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

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Lee Brown

Obrey "Lee" Brown has worked for 10 newspapers and magazines in the Bay Area, central and southern California. In 2005, he wrote "A Citrus Test: Football in Black & White." He can be reached at baseballOLB@hotmail.com.