YPSILANTI, Mich. – It was a chance for one family from Michigan to get closure. Police called the death a ‘murder for money’ and the media in Florida called the ‘truck stop murder’.
The case connected a couple from West Michigan to a killing in Central Florida and it took police 9-months to solve it.
It started in April 2013, a woman’s body, badly decomposed was found behind a truck stop in Wildwood, FL. It took facial reconstruction imaging and fingerprint analysis to find out the woman was reported missing out of Kentucky around the same time.
She was called a ‘Jane Doe’ but she was really ‘Jane Wever’ from Coldwater, Michigan. The man she was with, Ralph Penrod, is now charged with her murder.
The family of Wever said they are grateful the mystery is over but insist it could have happened sooner.
Matha Jane Wever is known by friends and family as Jane. Wever lost her husband Butch to cancer a few years ago but kept in close contact with his family over the years.
“Once you were family, you were family,” said Wever’s sister-in-law, Marilyn Hart. “You were connected with Jane for life. That is just the way it was.”
So when Wever stopped calling Hart in March, her family started calling the police.
“I had to know where she was at,” said Hart. “There was no way I could rest until I had some kind of answers.”
All they knew was Jane had reunited with a former friend from Coldwater, Ralph Penrod, and the pair had left for Kentucky.
“That’s when I said let’s put old ‘Hound-dog-Heidi’ on it,” she said. “She is relentless and she stirred up a lot of dirt.”
Heidi Rumberger is Wever’s neice. She said she wanted to get her family some answers. “They’ve been hanging by a string for seven months with no answers and no results.”
At the same time the family was searching in Kentucky for Wever, a sketch of the murder victim was released in Florida, hoping to identify the woman found behind the truck stop.
Through a series of Facebook conversations with Wever’s friends, the family began to piece together that she and Ralph were together in Florida.
Then Wednesday, when they saw a Penrod led away in handcuffs, their suspicions were confirmed.
“Now knowing where someone is is a lot worse than actually finding out than finding out what happens so you can have some closure,” said Rumberger.
Penrod was charged with Wever’s murder. Police found him at his home, just miles from the truck stop. The motive appears to be money.
“She’s dead and you shot her and killed her and left her there and now you are cashing her checks continuously every month,” said Rumberger. “That’s inhumane. That’s not human.”
The family can’t help but wonder; What if police in Kentucky had listened to them sooner?
“It might not have saved her life but it might have saved a lot of people a lot of grief and it might have been preserved a lot of evidence,” said Hart.
Rumberger is now putting her efforts into changing the laws. She wants to create an Amber Alert system for missing adults.
“I’m not going to stop until I get a law passed,” she said. “That is my promise to Jane.”
The family is speaking out now to encourage others that may be searching for a lost loved one to never stop speaking out. They said you never know when someone will start to listen.