Still raw from the divorce, she wasn’t entertaining the idea of depending on someone else either. Jeannie was determined to make a better life for herself and make sure Kim and Scott have more opportunities than she had.

Like Peggy Gill, Jeanne was furthering her education. Studying business at St. Joseph’s College was pretty exciting. Her daughter Kim had enrolled in a few classes with her and was set to graduate high school in just a few months. When had been the bookkeeper for the Unocal 76 Truck Stop off I-65 in Remington years ago, Jeanne started moonlighting at the Remington Days Inn motel across the road.

“She was quite capable. One of the best in the office I’ve ever seen”, Ronald Moore, manager of the restaurant at the ’76’ recalled the day her body was found.

Described as an outgoing, attractive blonde who a few described as a bit ‘different’, always laughing and fun. While she worked during the day as a bookkeeper at Carter Oil Supply, Inc- she worked part-time nights at the Remington Days Inn. She was popular in the community and well liked for her bubbly and outgoing personality.

 

Background Information

Fifty-two miles from the Merrillville Days Inn southbound on I-65 is Remington, a small one-and-a-half square mile town in Jasper County, Indiana. With 1,200 residents, it is the halfway point between Chicago and Indianapolis, ninety miles north and south respectively. As soon as you get off on exit 201 you turn right onto US-24 west and you’re immediately on what feels like small micro island in a sea of farmland, a typical traveler’s oasis in the middle of nowhere. It’s as busy as the Big Apple. On the right is a Pilot Flying J truck stop followed by a Shell/Petro Truck Stop Shopping Center with an Iron Skillet restaurant and semi parking behind it. Directly across the street from these two massive truck stops is Family Express pizza place and gas station.

Separated by a green strip just a couple of feet wide from the Petro, is 4252 US-24, the Sunset Inn- formerly the Remington Days Inn. Behind the Sunset Inn is a parking lot for semis. Next to Sunset Inn separated by a shared road is a Super 8 and KFC. Across from the Sunset Inn is a typical McDonald’s with a semi lot next to it.

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Satellite image of exit 201 off I-65 as it looks today. The Pilot Flying J has been completed since. In 1989, the property where the Pilot Flying J is, was just cornfield. The McDonald’s, Motel Super 8 and KFC didn’t exist.

Then nothing. Just farmland. For most coming through, that’s all of Remington.

A mile down US-24 felt like a time warp fifty years in the past- the town of Remington. It could easily pass for Smallville, home of Clark Kent. Aside from a modern Dollar General and maybe Casey’s, everything really seems from another era. The homes are in great condition. Mom & Pop shops still exist, even a grocer. A local suggested, “post a picture[of Remington] today on Facebook and say it’s an old postcard of 1950 Kansas”.

To be honest, no one would question it.

My plan was to just go a mile back and look at the old Days Inn and get an idea of what the scene of the crime would have looked like in 1989. Glad I stopped. I quickly learned though just a moment of conversation with this young lady, while Jasper County officially is in the Central Time Zone, Remington residents unofficially recognize Eastern Standard Time because their schools are in the White County School District. White County is officially in the Eastern Time Zone.

No matter how you get your true crime fix, be it books, shows or podcasts, it really leaves out one of the most important things- the community around it. While polite, most folks seem disinterested. My first thought, I’m asking about a thirty year-old cold case. So they must think I’m some wannabe cop or a weirdo.

But I was wrong.

I met a gentleman about twenty years my senior I’ll call “Bill” and his son “Wayne” who was just a couple years older than me. Bill thought I was “talking about Delphi” before we settled on Jeanne. Then I realized, the horrific murders of Liberty German and Abigail Williams was still very fresh.

Delphi, Indiana, was less than thirty miles from where Jeanne Gilbert was abducted. Eerily, where Jeanne’s body was found, just outside of Brookston, was twelve miles from Delphi.

“I’m not from New York, but I think 9/11 touched everyone. It touched me. Right after it happened, you don’t know what the hell is going on. Who? Why? People around here aren’t use to that stuff… But they snatched that young woman, one of us… right from her job, right here in my town. Then dumped her in a field, right here, right down the road from us”, Bill said trying to make sense of it.

He tried to sum it up as best he could, “You tell your kids, grow up, monsters aren’t real. They’re real. Maybe little kids got more sense than us. Now those women, that was a long time ago and just as soon it dies down with time… a monster came and got those two little girls”.

In many ways, its just that simple. Something comes out of the night or out of nowhere and leaves carnage. Then it’s gone. Nothing is the same.

The Remington Days Inn was smaller than the Merrillville location. The front office was across the road from the restaurant where the Iron Skillet is now in. It’s been close to thirty years and things have changed, but not much. This little area is rather busy in the late afternoon and truckers stay the night in the back lots. The Pilot Flying J has recently been built just in the last few years.

