Halloween night ‘Cain and Abel’ murder of Mark family in Cedar Falls spotlighted

This week A Crime to Remember examines the brutal and shocking murder of Leslie Mark, his wife and their two kids…all carried out by his own brother.

Cedar Falls, Black Hawk County, Iowa, on November 1, 1975, and 25-year-old Les, his 25-year-old wife Jorjean, their 5-year-old daughter Julie and their 2-year-old son Jeff are all shot dead in their sleep.

Their bodies were discovered soon after by Les’s mother Dorothy Mark.  An examination revealed that Les had been shot five times, four in the head and one in the stomach. His wife was shot four times in different parts of her body, including the back. The two children had been shot in the chest and in the eye, with all four dying of their wounds.

At first the police could identify no motive or suspect and were at a loss as to explain the killings, other than that they were related to the house being broken into. Though the nature of the murders made them think the crime might be very personal and that the culprit was probably someone that knew the family well.

However, nobody expected Les’s brother Jerry Mark to be arrested and when he was their were even offers to have him killed from the devastated community. Jerry had been out on a motorcycle ride on the night of the killings and although their were conflicting reports from witnesses, he did lie about his exact route to the police. Saying later that he only did so as he’d not wanted his wife to know about a hitchhiker he’d picked up. The other evidence police uncovered was that he’d bought some unusual caliber bullets shortly before the murder and these were same ones used in the massacre.

Detectives believe that Jerry was motivated to kill his brother as he was furious that his younger sibling had been picked to take over the running of the family farm. They believe it was this very personal hatred that led him to be so brutal in the execution of the murders, even killing his tiny niece and nephew. It also led the press to dub the killings the ‘Cain and Abel’ murders, in reference to first two sons of Adam and Eve whose relationship also turned deadly.

In 1976 Jerry was found guilty of the murders and sentenced to life in prison. He appealed his case several times over the years, with his lawyers pointing out that cigarette butts from the crime scene that were initially linked to him turned out on DNA analysis to not have been his. Some of the ballistic evidence also used a technique they claimed is no longer regarded as reliable.

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Eventually he had some success and in 2006 a District Circuit Court of Appeals judge made a ruling saying Jerry should either be retried or released. This judgement was later overruled by a three-judge panel, following an appeal from the state itself.

Jerry Mark’s latest appeal in 2013 was also turned down.

A Crime to Remember airs at 10:00 PM on Investigation Discovery. 

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