|Birth: ||Jul. 5, 1954|
Fort Leonard Wood
|Death: ||May 23, 1999|
Jo was born in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., to Thomas and Geraldine. She graduated from Washburn Rural High School in 1972 and attended Washburn University. She taught special education classes in Topeka Public Schools and had worked at Josten's Yearbook for two years. She was also a volunteer at Highland Park High School.
Jo has a son, Marvin Lee, and a daughter Nicole. She also has 5 brothers and 3 sisters who live in various areas of the country.
You don't think something like this can happened to ordinary people. Jo was a person who was street-smart as well as book-smart. She knew how to handle people, how to get them to trust her and open up to her. She knew how to get out of any situation that came along. That is until this one. It makes you stop and think about your own life, and how vulnerable you really are. Jo will be missed by so many people. She touched a little something in everyone that she met. She had a bubbly personality that made you like her instantly. Full of smiles and laughter, she always saw the bright side of a situation while dealing with the darker side. From the first time I met Jo, she treated me like a sister, and even though her brother and I got divorced, we were still close. Everyone called her "Jo Momma" and she loved it. The last time I saw her, she had gotten a belly button ring and was so proud of it!
**Her brother John Becher passed away on July 23, 2007.
She was riding a motorcycle with her boyfriend when they argued. He stopped and she went to get off the bike and get her purse out of the saddlebag, and he hit her with the motorcycle, knocking her out, and she fell into a ditch and drowned while unconscious. He drove off. He later said he came back to look for her and couldn't find her. Just a note. He returned Jo's purse to her daughter Nicole a few days later, minus the money Jo had gotten from the bank for Nicoles college tuition.
These are the articles that were in the paper about what was going on.
FROM THE TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL May 26, 1999
Hit-and-run victim identified
By KEVIN BATES
Police have identified the woman whose body was found lying in a central Topeka street early Sunday, but investigators still were trying to piece together the events leading up to her death.
Mary Jo Fender, 44, Topeka, was found about 3:30 a.m. Sunday in the 1400 block of S.W. 10th, between S.W. Lane and Washburn streets. She was lying in the roadway near the south curb, the victim of an apparent hit-and-run. It wasn't clear how long Fender had been dead before a bicyclist found her body, police said.
The exact cause of Fender's death wasn't released, but police are investigating the death as an accident, not a homicide. The accident reconstruction and detective divisions were working together in the investigation.
Police asked anyone with information about the accident to call the detective division at 368-9400 or Officer Craig Gifford at 368-9016.
FROM THE TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL May 27, 1999
Police seeking eyewitnesses to hit and run
By KEVIN BATES
Police are asking for help in determining who is responsible for the hit-and-run death of a Topeka woman who died early Sunday, detectives said Wednesday.
Mary Jo Fender, 44, had been walking along the south curb in the 1400 block of S.W. 10th, between S.W. Washburn and Lane streets, when she was struck by a vehicle and killed. She was found at about 3:30 a.m. lying in the roadway by a bicyclist who had been riding in the area.
Fender had argued with the driver of a motorcycle with whom she had been riding shortly before her death, Detective Brent Schulte said. Police have interviewed the motorcyclist, who had dropped Fender off in the area where she was killed, Schulte said.
Investigators would like to speak with the driver of a taxi cab who was seen in the area shortly before Fender was killed. Witnesses have told police that they saw Fender walking eastbound on S.W. 10th. They said they saw a cab driving toward her that appeared to swerve around her, Schulte said.
CrimeStoppers has offered a reward of up to $1,000 to anyone who has information about the crime. Fender was last seen walking along S.W. 10th sometime between 12:30 and 1 a.m. Sunday. She was wearing blue jeans and a light-colored shirt when she was struck.
The exact cause of Fender's death wasn't released, but police are investigating the incident as a fatal hit-and-run accident, not a homicide, police said. Detectives and the accident reconstruction division were investigating the case together.
