Robbery possible motive in St. Clair slaying

Robbery was the likely motive in the Thursday night or Friday morning murder of St. Clair Avenue resident, according to her father, James McGowan of Manlius, New York. Jayne Warren McGowan was found shot to death inside the house she had recently rented by two co-workers who had gone to check on her Friday afternoon, after she failed to show up for work at the AIDS/HIV Services Group.

"There's no question about that," says McGowan of the robbery. He says Charlottesville police told him and Jayne's mother, Signe, that in addition to the theft of Jayne's car, her computer was also taken as well as any cash that may have been in her purse. Earlier this evening, police– a full 24-hours after they first responded– were still sifting through evidence in the house at 807 St. Clair Ave. In front of the house, a police van idled in the driveway behind yellow crime scene tape, and investigators in blue gloves could be seen entering and leaving the house. A bouquet of 13 pink roses lay next to the mailbox.

McGowan, reached by the Hook at home in upstate New York this evening, recalls his daughter as "just a good person, generous with her time and talents, friendly, with a great circle of friends." The youngest of three girls– the older two 28-year-old twins– Jayne was a soccer player who loved the outdoors and was excited to be back in Charlottesville, where she'd lived as a UVA undergrad until her graduation in 2003 and where she had recently returned after several years in D.C. But more than any hobby, her father says, "she loved people."

A day after he learned of her death, he is stunned by the loss.

"It's a stupid and senseless thing to take such a beautiful and talented person from us," he says. "From all of us. The world needs more people like her."

Jayne had been hired as development coordinator for the AIDS/HIV Services Group just three months ago, and her first big assignment had been to plan the 20th Anniversary Gala, taking place tonight at the Monticello Event and Conference Center on Monticello Avenue. Though ASG executive director Kathy Baker said the organization had considered cancelling in the wake of Jayne's death, the McGowan family encouraged them to hold the event as planned in honor of Jayne and the months of planning and work she had put into it.

By 7pm, the space was decorated with tall vases and overflowing trays of food on each of a dozen or so tables. In a second room, items to be auctioned off– including a flat-screen TV, a mountain bike, and a three night stay in a Dupont Circle condo– were displayed, and dozens of guests mingled. While Jayne's coworkers smiled and greeted guests, Jayne was not far from their minds as a photo of her sat on a table near the entry.

"This was her baby, this is what she was hired to do," says ASG educator Alicia Townes of the event, recalling Jayne staying late into the night over the last several weeks to prepare.

Townes says the two concerned co-workers (not police, as earlier reported) who went to look for Jayne on Friday, looked through her window and could see "something was wrong," says Townes. One went inside and called 911. Both were too distraught to speak publicly, Townes said.

Townes says she and Jayne were "very different"– Jayne was a blond UVA sorority girl, while Townes, who is black, says she's "nothing like that." But a friendship blossomed nonetheless. Jayne "always approached me," says Townes, "always found common ground with me."

Jayne, Townes says, was also able to transition quickly from bawdy jokes in the office to giving polished presentations for fundraising purposes. "Everyone was impressed with her demeanor," says Townes.

Police are still looking for Jayne McGowan's gold Nissan Sentra, Virginia license plate AED-2522, and have warned that the suspects should be considered armed and dangerous.

If robbery is the motive in this crime, it would not be the first time a downtown break-in has occurred with the occupants at home. In July, a couple in the 1100 block of Park Street were victims of a home invasion in which they were brutalized and robbed. Police did not return the Hook's calls for comment on any possible link between that incident and this week's murder.

27 comments

Too bad the Police department has to waste so much time pushing girls to the Ground and arresting their boyfriends for cussing downtown.

Hopefully the other Officers will realize this and ask the chief to clean up the force so that it has the respect of the citizens... and the criminals.

INSIDE TRACK,

Don't hurt yourself patting yourself on the back. Let's not forget that a young life was lost.

quote -- "If we wait for the city or police to tell us anything, well, we'll just keep waiting, and we'll hear nothing, I guess."