 

Timeline of Events

The evening of March 2, 1989, in Remington, Indiana, was icy and cold- the temperature had just fallen under 24°F around 10 p.m. Jeanne Gilbert was not scheduled to work this evening, but she switched shifts with a co-worker so she could attend the final sectional game that her daughter Kim was a cheerleader in. Kimberly Gilbert Wright recalled in an interview with WLFI on the 28th anniversary of her mother’s murder, “The sound of her voice, the goodbye she gave me when she was leaving for work that night, I remember everything”.

Jeanne arrived at work at 11 p.m. and was scheduled until 8 a.m.. The 2nd shift clerk left at midnight as scheduled. The Remington Days Inn was much smaller than it’s Merrillville counterpart. In 1989, Remington was just a quick stop off I-65. A little bit off just off exit 201 on US-24 was Unocal 76 Truck Stop and Restaurant(now a Petro Truck Stop and Iron Skillet) and across a small shared street and lot was the Remington Days Inn. Across US-24 from the Unocal 76 Truck Stop was another gas station and then nothing, a sea of farmland. The town of Remington was another mile down the road.

The night was uneventful. Jeanne was attending classes and would spend this time getting some school work completed in a side room of the registration office- that faced the Unocal 76 Restaurant across the road.

It is important to note that these times listed as Eastern Standard Time. Sunrise for Remington is 6:21 a.m. EST(5:21 a.m. CST). While Jasper County officially in the Central Time Zone, Remington residents go by EST. White County is in the Eastern Time Zone.

I juxtaposed CST next to EST for reference with the murder of Peggy Gill.

Friday March 3, 1989, at 5:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. CST)- Jeanne Gilbert makes a courtesy wake up call to a guest at 4:30 a.m.. According to Jasper County Sheriff Steven Reames, the guest felt there was “nothing unusual about the call, but is someone who doesn’t know Jeanne Gilbert and did not check in with her. They never once interacted”. I find this statement unusual from Sheriff Reames, but more on that later.

What Jeanne Gilbert doesn’t know? A sadistic killer is on his way or even already there. In a few moments he’ll be entering the registration office.

We will never know exactly how their encounter first unfolded in the office. Sometimes I wonder, did he attack her immediately? Did he try to act like her friend to put her at ease before he hurt her? I’ve always believed that if the worse is going to happen, I’d at least want to see it coming. Then again, would I really?

Between 5:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. (4:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.)-

In 2001, Detective Sgt. Herb Clear of the Indiana State Police re-iterates the 1990, theory about what happened in the registration office with Jeanne Gilbert. It is believed that her abductor entered the registration office while she was reading/doing homework in the side office. She exits to speak with him or he blitz attacks her, controls her, pries the cash register open and locks the lobby door. He then takes her out the steel exterior door in the side office to his vehicle.

They leave the area heading south on I-65 and take exit 188, IN-18 to Brookston. It is noted that this is the first exit without hotels/gas/food.

According to Det. Sgt. Clear, the Task Force that includes agents from Merrillville PD, Jasper County Sheriff Office, Lake County Sheriff, Indiana State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the general consensus is that the sexual assault and murder of Jeanne Gilbert does not occur in the office or on the grounds of the motel.

Jasper County Sheriff Steven Reames offers ‘alternative theories and timelines’ such as there are two attackers. It is also his belief for some time that Jeanne Gilbert is abducted after 6:30 a.m. (5:30 a.m. CST).

Approximately 6:30 a.m. (5:30 a.m. CST)- Just after sunrise, a farmer states that he heard “a quick succession of gunshots” nearby.

When asked if he could guess how many?

“Two. Two quick shots”.

Approximately 6:30 a.m. (5:30 a.m. CST)-  White County school bus driver witnesses a “tan colored recent model Toyota window van with it’s lights on heading westbound on CR- West 700S near IN-43”

Shortly before 7:00 a.m. (6:00 a.m. CST)- Jasper County Sheriff’s Office receives multiple calls from customers staying the the Remington Days Inn on US-24. They’re attempting to check out and resume travel. The door to the registration office is locked and “cannot find an employee”.

Between 7:02 and 7:05 a.m. (6:02 and 6:05 a.m. CST)- White County school bus driver calls the Indiana State Police and reported “a nude body on County Road 150W, just south of County Road 900S”. Indiana State Police dispatched a unit and contacts the White County Sheriff’s Department notifying them of the call they received. Brookston Town Marshal Sam White hears White County Sheriff’s Department dispatch a deputy to White CR South 150W and West 900S for a possible deceased person.

