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.