What else is new? :)

You only know a very small portion of what's going on in the St Clair Avenue, Locust Avenue, and Park Street area. The thugs are busting the area wide open. And it seems they have graduated to murder now. It will only get worse.

i'm not sure if jayne's family is reading the articles in the va papers. i've been dowloading them to save for my uncle. i only had the honor of meeting jayne twice. a couple of years ago. but she (and the rest of her family made an impression on us) .the first time i met jayne was the bridal shower for her older sister. the second, the weekend her older sister married my favorite cousin.

in those two short times it was easy to see what a warm, caring person she was. so full of life. just talking to her and the way she interacted with everyone, her infectious smile, you knew what a caring heart she had. we knew from the short conversations we had with her, she was someone who wanted (and did) to make a difference in the world. just talking to her you'd want to smile!

My friend's new car was recently broken into (along with several others that, apparently, did not make the news) and she still feels violated and is discouraged after being told by police that it's a fairly common ocurrence, so she's wondering if the perps will be apprehended and prosecuted. She knows Jayne and this has made her feel even more fearful. btw, what ever happened to the arson investigation of the 2 houses in Belmont? How many break-ins are there we are not hearing about? Enough already!

My condolences to a women who was doing so much to help her community and others less fortunate.

Thanks for being the only source of information on this story. When were the police going to inform local residents about the robbery motive? Are they going to let us know if they're planning to increase patrols in the area? How can they help reassure residents that their community is safe? What HAS happened in the investigation of the Park St. home invasion -- any progress? Maybe if you ask the questions, we'll get the answers. If we wait for the city or police to tell us anything, well, we'll just keep waiting, and we'll hear nothing, I guess.

Could we get a police blotter section?

It seems like there are a lot of people coming forward here with crime reports for that neighborhood.

What about the other neighborhoods and the people not online here....it must be a huge amount of crime going on.

What do you think? Would it be possible or just way too many incidents to list. The fire departments have online access where you can see fire dept service call by date/street/address, what about PD calls for service?

I posted in the other story. I am Jayne's first cousin, and was at her parents house last night. There is still a lot of confusion, but the outpouring of love and support is greatly appreciated. Jayne was truly a wonderful person to be around for any instance!

Uncle Jon: My family has been boycotting downtown for some time now over the many unresolved issues we continue to have with crime and the indigenous underclass right here in Charlottesville.

My sincere condolences to your family.

As I said above, this case was a no-brainer. Based on where the car was abandoned alone. Stupid crime, stupid criminals. The suspects might as well have said, "We left the car right here, we live closeby!" Nobody ever accused criminals of being smart.

From WINA.... a pair of arrests have been made in last week's murder of 26-year-old Jayne McGowan. Two men ¢Ã¢â??¬” 22-year-old William Douglas Gentry, Jr. and 18-year-old Michael Stuart Pritchett, both of Caroline Street ¢Ã¢â??¬” have been charged with capital murder and are being held at the jail. Caroline St. is quite near to where the victim's car was found, and also near to the victim's home. A pair of handguns were found, which they believe were used in the crime, and police say that more evidence is being sought.

Damn, I'm good! :)

quote Inside Track, Nov 11, 2007 = "Relax, Colorado. While I would be the last person in town to argue your assessment of the police department, this was a stupid crime committed by stupid people ¢Ã¢â??¬” based upon where the car was found. They will have somebody in custody in just a few days."

I'll second the call for this. What is going on? The police held a press conference today, and what did we learn? Has there been any reassurance to the general public that police are trying to make our neighborhoods safer? Perhaps the neighborhood associations need to band together and ask for a meeting with police, this week. And from there, perhaps we all need to find a way to keep track of crime in our city. I had no idea there were other break-ins in the neighborhood, hadn't seen this reported anywhere, hadn't heard anyone talk about it. There must be a better way to stay informed. A blog? A listserv? If The Hook can help, great.

