Mysterious remains belonged to Mill Valley woman missing since 1964
Article Launched: 04/09/2008 11:06:22 PM PDT
A mysterious set of human remains discovered at a Mill Valley cemetery in February has been identified as a missing Tam Valley woman whose husband - a prominent San Francisco longshoreman and union organizer - might have killed her in 1964, authorities said Wednesday.
Gertrude Kavesh Jones, who was 43 or 44 when she died, was identified through an arduous investigation that began with the slimmest of leads: a partial skeleton of unknown gender and age, a pair of eyeglasses, a bottle of Norwich aspirin and a 1961 coin.
With those clues as a starting point, coroner's investigators established a rough time frame for the death, then learned of Jones' unsolved disappearance through neighborhood lore, county records, court documents and
Gertrude Kavesh Jones
"It was a great challenge," said coroner's investigator Darrell Harris.
The state Department of Justice recently confirmed Jones' identity after matching DNA in her bones to a swab from a niece, Sema Woronoff of Boynton Beach, Fla.
The cause of death is unknown, but investigators suspect homicide. Jones' first cervical vertebrae was fractured "in a manner inconsistent with accidentally breaking the neck and then falling face down into a shallow grave and covering yourself up," the coroner's office said.
Jones was reported missing on March 10, 1964, by her husband, Bruce Barrow "B.B." Jones, a leader of the International Longshoremen's and Warehouseman's Union in San Francisco. Jones was a Communist who reputedly helped recruit Harry Bridges, the legendary waterfront labor organizer, to the party.
Jones told police that his wife stormed out of their home at 301 Richardson Drive after an argument the previous day, and she never came home. Jones said he suspected his wife committed suicide.
Shortly after his wife's disappearance, Jones moved to Tahiti. He returned seven years later, had his wife declared dead and inherited her estate, valued at more than $62,000 in addition to two pieces of property.
Jones also got remarried to a woman named Simone, whom he had met in Tahiti, according to the coroner's office.
No death certificate was ever filed for Gertrude Jones. She had no children.
B.B. Jones died of natural causes at the Richardson Drive home on March 8, 1987. He was about 80 years old and had no known relatives aside from his new wife.
Simone Jones sold the property and moved back to Tahiti. Coroner's investigators have not made contact with her.
The home at 301 Richardson Drive is about half a mile from the property of Fernwood Cemetery, where workers found Gertrude Jones' remains in a shallow grave two months ago. The skeleton - whose skull, hands and lower legs were missing - was in an unused part of the cemetery that is being cleared for development.
Jones' family is making arrangements to have her remains buried at the family plot in New York City. Her parents, immigrants from Russia, had seven children, none of whom survive, said her nephew, Sheldon Kavesh of Whippany, N.J.
The family has long suspected foul play in Gertrude's death.
"Obviously she didn't die a natural death. É That was pretty much the impression our family had," said Kavesh, 75. "To have all of those (body) parts missing, those parts that are most convenient for identification?"
PUBLISHED online by Marin Independent Journal
Another obituary with more details: SF Gate.com
Bones tell tale of 1964 Mill Valley homicide
Jim Doyle, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, April 10, 2008
In an extraordinary example of old-fashioned sleuthing and state-of-
the-art genetic testing, investigators have solved the case of a Mill
Valley woman missing since 1964, concluding from bones recently found
in a makeshift grave that she was probably a homicide victim.
The findings were announced Wednesday by Marin County Coroner Kenneth
Holmes, who identified the woman as Gertrude Kavesh Jones, a 43-year-
old teacher whose husband reported her missing in May 1964.
As described by Holmes, the case has unfolded almost like a movie
Bruce B. Jones, a San Francisco longshoreman and labor organizer,
filed a missing person's report in which he attributed his wife's
disappearance to her being depressed over ill health. Later, he fueled
suspicion among neighbors and members of Gertrude Jones' family when
he showed up with a new wife from Tahiti.