Police ask anyone with information, including witnesses, the cab driver or a possible suspect, to call CrimeStoppers at 234-0007, the Topeka police detective division at 368-9400 or Officer Craig Gifford at 368-9016.
FROM THE TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL July 1, 1999
Second-degree murder charge levied in May's fatal hit-and-run
By TIM HRENCHIR
A Topeka man was arrested Tuesday morning on an outstanding Shawnee County felony warrant charging him with reckless second-degree murder in the hit-and-run death last month of Topekan Mary Jo Fender.
Michael A. Anno, 38, 628 N.E. Ohio, was being held in the Shawnee County Jail late Tuesday in lieu of a $250,000 bond that could be posted only by a professional bondsman, a jail official said.
Shawnee County District Attorney Joan Hamilton said Anno was charged in the death of Fender, 44, who was found by a bicyclist at about 3:30 a.m. May 23 in the 1400 block of S.W. 10th, between Lane and Washburn streets.
Fender was lying in the roadway near the south curb, the victim of an apparent hit-and-run.
The Topeka police accident reconstruction team and investigations division worked together to investigate the death.
Anno was charged under a Kansas statute defining one type of second-degree murder as a homicide committed recklessly but unintentionally under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.
FROM THE TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL November 23, 1999
Motorcycle introduced as evidence
By STEVE FRY
The homicide hearing of a man was moved Monday from a fourth-floor Shawnee County District Courtroom to the basement-level county commission chambers because there was some big evidence.
Mighty big evidence.
Throughout the preliminary hearing Monday of Michael A. Anno, 38, on Monday, a massive 1,340-cc Harley-Davidson motorcycle was parked between the bench of District Judge Marla Luckert and tables where prosecutors and Anno and his defense attorneys sat. Anno, 628 N. Ohio, is charged with reckless second-degree murder in the May 23 death of Mary Jo Fender, 44.
Luckert's courtroom had to be moved to the commission chambers because, at 7 feet long, the motorcycle was too big to fit in any courthouse elevators. The cycle was rolled into the courthouse through the basement's east door, which has a ramp, west through the building-long hallway and into the commission meeting room. The motorcycle leaned on its kick stand.
Several times, witnesses used the 80-cubic-inch cycle to illustrate tests conducted to show that injuries suffered by the victim matched the motorcycle owned by Anno.
Police Cpl. Don Reynolds said that in one test, parts of the motorcycle were coated with fingerprint dust, then an officer straddled the Harley to roll it into Dr. Erik Mitchell, district coroner, and a woman the same size as Fender. The motorcycle was rolled three times into Mitchell and three times into the woman.
Using large photographs of Mitchell and the woman, Reynolds showed that the motorcycle left marks on the back left thighs and the calves of the two. The marks on Mitchell and the woman were "similar" to marks left on the thigh and calf of Fender, Reynolds testified.
Police also used the motorcycle to run into a 3-foot orange plastic pylon to see where the pylon was thrown at different speeds and from different directions.
Police Cpl. Kris Kramer, a police motorcycle riding instructor, showed Luckert how the pylon reacted when struck on the motorcycle's right side by the engine guard and handlebar, the right floorboard and handlebar, and between the floorboard and highway peg, and near the muffler with the highway peg. Kramer said he knew by the sound that he had hit the pylon.
Officer Darin Scott, a motorcycle officer for more than six years, described how a rider can be dragged off a moving motorcycle and slammed to the pavement when his foot becomes trapped between the saddle bag guard and the ground. Three Topeka police officers undergoing motorcycle training in the past two weeks have been thrown off their cycles in the same situation, said Scott, who also has been "flung off" a motorcycle in his riding career.
Officer Craig Gifford, an accident reconstructionist, testified Anno was interviewed May 24.
Anno told officers that he and Fender had ridden his motorcycle to Mr. D's, 901 S.W. Fairlawn, about 8:30 p.m. May 22, where they remained two or three hours, Gifford said. When the two rode east on 10th, a police officer stopped them just west of Gage and issued Anno a warning ticket for riding 55 mph in a 30-mph zone, Gifford said.
