Cold case reopened: Woman tells police her father killed paperboy

Jerry Michael Bayles
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A new tip in a child's murder could help police solve a cold case after 45 years.

An Indiana woman told detectives she believes her father killed a young Indianapolis paperboy.

Fear kept her family members silent for years and when they did try to tell their startling story, she says no one would listen.

A rediscovered childhood memory sparked the new investigation into this old murder case that made headlines in 1970. Jerry "Mike" Bayles was kidnapped, then killed while delivering newspapers on Indy's west side.

At the time of the crime, Will Ott was around the same age as the victim. He recently stumbled upon Bayles' name in an old yearbook and made it his mission to help solve the case and get justice for Mike.

"He was the perfect little kid it seems," Ott said. "He just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time that morning." 

That October morning, Mike was abducted from his bicycle in front of a home on South Harris.

"From the best we could tell, he'd delivered two of his papers that morning. It was about 5:00. Then his bike was found over here," said Indiana State Police Det. Sgt. Scott Jarvis.

The 10-year-old's body was discovered stabbed multiple times and left in a cornfield in Henry County.

But a motive? The murderer? Police had next to nothing for years. The only suspect arrested was cleared early on by a grand jury.

But recently, a woman found Will Ott's website, dedicated to the case, and called Ott and police with a startling story. It was their first fresh lead in 45 years, from the daughter of the man who initially claimed he witnessed the abduction.

"I can never forget Michael. He lived right in the neighborhood. That neighborhood changed after the murder," she told Eyewitness News. "My father would always bring it up, especially to me and my brothers. He'd always threaten - he goes, 'remember the paperboy?' He goes 'I got by with it and I'll get by with it with you too'. He would remind us and he would threaten to cut us. He would threaten to stab us."

The witness's daughter was only 7 years old when the murder took place. Eyewitness News agreed to shield her identity.

She recently told investigators her father was actually Mike's killer, that he bragged about the murder and threatened to do the same to his own kids.

"The fear from what happened to Michael, there's no way to put in words the fear that my dad put into us on what he did to that boy," she said.

She told detectives her father had a temper, that he snapped when Mike's bicycle ran out in front of his car.

"Anything that upset his routine or disturb what he was wanting to do, he would snap," she said.

She says the day after the murder, she saw her dad hide the murder weapon in her parents' bedroom.

"My mom told me to go in and see if he wanted coffee. Well when I went in there, he had clothes on the bed. They had blood on it. You could obviously tell it was blood and a knife and he was rolling them up, kind of resembling a flag folding and he put them in paper, put them in a paper bag, and he was putting them in the wall," she said. "He made me watch and the whole time he was threatening me if I said anything. By the time I came out of that room, I was bawling and was shaking and scared and I was too afraid to even tell my mom."

She says shortly after the murder, her father left for California.

The rest of the family soon followed. They moved around a lot before eventually moving back to Indiana.

Over the years, she says she tried to tell police and teachers, too.

"But I was a kid. No one would listen," she said. "As soon as we started school in California, I told school officials but they called my parents and told them and I got beaten bad when I got home. If I could have gotten the law to listen to me, or the school when I was eight years old or when I was 20, it would have been solved a long time ago."

Until her dad passed away recently, she says it was safer for her and her siblings to stay quiet. Now, detectives will try to figure out what really happened - if the witness on the street that day was actually Mike's killer.

If after all these years, this case might close.

"He was definitely in the area when this crime occurred. Now whether he was a witness as he initially claimed to be or possibly the perpetrator, we haven't been able to confirm that yet," Jarvis explained. "According to the family, he admitted to being involved with this crime and a couple other crimes also. We're kind-of focused in that direction now.  That's kind of the avenue we're taking with the investigation is trying to confirm what they told us."

Click here to read more about the murder and what Will Ott found.