It’s important to note that at this moment in time, Jasper County Sheriff Office is handling the “missing employee” call for the Remington Days Inn and the Indiana State Police dispatched a State Trooper and notified White County Sheriff’s Department.

7:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m. CST)- Contradictory statements dispute minor a slight detail of this event. One press release claims that “a farmer discovered a nude female and notified White County Sheriff’s Department”, however,”[sheriff’s department] was already en route”. In a subsequent press release by the same source, “A rural farmer discovered the body of a nude female and contacted the White County Sheriff’s Department who had already arrived on scene looking for the body”.

Approximately 7:45 a.m. (6:45 a.m. CST)- Sharon Krug general manager of the Remington Days Inn arrives at the hotel, deputies and several customers are waiting outside. Statements contradict as to entered the registration lobby first, Days Inn staff or deputies? It is discovered that the cash drawer is pried open and $247 is missing. The side office is then opened. Jeanne Gilbert’s purse, school books, papers and keys to the office are inside.

7:50 a.m. (6:50 a.m. CST)-  The nude clad body of Jeanne Gilbert 34, mother of two, is found about two miles north of IN-18 in the frozen ditch on the east side of County Road 150W in White County; just north of a cluster of houses in the rural area but south of 900S. The body was not concealed.

 

Crime Scene and Immediate Aftermath

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Jeanne Gilbert is believed to have been abducted between 4:30 and 5:00 AM from the Front Office of the Remington Days Inn. Her nude body was later found 19 miles away, near Brookston. Photos courtesy of WLFI

The lobby of the Remington Days Inn was locked. Based on all available information I’ve been able to locate, obtain and been allowed to see, Jasper County Sheriff’s Office had no clue that a body was located in White County by the time they arrived and subsequently entered the Remington Days Inn. Deputies had waited for about twenty minutes until general manager Sharon Krug arrived. It is stated by the press that another employee was on scene waiting to get in, but that employee did not have keys to the lobby. So, she also waited for Sharon Krug with customers and deputies.

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The Front Office is at the back corner of the hotel, visible from the restaurant portion of the Unocal 76 Truck Stop. Despite several patrons in the restaurant around the estimated time Jeanne Gilbert was abducted, no one reported anything unusual. Photos courtesy of WFLI

About 7:45 a.m., the front door to the glass fronted lobby is unlocked by deputies and they enter. The lock to the entrance door to the lobby required a key to both lock and unlock the door from either side. It was easily determined that $247 was missing from the pried open cash register. Audits would later confirm that amount. They enter the side office and the alarm is going off inside. It had been set for 5:00 AM sharp. A steel door from the side office exits to the exterior of the building and it automatically locks when it shuts. Jeanne’s school textbooks are on the desk, one is open and some papers are out. Her purse was behind the counter. On the desk in the side office, are Jeanne’s keys.

About 19 miles southeast of the Remington Days Inn, a mile north of IN-18 on White County Rd 150 West an Indiana State Trooper and White County Deputies have arrived on scene. It is reported that a farmer is there to point them to the body, but it is quite obvious.

Where the body of Jeanne Gilbert is found that fateful morning on White County Road 150 West, Friday March 3, 1989. Left image facing north towards CR-900S, Jeanne would be on the right side of the road just out of the frame on the shoulder. The technician is measuring the distance from her body to CR-900S.  Right image facing south towards the cluster of houses by the tree line. IN-18 is about one mile south.  Photos courtesy of WFLI

Jeanne Gilbert is face down in the frozen ditch, perpendicular to the road. She is nude. Her feet both still had shoes and socks on; they are farthest from the road into the slight ditch pointing towards field. Both hands are under her head/face and is right next to the gravel or asphalt. She was shot three times with a .22. One shot was in the back of her head  behind the left ear. Second was right in the shoulder blade. According to White County Coroner Larry Smith, “the fatal shot entered next to her left breast, went through the lung and pierced her aorta, the body’s main blood vessel”. There were numerous scrapes on her body, believed to be the result of being pulled out of a trunk or van. She had on silver studded earrings and two gold rings. She had been sexually assaulted. DNA is later recovered would match the same perpetrator that murdered Peggy Gill. Despite being shot in the head execution style, her official cause of death is internal blood loss.

Her Days Inn uniform has never been recovered.

Gilbert body location

The route investigators believe the killer(s) took after abducting Jeanne Gilbert and dumping her body 19 miles southeast near Brookston.

