Oldest Unsolved Coachella Valley Murder Case May Be Solved

PALM SPRINGS – A Florida man whose ex-wife has agreed to testify against him will stand trial for the murder of a prostitute who was killed in March 1972.

Michael Jerome Hayes arrested for 1972 murder

Extradition proceedings on Michael Jerome Hayes, 63, began this week after police arrested him earlier this month in Broward County, Fla. Hayes reportedly had told his wife that he killed a prostitute after he had come home early one morning “terrified.” Detectives who reopened the case in 2010 located Hayes’ ex-wife in Kansas, and she agreed to testify against him. Hayes’ ex-wife was not identified.

It is the oldest unsolved homicide in the Coachella Valley area, said officials. Hayes, who is being held in a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. jail, was arrested and charged last week for killing Mary Costa, 23 at the time. The county sheriff’s Central Homicide cold case detectives decided to reopen the case after Costa’s son attempted to locate his mother’s grave. While reviewing the case, investigators located an interview taken with Hayes’ ex-wife in 1976. In that report, she told detectives that Hayes told her that he had killed a girl during a robbery, bludgeoning Costa to death with a rock. Hayes reportedly stole $7, but he threatened to kill her if she ever reported it.  During the 1976 interview with police, the ex-wife led them to the site where Costa’s body was found.

A motorist had discovered Costa’s body in March 1972, just outside Desert Hot Springs, a community located 10 miles north of Palm Springs. Found face down in the sand near a bloody rock, Costa was wearing a flower-print dress, according to reports. She was identified through dental records and fingerprints. Known by local authorities as a prostitute, coroner’s investigators were not able to determine the cause of death. Costa was last seen alive at a Palm Springs bar.

Mary Costa's murder was unsolved for almost 40 years

Hayes, who had been working as a bartender in Palm Springs at the time, eventually left California. Police, who had insufficient evidence to track him down, were unable to locate him in order to file charges. Upon discovering Hayes now living in Florida, police confronted him for the first time last June in Ft. Lauderdale. Court records indicate he denied involvement in the crime despite police presenting an affidavit, along with pictures from the crime scene, linking him to the murder. Detectives described Hayes during the questioning as breathing heavily, with a glassy stare and quivering bottom lip. Authorities presented the evidence to Hayes, who replied “I didn’t do that” and refused to talk further, according to records.
Hayes is being held in the Fort Lauderdale jail awaiting return to California.

Read More:

mydesert.com: Man charged with 1972 murder of local prostitute

Press-Enterprise: Ex-wife’s cooperation helps crack cold case

Oldest Unsolved Coachella Valley Murder Case May Be Solved was last modified: January 11th, 2019 by admin
Categories: Riverside, San Bernardino


  1. Jimmy Stellflug
    Jimmy Stellflug 26 January, 2012, 17:08

    Thank you to Mr. Bates ex-wife. thank you for helping bring a conclusion to this case.
    Thank you to the Lead Investigator III Brett Seckinger or Lead Investigator III Ed Vargas of the Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit. you went above & beyond, your duty as officers of the law. I know its not over just yet. but the road is finally showing signs of an end to a long unwanted trip.

    Reply this comment
  2. nogpi13
    nogpi13 22 June, 2012, 14:40

    I know this man will be found guilty!!!

    Reply this comment
  3. Jim
    Jim 10 July, 2012, 12:08

    The other side of this travesty of Justice…
    First I wish to offer my condolence to the victim and to the family members of all involved.
    I am always pleased when I read stories like this when it seems that Justice finally solves such a brutal crime against any individual.
    I personally have followed this case and I am sad to report that the Defendant is now also a victim. It appears that the details that were used to interview and eventually charge and arrest Mr.Hayes are fabricated by a vindictive ex-wife who fell apart during questioning throughout every minute she testified.
    The article implied Mr. Hayes disappeared and literally fell off the face of the earth. The fact that Michael never missed filing a tax return, and he has always remained in touch with family and friends is not the behavior of a man on the run. Over the last several years Michael has been the owner of a national company with clients all over the globe. The company specializes in Exotic Birds and accessories .
    This case is currently approaching a conclusion and it is obvious the State has failed to bring closure to this tragic event. Now I am sure most of you are saying Michael Hayes is getting off because after 40 years of delay bringing this case to trial. My reply to that opinion is Bull. We all need to stop convincing ourselves of Guilt or Innocence of Defendants based on what we read in newspapers or on what we hear on our DailyNews . I hope that everyone eventually discovers that this man totally cooperated with the investigators, did not lawyer up, documented his past 40 years with facts that all checked out by State Investigators, had his business ruined by being behind bars defending allegations that originated from a bitter ex-wife.
    I hope one day this woman experiences the hurt she has caused to everyone affected by her allegations.
    In conclusion I pray for all involved. I pray that one day the real murderer is uncovered. You can run but you can’t hide.
    Bad boys, bad boys..what you gonna do when they come for you….

