Dawn Lee Swan Magyar

On January the 27th 1973, twenty year old Dawn Lee Swan Magyar was grocery shopping in Owosso, Michigan, USA, a twenty minute drive from her home in Chesaning. Maygar, a young housewife and mother to an infant son, had borrowed a truck from a friend of the family in order to pick up some food and essentials while her husband, Don, was out at work. In the supermarket she chatted with a friend of hers while the pair queued to pay for their goods. It was to be the last time anyone saw her alive. Anyone that is, except for her killer.  

When his wife failed to return home that evening Don Maygar reported her missing. The next morning the truck Dawn had borrowed was found still parked in the supermarket car-park. Her groceries were inside the vehicle, but her keys were found scattered on the ground. Dawn had been abducted. Four-thousand locals volunteered to help search for the missing woman but no sign of Dawn Lee Swan Maygar was found until the 4th of March. Dawn’s body was discovered in woodland in Saginaw County, Michigan. She had been raped and shot three times with a .22 caliber gun.

Postmortem examinations determined that she had probably died within ninety minutes of her initial abduction. It was not until June the following year that a weapon was recovered from the Shiawassee River in Owosso. Three rounds in the rusted gun were spent and their brand matched that of the bullets retrieved from Dawn’s body. The gun was traced to a Pawn Shop in Yuma, Arizona where it was found that a man named Robert Shaw had purchased it in 1965.

Police were unable to track down Shaw however. With no further leads to follow, police were forced to shelve the case, leaving the abduction, rape, and murder of Dawn Lee Swan Magyar unsolved. In 1994, with the advances in technology that had occurred in the interim, police decided to re-open the case. Sperm samples obtained from the body of Dawn Lee Swan Magyar could now be used to prove the killer’s identity.

All they had to do was find the man. Robert Shaw was located and ruled out after DNA analysis. He told police that he had lost the gun years prior to the murder but named Jerald Leroy Wingeart, a friend of his wife’s, as a possible suspect. Jerald Leroy Wingeart was convicted of the rape of a blind female University of Michigan student and the robbery of her escort in 1961. He served a five year prison sentence between 1961 and 1969 for the crimes. In 1979 he was tried for the rape and murder of sixteen-year-old Laura McVeigh near Hubbardston, Michigan. The case was dismissed before trial due to errors in evidence retrieval. When the police located Wingeart in 1994 he was still living in Michigan with his fourth wife.

Officers obtained saliva samples from cigarette butts in Wingeart’s rubbish. DNA testing showed that the samples matched those taken from the body of Dawn Lee Swan Magyar twenty-one years earlier. The police investigating the case were subsequently able to determine that Wingeart had been in the Owosso area visiting a friend around the time of Magyar's murder, providing enough evidence to pursue the case further. On March the 7th 2001, Wingeart, then aged sixty, was arrested and charged with Dawn Lee Swan Magyar's murder. On November the 27th the same year he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.