Murder of Yvonne Layne by David Thorne and Joseph Wilkes investigated by Reasonable Doubt

Mugshots of David Thorne and Joseph Wilkes
David Thorne (L) and Joseph Wilkes were both convicted of killing Yvonne Layne in a murder-for-hire plot: Pic credit: Ohio Dept. of Corrections

Reasonable Doubt examining the murder of Yvonne Layne from Alliance, Ohio, who the police say was killed by Joseph Wilkes in a murder-for-hire plot orchestrated by her former partner David Thorne.

The case has been dogged with accusations of unprofessionalism from the police that supposedly led to forensic evidence being damaged. But currently, Joseph Wilkes and David Thorne remain convicted of murder.

On April 1, 1999, Yvonne’s mother, Tawnia Layne, went to the home of her daughter and found a shocking scene. Tawnia found that her 26-year-old daughter had had her throat cut and was lying in a pool of her own blood. Her five young children were in the house but were unharmed.

The police were hampered by a lack of forensic evidence at the scene, but there were two partial bloody footprints, and the murder weapon, a knife, was found in a nearby storm sewer.

A tip from the public identified Joseph Wilkes as the killer

The police got a break when a member of the public, Rose Mohr, contacted them to say that she and her boyfriend, Chris Campbell, had spoken to Joseph Wilkes at a shopping mall, and incredibly, he’d told them he was in town because he had been hired to kill a woman. He even showed them the murder weapon, which he’d just purchased in a Walmart.

At this point, Mohr and Campbell differed in their statements to the police. Mohr said Wilkes had told them he was hired to kill a woman “for a guy,” but Campbell thought he’d said he was hired by his girlfriend.

Several months later, Wilkes admitted to having killed Yvonne, and he claimed that Thorne had been the one to hire him. He also gave the cops a detailed account of how the pair had planned the murder.

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Thorne was a former partner of Yvonne and he was the father of one of her five children. The police learned that he had recently been ordered to pay Yvonne a monthly fee for child support. At the time of the murder, he owed her about $700.

The police concluded that Thorne preferred to pay Wilkes to kill Yvonne rather than pay her the child support. He was arrested and was charged with aggravated murder. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison. Wilkes is also in prison, serving 30 years to life.

Thorne has continuously claimed he is innocent and he had a strong alibi for the time of the murder. His family and a number of organizations are currently conducting a campaign to have his conviction overturned.

Those who believe Thorne is innocent suspect that the police botched the case but were determined to get a result, so they concocted a murder-for-hire plot and forced a confession out of Wilkes. The team at Reasonable Doubt will cast their careful eyes over the evidence.

More from Reasonable Doubt

Follow the links to read about more suspect convictions examined on Reasonable Doubt.

The police say Tim Wright chased down Justin Baumgardner in his truck and gunned him down while in a jealous rage over a love triangle. Wright’s family says he was framed by a deputy sheriff’s son.

Roy Fuller was stabbed a shocking 123 times in his Virginia home. The police say his friend Bruce Duane Walton killed him during a drunken argument.

Reasonable Doubt airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.

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Laurence L. Smith
Laurence L. Smith
2 years ago

In the case of Tim wright, It is hard to force another suspect with the motive and timing to have killed Baumgardner.
In the case of the 2 best friends. Again it is hard to force another suspect in the scenario to have killed Chad. People often do a good job of concealing a strong motive which I believe Ken Andersen had. He must have been in a desperate situation to have killed his best friend.

Laurence L. Smith
Laurence L. Smith
2 years ago

In the case of Yvonne’s murder, on the surface David would not seem to have the callous personality to have endorsed or planned the murder of Yvonne. Yet, deep in his heart it may have meant a lot to him to have sole custody of his son, and with Thorne willing to do almost anything to earn his respect he could have volunteered to kill Yvoone. As far as the cop who was fired he could have been very mad that his fondness for Yvonne cost him to be terminated. This is a very difficult case to make a 100 percent conclusion as to who actually did the murder and what the bona fide motive was. Thorne was not that big and Yvoone would have really fought with him, unless he caught her by complete surprise. I would like to see a retrial of this case. David has already served about 20 years.

2 years ago

I don’t get the feeling David did this. However I believe Joe did. What’s to say Joe didn’t do this for David ( without David’s knowledge), thinking he was doing him a favour? And once he got caught he panicked n blamed david- who could be completely innocent. Was there no DNA evidence found? Was there ever any polygraph tests done? Just seems to me like they created a theory n ran with it? I feel like the case needs a new independent trial

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