    Reply this comment
  4. Jimmy Stellflug
    Jimmy Stellflug 5 September, 2012, 18:52

    “The fact that Michael never missed filing a tax return, and he has always remained in touch with family and friends is not the behavior of a man on the run”……There is so much I wish to say & so much you really don’t know…if you know so much, then I suggest you talk with the proper authorities in Riverside.

    Reply this comment
  5. Jim
    Jim 26 October, 2012, 04:57

    Well for all of you individuals who were positive that Jerome Michael Hayes was guilty of Murdering a Lady and abandoning her and then supposedly confessed to his wife and then years later she comes forward and says Her ex-husband admitted to her that he committed the crime. Well it appears that tomorrow will be Mr. Hayes last day in court and all charges are being dismissed. The State based their case on testimony from the ex-wife that constantly changed. The ex-wife was unable to navigate to the crime scene; in fact under direct examination her testimony changed 4 times about key facts. Court documents revealed she said the victim had blonde hair , petite figure, she lied about color of shoes, had her height and weight far from the truth. Tomorrow Mr. Hayes should finally be released. The rock that was the murder weapon was finally located at the police station being used as a door stopper. If the state had preserved the evidence properly this case would have never taken so long to release this innocent man from a year behind bars. He has been denied proper medical treatment and his life is in Shambles. I hope all of you that condemned this man based on sensational journalism will apologize for this injustice. Remember this warning if this could happen to a totally innocent man based solely on testimony that was not verified for accuracy do you get frightened that this could happen to you or someone you know or maybe even to your child. It’s easy to rush to judgement but what happened to “Innocent Until Proven Guilty”…. Every citizen deserves the protection of our Constitution….Even People in Jail are entitled to the protection of this Powerful Document…. Liberty and Justice For All…. Think about this story the next time you get pulled over for a traffic stop..what would you do if you were charged with a crime based on statements that weren’t verified. The press jumps on the bandwagon and before you know it your Public Enemy Number 1…..

    Reply this comment
  6. Jim Hayes
    Jim Hayes 2 November, 2012, 19:52

    Well this case has run its course and after arresting an innocent man based on lies from a bitter ex-wife. She fabricated her statement about a kind and gentle man. This case was totally mishandled by the Police and by the Prosecutor. Not only has the State of California wasted almost a million dollars Trying to convict an innocent man based on testimony from a woman that the police failed to verify. We now know she was a speed freak as well as a prostitute. The State of California owes Jerome Michael Hayes a public apology for locking him up for almost a year, denied him proper medical attention, destroyed his business that took him a decade to build from scratch.
    I hope that people will remember our philosophy of INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY…Liberty and Justice for All …..remember this same abuse could happen to you….I promise that everyone involved in this persecution of this law abiding citizen will be back in court but this time they will be defending a list of charges brought against them. This man should be financially reimbursed for his suffering that he has endured and for the nightmares and healing that will plague him for the rest of his life. How many other people are locked up for a crime that they didn’t commit. What amount of money would you want if your life was destroyed by a legal system that failed to verify facts and lied repeatedly to lock up an innocent man

    Reply this comment
  7. Jimmy stellflug
    Jimmy stellflug 28 December, 2012, 18:10

    It is coming up on 41 years now since my mother was killed. I hope the person that did this knows they are so pathetic they would not even give a child a chance to know the truth because they are afraid to be human & care.

    Whom ever you are?
    wouldn’t you want your child to have peace of mind?
    Would you fight if it was your mother that was murdered?

    It has been long enough. please let my mother & what is left of our family have a little peace.

    Reply this comment
  8. Jimmy Stellflug
    Jimmy Stellflug 6 May, 2013, 21:12





    Reply this comment
  9. Stellflug
    Stellflug 19 September, 2014, 09:43
  10. Jim
    Jim 10 May, 2015, 05:14

    Today, May 7, 2015, a Riverside County jury found a man guilty of the 43-year-old cold case
    murder of a woman whose body was found in Desert Hot Springs.
    Michael Jerome Hayes, DOB: 9-22-48, was convicted of the murder of Mary Costa, whose body was found
    March 12, 1972

    Reply this comment
  11. The Friend
    The Friend 15 May, 2015, 06:50

    so it has come to an end.
    Guilty in the first.

    Reply this comment
    • The Son
      The Son 19 May, 2015, 08:26

      Hello The Friend…..Justice 43 years later, My mother can finally rest in peace.

      Reply this comment
  12. Jim
    Jim 9 June, 2015, 12:55


    Reply this comment

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