Gilbert Body Map 2

Area where Jeanne Gilbert was left at the side of the frozen road. According to press releases and police reports, she was on the east side of the road, just north of the cluster of houses, but just south of CR- W 900 South. Investigators believe the killer was looking for a remote dump site as the sun was quickly rising and residents began their day

 

Evidence and Analysis

When White County Coroner Larry Smith stated that Jeanne Gilbert had scrapes and scratches on her body. This is the same narrative you hear from investigators over the years. It is said she got these getting pulled from a trunk or side of a van and then briefly to the side of the road. The way her body is described by the road, I don’t think a killer is pulling her lifeless body from a trunk or through the side door of a van. I visualize Jeanne Gilbert fighting to stay in the vehicle, grabbing the steering wheel, seat or door- whatever she could grab as he’s trying to pull her out by the waist or her legs. She knew exactly what was about to happen.

Another theory, even more to my horror, is that Jeanne might have briefly been alive after the killer dumped her. Perhaps even crawled slightly closer to the road before dying. Oddly, while investigators don’t outright just say they think Jeanne is dead by the time she is removed from the vehicle, they suggest her being killed elsewhere.

My biggest issue going over Gill/Gilbert’s murders is the poor reporting and editorial standards over the years. Even articles just days apart from the same newspaper and reporter would interchange EST and then CST. While Jasper County officially is in the Central Time Zone, Remington residents follow Eastern Time Zone because their schools are in the White County School District, who is officially in the Eastern Time Zone. Remington businesses followed CST. Very confusing!

Now I have no doubt some folks will feel this is just a tad bit of a overreaction or just me reading way to deep into this, I said earlier I would get back to this , According to Jasper County Sheriff Steven Reames, the guest felt there was “nothing unusual about the call, but is someone who doesn’t know Jeanne Gilbert and did not check in with her. They never once interacted”. 

At first glance, it may seem irrelevant and perhaps some would even go so far as to say that he is “thinking outside the box”. Sorry, it’s conjecture. An unsubstantiated claim. Nothing more. It’s grossly inaccurate and there is no basis or even reason to suspect this is likely or some probability. Actually, if it read the other way around, had this guest said “something sounded wrong”, it would be then something to consider or theorize.

Reames is basically saying “This guest spoke to Jeanne, said nothing sounded unusual, but they’re mistaken. Something was wrong because they don’t know Jeanne Gilbert, they never even interacted”.

So we should assume this was a distress call in the middle of being abducted? Bullshit.

March 6, 1989, Jasper County Sheriff Steven Reames dismissed any possible connection between the Gill/Gilbert murders and Wright/Walton murders back in December. The Task Force’ logically wants to “see what may develop”.

In early 1990, Sheriff Reames was still perpetuating a major contrasting theory against the task force. He still believed that there are two offenders that attacked Peggy and Jeanne. Once again, without evidence supporting it we cannot presume that to be ‘fact’. Now some folks would probably think that maybe it’s “outside the box thinking”, but nothing supported it.

What we do know in fact:

The same single DNA profile is recover from both victims.

The victims are killed with the same single .22 handgun.

Then we have Sharon Krug. She had never given a public statement about Jeanne Gilbert following her murder. When asked directly by the media, she had no comment. Over the years it had been reported by several sources, including two former employees of Krug- that investigators found her “difficult to deal with”.

Like anything else though, perhaps this really needs some context or clarification?

In 2011, I spoke with a former Indiana State Police special investigator (who I’ll call “Dave”) who worked on these cases for a bit in the late nineties. While I understood company legal practices, there was no reason why Sharon Krug couldn’t say something “nice” about Jeanne. Really only Sharon Krug could answer that, but I was told by several people that “some investigators” found Sharon was “difficult to deal with”. While Dave was not involved in the case when it happened(he had been with ISP highway patrol when the murders occurred and then promoted to detective in 1994), he eventually did follow up with Sharon Krug but had nothing to do with “inconsistencies”

“She was really nice, cooperative. Not a problem at all”, Dave further explained, “when investigations first kick off there’s lots of material, evidence, theories, questions and other investigators with their own… it’s a mess. You get everyone’s information, statements, more names and then more statements…on and on. You brainstorming this thing day and night… then suddenly you have a few more questions for them. It could be about her hotel operations, past guests or employees. Something one of them told us now but not back then, so you call and ask them more questions to verify this and that. Pretty standard stuff. It doesn’t help when these cases change hands or agencies, because you’ll call them and ask them to start back at square one and it can be frustrating for them”.

Jeanne’s father Andrew Mitchell, was a respected high ranking official in the local Carpenter’s union. He always felt that the killer either knew Peggy and his daughter through Days Inn or personally. He would echo this theory until his death in 2015.

It has been reported that Indiana State Police managed to locate many of the patrons that were in the Unocal 76 Truck Stop either getting fuel or breakfast around the estimate time of Jeanne’s abduction. None of them reported seeing anything unusual.