Fact File: Jayne McGowan Murder Investigation

Fact File: Jayne McGowan Murder Investigation

Posted: Updated:

November 9, 2007 - After she doesn't show up to work, co-workers go to 26-year-old Jayne McGowan's home on St. Clair Avenue to check on her. They find her shot dead in the living room. They also notice her car is missing.

  • Detectives find no signs of forced entry and cannot locate a gun that might have been used to kill McGowan.

McGowan is believed to have died the day before co-workers found her.

November 10, 2007 - The AIDS Services Group fundraiser McGowan planned goes on without her with members of the organization running the event as she intended it to be.

November 11, 2007 - A resident calls authorities about a car in a wooded area along Fairway Avenue near the Rivanna Trail (behind Caroline Avenue) that fits the description of McGowan's car.

  • Police verify the car is McGowan's.  A forensics unit recovers evidence from the scene and plan to analyze the car in Charlottesville.
  • They say no weapons were visible in the car.

November 12, 2007 - Her suspicious death turns into a murder investigation.

November 13, 2007 - 22-year-old William Douglas Gentry Jr. and 18-year-old Michael Stuart Pritchett, who live on Caroline Avenue, are arrested in connection with McGowan's murder.

They are charged with:

  • Using or attempting to use a firearm during a robbery
  • Entering a home to rape, murder or rob
  • Stealing a laptop and car
  • Killing McGowan willfully and deliberately with premeditation while armed with a deadly weapon.

Both men have prior criminal records. They are set to appear in court on November 29 to schedule a preliminary hearing date.

Police also recover two guns at a house near the road where McGowan's car was found that they believe were used in the murder.

Also, a memorial service in Charlottesville is announced for McGowan, who was a University of Virginia graduate. The service is scheduled for November 18, 2007 at Unitarian Church on Rugby Road and is open to the public.

November 14, 2007 - William Gentry's fiancé gives an exclusive interview to NBC29. She says Gentry was leading a productive life and providing for his family before he was arrested for a crime she says he didn't commit.

Michael Pritchett's grandfather, Herbert Pritchett, also releases a statement expressing regrets to McGowan's family and asking that "people pray very hard for everyone involved."

November 15, 2007 - McGowan's funeral is held in the Syracuse area.

February 1, 2008 - Michael Pritchett appears in Charlottesville General District Cour to waive his right to a preliminary hearing. A trial date will be set February 19 when his case goes to a grand jury.

February 14, 2008 - Gentry appears in Charlottesville General District Court. He waives his right to a preliminary hearing sending his case to a grand jury.

Gentry will go before the grand jury to set a trial date on February 19, the same day as Pritchett.

To read more on the preliminary hearing, including what Gentry's defense attorney said to reporters, click here.

December 15, 2008 - Gentry pleads guilty at an arraignment in Charlottesville Circuit Court. Gentry now admits he shot McGowan three times. In court, a detective read a transcript of a phone call between Gentry and his mother from jail where he admitted to shooting McGowan while he was under the influence of marijuana. He said he never meant to kill her.

His sentencing is scheduled for March 30. The court could send Gentry to prison with three life sentences without parole, plus 13 years for the use of a firearm.

February 5, 2009 - Pritchett's lawyers file two motions with Charlottesville Circuit Court. In the first motion, lawyers asked the court if they could appoint a psychological expert to testify about Pritchett. The judge said he'd accept a list then pick an expert.

In the second motion, the defense asked the judge to grant an ex parte application because the defense wants to be able to talk to the court about certain things without prosecutors present. The judge said he'd need more time to decide on the issue.

His trial is scheduled for June 8.