The two eventually went to the Dutch Goose Sports Bar and Grill, 3203 S.W. 10th, where they remained until about 1:15 a.m. May 23, Gifford said. Anno told the officers the two argued about whether they should leave while it was raining, squabbled as they rode east on 10th, and at Washburn, Fender got off the cycle and had started to get her purse out of a cycle saddle bag, when Anno rode away with it, Gifford said.
Anno told the officers he rode around the block, but when he returned to S.W. 10th and Washburn, Fender wasn't there, and he assumed she had walked to the nearby apartment of her daughter, Gifford said.
Witness David Anthony Weiser testified that he was riding his bicycle home about 3:30 a.m. May 23 when he saw what he thought was a mannequin along the south side of the 1400 block of S.W. 10th and did a U-turn to look again. After lifting a booted foot with his foot, Weiser rode a block west to summon a security guard at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center.
Weiser couldn't tell whether the body, which was clad in boots, jeans and a shirt, was a man or a woman. Running water covered about one-third of the face, and the body was lying parallel and next to the curb, Weiser said.
Assistant District Attorney Cindy Long said that when Mitchell testified, he would say that Fender drowned in the gutter rather than dying due to injuries she suffered on her head. Mitchell is to testify on Nov. 30.
FROM THE TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL December 1, 1999
Biker will face murder charge
By STEVE FRY
A man accused of striking a woman with his motorcycle and leaving her to drown in the gutter will be tried on a charge of reckless second-degree murder.
During arguments Tuesday in Shawnee County District Court, assistant district attorney Cindy Long told a judge that Michael Anno never told police investigators he struck Mary Jo Fender with his motorcycle and left her unconscious on a busy street at night, where she drowned in rain water in a gutter.
Defense attorney Don Hoffman contended evidence didn't provide probable cause to warrant trying Anno, 38, 628 N.E. Ohio, for a charge of reckless second-degree murder in the May 23 death of Fender, 44.
Although she noted the evidence against Anno was "highly circumstantial," District Judge Marla Luckert agreed with the prosecution and ordered Anno bound over on the murder charge. His trial is scheduled for April 3.
Long said there was evidence to show Anno knew he had struck Fender.
Bruising on the back of Fender's left leg match marks left on the legs of Dr. Erik Mitchell, district coroner, and a coroner's employee when they conducted tests using Anno's 1,340-cc Harley-Davidson.
In the tests, parts of the motorcycle were coated with fingerprint dust, then an officer straddled the Harley to roll it into Mitchell and the employee.
The large road bike was parked in the courtroom as attorneys and witnesses used it to demonstrate locations on the cycle during the second day of Anno's preliminary hearing.
Long said Anno and Fender had ridden his motorcycle at about 8:30 p.m. May 22 to Mr. D's, 901 S.W. Fairlawn, where they remained for two or three hours. They went east to the Dutch Goose Sports Bar and Grill, 3203 S.W. 10th, where they remained until about 1:15 a.m. May 23.
Long said Anno told officers the two argued at the Dutch Goose and squabbled as they rode east on 10th.
At S.W. Washburn, Fender got off the cycle and was retrieving her purse from a saddle bag on the back of the cycle when Anno accelerated, Long said. Caught in a passenger's foot peg and saddle bag guard, Fender was slammed to the pavement, knocked unconscious and fell face down, drowning in rain water.
Anno told police he rode around the block, but when he returned to S.W. 10th and Washburn, Fender wasn't there, and he assumed she had walked to her daughter's nearby apartment.
If Anno had stopped for Fender after hitting her that night, she would be alive today, Long said.
Hoffman disagreed on what testimony during the hearing had shown.
"The record is void of any evidence of any recklessness or extreme indifference perpetuated by Mr. Anno in any way, shape or form," Hoffman told Luckert.