There was never a trace of the missing woman, and the case began
gathering dust in the files of the Marin County Sheriff's Department.
That is until two months ago, when workers preparing an unused area of
the Fernwood Cemetery near Mill Valley caught their spades on a buried
cardigan sweater. Under the garment, they found bones.
Now, Holmes said, there is compelling evidence that a homicide took
Gertrude Jones, a Russian immigrant, had been married for 12 years at
the time she disappeared. The couple had no children. A Chronicle news
story in 1964 described a widespread search for her and noted
witnesses had last seen her walking along Highway 1, not far from her
The bones were found Feb. 7 in a small, shallow grave - with no
evidence of a casket.
"Finding a partial skeleton was the greatest forensic challenge," said
Holmes. "In this case, the skull was missing, and the lower arms and
lower legs were missing."
An anthropological examination revealed that a woman had been buried
face down in a kneeling or fetal position with her clothes on. There
was no purse, wallet or jewelry in the grave - just a bottle of
aspirin, a pair of broken eyeglasses and old coins, including a half-
dollar dated 1961.
With such a paucity of clues, Holmes called for help from the
Archeological Resource Service in Petaluma, and later asked for
assistance from local law enforcement agencies and the state
Department of Justice.
"If you have a fresh body," Holmes said, "there are a million ways to
identify them, including knocking on the doors of neighbors, which we
ended up doing."
Coroner's Investigator Dave Foehner conducted a door-to-door search of
Tamalpais Valley neighborhood, and heard a legend about a missing
"Mrs. Jones" and the husband's new Tahitian wife. He also learned that
neighbors had grimly joked over the years that Mrs. Jones' remains
might be buried under a new stone entrance her husband had built at
"Hearing it is one thing, proving it is another," said Coroner's
Investigator Darrell Harris.
Jones is a very common name, and there was no record of a missing Mrs.
Jones in the state's computerized database. Investigators searched
through mounds of probate and tax records, stitching together an idea
of who the bones belonged to. They found a missing person's report
from 1964 that described the disappearance of Gertrude Jones of Mill
Valley, who had lived just half a mile from the makeshift grave.
Investigators also found notes taken by a sheriff's deputy who
interviewed her husband when he filed the missing person report.
Bruce Jones told authorities that he had an argument with his wife
because she refused his request to have his name placed on real estate
that she owned separately. He said that she became angry, walked away
down the road - and never returned.
Investigators located a niece of Gertrude Jones living in Florida, and
she agreed to provide oral DNA swab samples. Her DNA was compared with
DNA of the leg bones of the unidentified corpse.
Holmes and forensic analysts from the state Department of Justice's
Jan Bashinski DNA Laboratory in Richmond identified the remains as
those of Gertrude Jones.
"It's certainly the oldest case that we've been involved in," said
John Tonkyn, a supervisor at the DNA laboratory.
But perhaps the most damning bit of evidence in the investigation was
the coroner's finding that Gertrude Jones' first cervical vertebrae
"It's a murder, and finding the broken neck pretty much summed it up,"
Holmes said. "That neck could not have been broken by tripping,
falling and pulling in the dirt around you."
Holmes said the burial site's proximity to the roadway and other homes
also reduced the probability that Gertrude Jones had simply met an
But, the coroner added, her head, arms and legs may not have been
severed by the killer. Instead, animals such as coyotes and dogs could
easily have detected the corpse in a shallow grave.
Bruce Jones died in 1987 of natural causes at age 83. His then-wife,
Simone, continued to live at their home in Mill Valley, then sold it
and returned to Tahiti, Holmes said.
Gertrude Jones' remains will be sent to a family plot in New York for burial with her parents and siblings.
"We're done," Holmes added. "I don't think there's any point in pursuing this further."
Specifically: Kavesh family plot in New York City
Created by: Geraldine "Gerry" Hume...
Record added: Apr 26, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 26406057