Jayne was a new friend of mine. I hadn't known her long, but it didn't take long for Jayne's kind heart and infectious smile to win me over. I saw her, talked to her on the phone, exhanged several emails just this week. She was an angel on earth. If you knew her, you know what I mean. If you didn't, take a look around. I suspect there are more angels amoung us. If there is one lesson I've learned from this tragedy, its that I need to slow down and take the time to see the goodness in the people around me. I promise I'll do it Jayne. Thank you for that. I'm a better person having known you.

this is a horrible, horrible tragedy, and so many of us in charlottesville are distraught over the loss of such a truly wonderful person. jayne is not the type who would ever make enemies-- anyone who knew her for even the briefest time would pick up on that right away.

jayne was always smiling, always laughing-- she always had a way of making other people feel welcome and at ease. she was truly a selfless person; always so warm toward others. she made friends fast for so many reasons. her best attribute was her sense of humor. she could laugh at anything. i know how much she looked forward to returning to charlottesville-- she loved it here, and she was an asset to our university and to the larger community.

jayne you will be missed so much. we will never forget you. thank you for always being so kind to me and so welcoming. i cannot believe youre not here anymore. sometimes the world makes no sense. i am worried about your family. i know you are in a better a place. heaven will be a happier place with you there. love you.

What are you people missing?

A Death happened.

Let's morn someone's death, and celebrate their life.

God Speed!

Let's celebrate this lovely person's life.

Jayne was a great person, and I didn't know her.

Get it?
Yes love someone love life!

y

Life? we love it....regardless of there origin!

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First of all thank you to all, friends,strangers,etc.. for your thoughts and prayers. I can only hope that WHEN they catch these/the #%&%*&#&%#@%$#&*^%$# who did this they be punished severely,no excuses. People who do this to other people, let alone a petite young woman , are cowards and spineless. If this is an on going problem as I have read, dont sit around and wait for the gov`t (police,judges), take charge,pay attention and talk to your neighbors. You should see my neighborhood now, all I hear from any unsavorys passing through is ,yes sir and no sir.

I live a few blocks away from Jayne and was saddened to hear about another tragedy in our neighborhood. A few weeks ago my house as well as one other were broken into and many items taken. A car was stolen at the other house and it (as well as the other belongings) were eventually tracked down, and the theif apprehended. It scares me that so many things are happening in what I feel is a nice neighborhood. I can only hope that they find the culprit and justice is served.

Neighbor, read reply #3 above. As I said up there, you guys and girls don't know the half of what's taking place in the neighborhood. Furthermore, can you imagine what would happen to the property values if the real rate of crime in the Locust Avenue and Park Street areas was publicized?

AJ, Mr Morman is correct. Releasing any information about the missing computer was a very bad move. This is probably why the city police will neither confirm or deny the computer is missing. Ten years ago this seemed to be one of the safest areas in the city to live in. Sure did change all of a sudden. I saw a big change when Officer Phil Waufle retired recently. While most people felt Phil was just a big goofball, he used to patrol the streets in the neighborhood all day long. Like Colorado said above, Phil wasnt out looking for Silvas and Austins to toss around and arrest. He was out there looking for real criminals and threats to the neighborhood.

SAD, don't be hating on me (always liked that phrase :) ) because I called this case so quickly and so accurately. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out kids are lazy nowadays. I'm sure the worst detective in the police department could have figured this out. No way they were going to abandon the car on the other side of town and walk home.

And yes, a very lovely and caring person was lost to this senseless crime. Condolences to the family. The entire city feels and shares their pain and sorrow.

Such a sad loss. If victim's family is reading this, please be careful about releasing details to the media....

"in addition to the theft of Jayne's car, her computer was also taken as well as any cash that may have been in her purse."

The police did not release that to the media. The computer, when logged on, could pinpoint a location of the perp or perhaps someone who bought the computer. Releasing details such as the computer makes it likely that the computer will be destroyed and never re-surface.

God Bless.

I grew up with Jayne's mother...1st grade through graduation. Jayne looks just like her mom did. I was sickened by the news. I only hope that the outpouring of grief and love that I and many many others feel will in some small way help them through this. I have three daughters of my own..i can't even imagine the pain. I am so so sorry. May God bless all of you and give you strength.

Relax, Colorado. While I would be the last person in town to argue your assessment of the police department, this was a stupid crime committed by stupid people -- based upon where the car was found. They will have somebody in custody in just a few days.