Cora Jones: 20 years later
In the Aug. 28 issue of the Waupaca County Post, reporter Greg Seubert launches a two-week series of articles on the abduction and murder of 12-year-old Cora Jones in September 1994.
To commemorate this tragic event, Seubert interviewed the victim’s family, officers who investigated the case and reporters who covered it. His multiple articles and photos provide an in-depth account of Cora Jones’ life and how her death impacted the community.
Cora Jones timeline
• Dec. 8, 1981: Cora Jones is born in Neenah to Rick and Vicki Jones. A birth defect leads to the removal of one of her kidneys at age 3 and she undergoes two major surgeries.
• Sept. 5, 1994: Cora, who had just started seventh grade at Weyauwega-Fremont Middle School, disappears Labor Day while riding her bicycle near her grandmother’s town of Dayton home south of Waupaca. Her bicycle is found along Sanders Road, just south of Rural Road. Friends and relatives search for her for more than two hours before notifying the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Department at 4:50 p.m. Nearly 200 volunteers and a light aircraft look for Cora until authorities call off the ground search because of darkness. The first batch of flyers with Cora’s photo and description are distributed.
• Sept. 6, 1994: The search for Cora resumes at 7 a.m. and a command post is set up at Parfreyville United Methodist Church. An FBI agent is also on the scene, as well as an estimated 500 volunteers.
• Sept. 8-9, 1994: The search for Cora continues without a single clue turning up. Then-sheriff William Mork announces the ground search is being called off, with the concurrence of Cora’s parents.
• Sept. 10, 1994: Two Antigo area hunters – Chad Mullis and Carl Bostwick – find Cora’s body at 2:30 p.m. along Forest Road in Langlade County, about 15 miles northwest of Antigo and about 90 miles north of where her bicycle was found five days earlier. The hunters are driving through the area to set up deer stands and spot her body in a weed-filled ditch.
• Sept. 11, 1994: Rick and Vicki Jones tell a gathering of volunteer searchers at Waupaca’s Trinity Lutheran Church that Cora has been found. Hundreds of people gather at the church that night for what had been planned as a prayer service for Cora’s safety. Instead, it becomes a focal point of community support for the grieving family.
• Sept. 12, 1994: The search for Cora’s killer intensifies, with the FBI formally entering the case.
• Sept. 14, 1994: Cora’s funeral is held at Trinity Lutheran Church in Waupaca.
• Nov. 2, 1994: Authorities investigating Cora’s murder execute three search warrants in Richland County and question a 41-year-old man about the case. Charges are not filed in connection with Cora’s disappearance.
• Nov. 14, 1994: A Combined Locks man apprehends a burglary subject trying to break into the man’s home. Authorities note the car of the burglary suspect, David Spanbauer of Oshkosh, matches the description of the vehicle involved in a July 3, 1994, attempted abduction near Hartman Creek State Park, as well as recent sexual assaults in Appleton. The homeowner chases and tackles Spanbauer and holds him until police arrive.
• Nov. 18, 1994: Spanbauer confesses to Cora’s kidnapping and murder; the July 9, 1994, shooting death of Trudi Jeschke, 21, of Appleton; and the kidnapping and murder of Ronelle Eichstedt, 10, of Ripon. Eichstedt had disappeared Aug. 23, 1992, while riding her bicycle near her home. Her body was found Sept. 30, 1992, in an Iowa County farm field, about 100 miles from her home.
• Nov. 28, 1994: Langlade County District Attorney Ralph Uttke files kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree homicide charges against Spanbauer in connection with Cora’s death.
• Dec. 8, 1994: Spanbauer pleads guilty or no contest in Outagamie County Circuit Court – on what would have been Cora’s 13th birthday – to several consolidated charges from five counties, including kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing Cora and Eichstedt; fatally shooting Jeschke during a burglary attempt at an Appleton home; attempting to kidnap an Illinois woman July 3 near Hartman Creek State Park; committing two rapes and several home burglaries in Appleton; and attempting to burglarize a Combined Locks home.
• Dec. 20, 1994: Outagamie County Circuit Court Judge James Bayorgeon sentences Spanbauer to the maximum sentence – three life terms plus 403 years of imprisonment – for 18 crimes. He receives 68 years for Cora’s murder.