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The Jailhouse Confessions of the Female Grifter Who Beheaded a Korean War Vet

Twenty years ago, Jack Irwin went missing from the rural California home that he shared with Marcia Johnson and her girlfriend. The location of his body has remained unknown—until now

The speed limit along most of Mt Baldy Village’s winding mountain roads is 25 miles per hour. High in Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains, the tiny town has a post office, a church, a volunteer fire department and a handful of rustic lodges. Day-trippers drive the hour from Los Angeles for skiing in the winter, cycling and hiking in the summer. The air’s a little thin, due to the altitude, but it’s clean and crisp. There are streams and hidden waterfalls along paths bordered by wildflowers. A tourist brochure from the 1900s called Mt Baldy, “Far from the Crowds, Above the Clouds,” and it still feels like that today. It’s why many of the area’s full-time residents settle here in cabins tucked in the mountains.

Mt Baldy

Jack Irwin, a Korean War veteran in his 70s, was one of them. So was Marcia Johnson, a computer programmer who moved to the mountain community in 1999 along with her girlfriend, Judy Gellert, a drug counselor. “We loved the atmosphere and the natural surroundings,” Johnson says. The two women befriended Irwin, becoming a surrogate family.

Months later, he disappeared.

The women told inquiring neighbors that he went on a trip. Then, according to court papers, they drained his bank account, sold his house and left town. It took a few years, though, for the police to prove what many in Mt Baldy suspected — that Irwin was murdered. Years later, in a videotaped confession, Johnson told police that she had shot him, beheaded him with a chainsaw and rolled his head down a mountain.

Irwin’s body has never been found, and Johnson has never spoken publicly about killing him. In the process of reporting this story, I wrote to her at California Institution for Women, where she’s serving a life sentence without possibility of parole. (It’s the same prison where Manson Family members Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel are doing their time, and ironically, where Gellert once worked as a counselor.)

She first calls me early one morning in October. I’d set up a prepaid account for her to contact me. “So, you’re interested in my side?” she asks. Before we can continue, she proposes an exchange: I help find someone to write her book (or write it myself), not just about the murder — what she refers to as “the Jack Irwin thing” — but also about her life, and she will grant me an interview. (California is one of a handful of states without strict “Son of Sam” laws that prevent felons from cashing in on their notoriety.) “I’ve been through a lot,” she says. “People have no clue why I am the way I am.”

In the end, it’s more of a plea than ultimatum. Because after I tell her I can’t work on her book (I agree to include her desire to write one in the story), she still answers all of my questions. In fact, she seems eager to talk, always completely forthright and never avoiding any of the topics I bring up. In a series of nine phone conversations over a period of about two weeks, she tells me about moving to Mt Baldy, befriending Irwin and what finally led her to murdering him. Our calls are 15 minutes each — the maximum length allowed by the prison — and interrupted periodically by an automated notification that the call is being recorded.

Throughout our conversations, she references her upbringing, struggles with addiction and oblique allusions to abuse. When I ask if she was surprised that she was capable of murder, she answers “No,” without hesitation. “I’m not surprised I could do it at all,” she says. “Because of how he was, and just how wrong people are, how people have wronged me throughout my life. I had had it at that point. I lost it.”

Sandy Bailey lived in Mt Baldy for 30 years and, because she worked at the post office, knew everyone in town. She moved there after a divorce and fell in love with the area. “It was just an escape for me,” she says. “It’s a small community, and that’s wonderful.” Everyone knew everyone else; people took care of each other. “If somebody didn’t come in and pick up their mail, we’d notice it, and we’d call them or go to their home to see if something was wrong,” she tells me. “We had a lot of older people up there. We always paid attention to things like that.”

Mt Baldy Post Office

She first met Jack Irwin at the post office, where he had a P.O. box. He had white hair and a short white beard. Irwin had trouble walking and spoke with a speech impediment. “It was hard for him to make friends,” Bailey says. “You had to really pay attention when he was talking to understand him.”

He lived by himself in a cabin a little further up the mountain. A bit of a loner, he existed simply, with barely any possessions. “He had a plate, a fork, a spoon and a knife,” Bailey says. “He had a tiny bed that he slept on and a chair with a television. We used to take him VHSes ’cause he loved movies.” Other neighbors helped out as well, bringing food or mending his clothes, because he wouldn’t buy new ones. “He didn’t spend a dime,” she laughs. “He had Social Security and disability; he was very frugal and he saved up forever.”

Irwin did, however, keep a lot of cash around, even though he never spent it. He also had more than $70,000 in a savings account and a .22 Ruger, according to Bailey — not an uncommon possession in an area where bears and coyotes roam.