Kansas law defines second-degree murder as the unintentional but reckless killing of someone "under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life."
Prosecutors failed to carry their burden in showing that evidence, Hoffman said, urging Luckert to dismiss the murder charge.
Mitchell testified that Fender, who died as a result of drowning combined with blunt trauma, had been hit "with some force" by a motor vehicle based on the bruising patterns on the back of her left leg.
Mitchell said Fender suffered the "exact" injuries to the forehead and scalp that would occur if a rider's foot became trapped between the saddle bag guard and the ground, causing that person to be dragged off the cycle and slammed to the pavement.
FROM THE TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL January 11, 2001
Murder charge dropped
Outcome of case surprises new D.A., victim's family.
By STEVE FRY
A prosecutor learned a murder charge had been dismissed when he showed up in court last week for what he thought was a hearing in the case, Shawnee County District Attorney Robert Hecht said Wednesday.
Hecht said no decision had been made whether to refile the case linked to the 1999 drowning of Mary Jo Fender, 44, Topeka. Fender's family is upset they weren't notified that the case was dismissed, a family spokesman said Wednesday.
After Fender's death, Michael Anno, 39, 628 N.E. Ohio, was charged with reckless second-degree murder. In December 1999, a district judge said evidence against Anno was "highly circumstantial" but bound him over for trial.
The case was dismissed on Jan. 2, 2001, "without prejudice," meaning charges can be refiled. Hecht said his office would review the case next week.
Anno and Fender were riding his motorcycle early May 23, 1999, when the two squabbled. Fender got off and was retrieving her purse when Anno accelerated, a prosecutor said. Fender became caught in the motorcycle hardware and was slammed to the pavement, knocking her unconscious. She fell face down, drowning in rain water in the gutter, the prosecutor contended.
A defense attorney said there wasn't evidence of recklessness by Anno. Dr. Erik Mitchell, district coroner, testified Fender died of drowning combined with blunt trauma.
What disappoints the Fender family most is that no one notified them when the case was being dismissed, said Dan Lykins, a Topeka lawyer who is the husband of Judy Lykins, Fender's sister.
Joan Hamilton, who was district attorney until Hecht was sworn in Jan. 8, said she learned of the dismissal "after the fact." Hamilton said Brenda Taylor Mader, one of two assistant district attorneys assigned to the case, had told her beforehand the case might have to be dismissed. Hamilton said there had been concern it might be lost if it were taken to court in its present condition.
After Hecht won the district attorney's race on Nov. 7, Lykins contacted Hecht.
"He was concerned that something like this might happen," Hecht said.
On Wednesday, Mader said: "I dismissed the case because I felt it was a poor case to prosecute. I didn't feel like there was a significant amount of evidence" to go forward with the case.
On the day the case was dismissed, a woman in her 70s asked Mader about the case. Mader, who doesn't know the woman's name, said she thought she was a member of Fender's family and thought the family knew of the dismissal.
Mader said she didn't know where Fender's son, a high school senior in Topeka, lived and didn't have an address for Fender's adult daughter, who moved from Topeka.
Hamilton said her administration's practice was to discuss a case with a victim's family before taking action. After the dismissal, Hamilton instructed Mader to call Lykins. Mader said she called Lykins on Jan. 3, but he was with a client and she was unable to contact him.
In the dismissal order, Judge Matthew Dowd said prosecution and defense attorneys were at an "impasse" about providing evidence to the defendant, including exculpatory statements that must be given to defense attorneys and "numerous items of discovery related to the case (that) would severely impact the defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial."
Mader said prosecutors never received paperwork to allow a police officer to testify as an expert witness in accident reconstruction.
Lykins contends the case should be prosecuted. He said Fender's family wants to know why the case can't be tried, whatever the verdict.
"They were victims once, and now they're victims twice," Lykins said.
Created by: Sherry
Record added: May 03, 2004
Find A Grave Memorial# 8715400