The triple murders at the Mathis farm in rural Mount Vernon happened 30 years ago today.
That grim anniversary provided a hook for us to take a fresh look at the most well-known unsolved homicides in the area. At least officially unsolved; the law enforcement community felt that the right man was arrested and charged.
But John Wayne Mathis, now 60 years old, was found not guilty by a Yankton County jury in May 1982, so he was free and could never be tried again.
However, Mathis’ life has not been very successful since the deaths of his wife and two oldest sons. He owned and operated a thriving hog operation then and farmed land near his place.
Mathis has never remarried, has been ostracized by the people of his community and now works for a neighboring farm operation. For a man found not guilty, he has paid a price for the killings that occurred at his home.
I was an SDSU senior when the killings and trial took place and recall it all, with many of the details lodged in my memory. A lot of people have told me they also remember it vividly.
Here’s the story. Feel free to share your memories and views on it and the case.