In the summer of 1970, a couple of good-looking teenagers, 18-year-old Jo Ellen Weigel and 18-year-old Mike Cline, seemed to be very much in love. Both had just recently graduated from Lee’s Summit High School, and both were members of the National Honor Society. They had dated about a year and now were engaged to be married.
Jo Ellen lived with her parents less than a mile from downtown Lee’s Summit and worked that summer at Sears during the daytime, and spent the nights on dates with her fiancé.
Mike lived on down Highway 71 at Lake Winnebago with his family and had spent his summer so far water skiing with his buddies. They lived in a home with a very expansive backyard lining the shore of the lake. The family owned three boats.
Mike had plans to embark with about 200 other teenagers on a student trip to Europe and Israel on Sunday, July 5. But on Thursday evening, Mike picked up Jo Ellen for a date. She carried an overnight bag, because the plan was for him to drop her off at a girlfriend’s house afterwards to spend the night. She was to either return home, or at least call her folks, before heading off to her summer job the next morning.
The date apparently started off on the wrong foot, because the two stood there outside her folk’s house in an argument which lasted about 20 minutes before they drove away.
She did not show or call the next morning as planned, and she never came home from work Friday evening. Jo Ellen’s mother called the girlfriend where she planned to spend the night, but the girl’s response was muddled, to say the least. Attempts to get answers from Mike were just as muddled and over the weekend he changed his story three different times.
With the question of Jo Ellen’s whereabouts still unanswered, Mike boarded the plane as planned on Sunday for the student trip overseas.
About 3:30 that same afternoon, a water skier on Lake Winnebago dropped into the water in a heavily traveled area near the community’s yacht club. When he came back up to the surface, he saw a body floating next to him. The body was that of a woman, clad in a girdle, panty hose and part of a dress. The upper part of her body was wrapped with fishing net and her legs wrapped with a ski rope. Two one-gallon plastic jugs filled with water and a concrete block were also tied to the body.
As the investigation began, the body was positively identified as Jo Ellen, and the yellow-and-white ski rope was identical to the rope aboard the Cline family speedboat. In Mike’s car, authorities found a white towel with hair from Jo Ellen’s head, and the hair had been pulled out by the roots.
By the time investigators wanted to talk to Mike Cline, he was on the ground in Rome with the touring students. Of course, he was returned back home, but on advice from his attorney, he was no help to investigators.
An autopsy revealed that Jo Ellen had been strangled and that she was four months pregnant.
On July 24, nineteen days after Jo Ellen’s body was found in Lake Winnebago, a grand jury indicted Mike for murder. When the police arrived at Mike’s house to arrest him, he had disappeared – never to be seen again.
A federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution was lodged against him and the FBI opened its own investigation. Forty-six years after Jo Ellen Weigel’s murder, Mike Cline has yet to be found. His father died in 1988 and his mother moved to Arizona. Today, Mike Cline would be 64 years old.
Reference: “Kansas City Crime Central” by Monroe Dodd.
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