Oct 11, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff WriterA man who was implicated in the 1974 disappearance of an Oklahoma resident in the Riverton area has been released from custody.
James Franklin Jagers was freed Aug. 23 under a plea agreement that lowered the charge against him to a misdemeanor.
Officials said Jagers failed to provide meaningful information that would allow the state to proceed with a felony prosecution against him. In addition, the man who allegedly had worked with Jagers had died, further complicating the prosecution.
Charges filed April 2, 2013, accused Jagers of automobile theft and grand larceny for stealing a 1966 Ford LTD car belonging Larry Marvin Morris, 22, of Tulsa, Okla. The theft is alleged to have taken place on or around April 27, 1974 - the last day Morris was seen before his disappearance. He has since been declared deceased.
Jagers was arrested April 2, 2013, in Ohio and extradited
to Wyoming. On Aug. 22, 2013, the Fremont County Attorney's Office filed a lesser larceny charge against Jagers, alleging that, on or about April 27, 1974, Jagers stole less than $100 worth of personal property from Morris.
A person convicted of the misdemeanor larceny charge faces a maximum penalty of six months in prison. The initial charges against Jagers came with a penalty of one to 20 years in prison.
Jagers pleaded guilty to the larceny charge on Aug. 23, when he was sentenced to 144 days in custody - a term that matched exactly his time already served. He was released that same day.
Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett said the conviction was not what his office had been looking for when it filed the charges against Jagers.
"This newest investigation, and prosecution, failed to deliver the desired result," he said, noting the difficulties associated with "this type of endeavor."
He said his office brought charges against Jagers this year because there was probable cause to do so. He added that the window to prosecute Jagers is closing because the defendant is getting old. But Bennett promised to continue working on the case.
"The Fremont County Attorney's Office realizes the importance of bringing closure to the disappearance of Mr. Morris," Bennett said.
Jagers's name has been linked to the Morris case since the Oklahoma man went missing April 27, 1974.
According to court documents, Jagers was released from prison in Canon City, Colo., around March 6, 1974, and his cellmate, Jack Raymond Lincoln, escaped the prison on April 24, 1974.
The two men were arrested on May 8, 1974, in Idaho and found in possession of Morris's identification and credit cards, as well as a rented Ford Mustang. Morris's vehicle was later found in San Francisco, Calif., where Jagers and Lincoln reportedly left it for repairs, using Morris's credit card to rent the Mustang.
A fingerprint on a soda can found in Morris's LTD reportedly matched Lincoln's left index finger. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints on receipts and signatures also connected Jagers and Lincoln to several purchases made with Morris's credit card.
Investigators said Morris, at the time of his disappearance, was said to have been traveling to Yellowstone National Park before his work sent him home to Oklahoma. His credit card was used in Jackson on April 27, 1974, for a gas charge, and the signature on the receipt reportedly did not match Morris's. Transactions on the card traced a route through Nevada, California, Oregon, Idaho and California.
In an interview with the FBI on July 11, 1975, Jagers said he had heard of Morris but didn't' want to talk. Jagers refused to be interviewed multiple times about Morris until May 16, 1983, when the Division of Criminal Investigations reportedly received a letter from the defendant, who was incarcerated on separate charges.
"Jagers offered information regarding Morris in exchange for a transfer to another facility," Phillips said. "During that interview, Jagers stated that Morris is dead and Jagers would be able to show where the body was buried. On a later interview Jagers further stated he could never forget the location and details regarding Morris."
According to The Ranger's archives, Morris transferred to Riverton from Tulsa with the Seismograph Service Corporation. He had been living at the Park Avenue trailer court for a few months prior to his disappearance.
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