Fort Myers man arrested for killing his wife in 1979

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
John Bayerl – Photo courtesy of Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

Lee County Sheriff’s Office helped make an arrest in a 40-year-old cold case murder investigation.

On Tuesday, LCSO worked with Muskego Police Department from Wisconsin to arrest John Bayerl, 78, at his home in Fort Myers for First Degree Murder.

Bayerl is accused of killing his wife Dona Mae Bayerl, related to her May 6, 1979 disappearance. Dona Mae disappeared 40 years ago when she was 38 years old. Bayerl and his wife lived in Wisconsin with their two children who were 7 years old and 4 years old at the time.  

Bayerl originally told City of Muskego Police Department his wife had stormed out of their home on Fennimore Lane and never returned home.  

Bayerl was granted a divorce from Dona Mae in 1980.  

In 1986 Dona Mae was legally declared dead. The investigation by Muskego police ran cold, but the department never closed its investigation, and Bayerl remained a person of interest. At that point, the case was reclassified from a missing person to a homicide.  

According to the MPD press release, the charge against John Bayerl is an accusation only and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. 

WDJT Milwaukee (CBS58) reported Bayerl having violent and abusive tendencies toward his partners as described by former wives before and after Dona Mae.

On Wednesday, Bayerl waived extradition to Wisconsin and is being held in the Waukesha County Jail without bond.

Muskego police are asking anyone with more information to come forward, as Dona Mae’s body has never been found.

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