Eventually, Bailey remarried. She and her husband adopted a son, and they kind of adopted Irwin, too. They had him over for dinners and holidays. He doted on their son, and they asked him to be the child’s godfather. He loved kids and had worked with an orphanage in Korea during the war. “He was a very kind person,” Bailey says. “Never asked for much, never needed anything. But you knew if you ever needed anything, he’d be there for you.”

Bailey was surprised when Irwin told her he was looking to move about a half-hour away, down the mountain into the town of Upland. The cold winters were getting to him, he said. In February 1999, he bought a two-story house in Upland for $159,000 with cash and put his cabin up for sale.

Marcia Johnson and Judy Gellert, who had been living in a motor home at a nearby RV park, came to look at the cabin. “It was in the wintertime,” Johnson tells me. “There was snow everywhere. He let us in, and his house was freezing cold. He wouldn’t turn the heater on, and he had no food. He had cereal and water — there was hardly anything else. So I cooked a roast for him. I felt so bad for him, you know? This little old man. Freezing. That’s how our relationship started. We felt sorry for him.”

Johnson, who was 39 at the time, and Gellert, then 48, bought Irwin’s cabin, and the three became fast friends, staying in touch once he was settled at his new place in Upland. “He was very lonely,” Johnson says. “Nobody really understood him. [But] I was really compassionate with him. I got really close.” She and Gellert even took him to a gay pride parade in San Diego. “He had a blast,” Johnson says. “We were a new lease on life for him, and he just thought it was so cool that we were gay.”

But that, Johnson says, wasn’t how the rest of the people in Mt Baldy felt. “We never felt welcome in that community,” she says. “They always hated us. From the beginning. Because we were gay.”

Johnson doesn’t recall meeting Bailey, but Bailey remembers Johnson and Gellert coming into the post office to rent a P.O. box after they bought the cabin. “They just weren’t very kind,” Bailey says, slowly. “I always felt like they never fit in.” Her real concerns, though, were for Irwin. It was odd to her. “The girls convinced him they were a family,” she says. “It was pretty quick. They wormed their way in.”

Even though they had purchased the cabin, the two women started spending more time with Irwin in Upland. Bailey says he complained to her about them. “He said, ‘They’re starting to move in, and all of my things are gone,’” she tells me. “They had their knick-knacks all over the house, and he said he felt suffocated. I told him I was very worried about these ladies. I said, ‘I have a very uncomfortable feeling.’ You can’t put your finger on it, but you know something’s amiss.”

Soon, Johnson and Gellert moved from the cabin into Irwin’s new house with him. Johnson tells me it began out of concern. “I tried to call him one time and I couldn’t get him on the phone, so I thought, Oh my God, something happened,” she says. They raced down to check on him. He had music turned up and hadn’t heard the phone. Still, she says, they decided to move from the cabin into the larger house to keep an eye on him.

Jack Irwin with baby Jacob

Irwin had listed Bailey on his savings account at the bank, in case anything ever happened to him. But a few months after meeting Johnson and Gellert, he changed his will and trust as well as his retirement account, according to court papers, listing the women as beneficiaries. On September 4, 1999, according to court papers, Irwin added Johnson and Gellert to his savings account, replacing Bailey. Around that time, Bailey called Irwin’s house to invite him to Thanksgiving. She left a message on the answering machine.

He never called back.

The next time the women came into the post office, Bailey asked about Irwin, and they told her to stop calling the house. They said Irwin was on a trip to Seattle to see the Space Needle. Bailey knew they were lying. She took a picture she had of Irwin holding her son as a baby, blew it up and made a MISSING poster that she hung in front of the post office, “So they’d have to walk by it every time they came to get their mail,” she says. “They finally came in and said, ‘People in the community are blaming us, saying bad things about us because of Jack.’ They said they were going to sue me, and I said, ‘Oh, you go right ahead.’”

Although Bailey relays specific interactions she had with the women, Johnson tells me she never once had a conversation with Bailey. “I don’t even know what the woman looks like,” she says, adding that no one ever asked her about Irwin’s disappearance. “That’s a lie. I’m the one who brought it to people’s attention.”

Johnson says she filed a police report that Irwin was missing. “I just thought it would look better if I did, seeing as we were the only ones who talked to him.” She told Upland Police the story about dropping him off at the train station and that he went to see the Space Needle, an idea she got from Irwin’s once having mentioned that he wanted to go.

Immediately afterward, the spending started. According to court papers, Johnson withdrew $4,000 from Irwin’s account on September 13, 1999. That same day, she bought new tires. Two days later, she wrote checks to herself for $7,000 and $10,000. Neighbors started to see the women driving new cars — a white Corvette, a Jeep — as well as a new motorhome parked outside Irwin’s Upland house.

Upland Police talked to the women, but nothing came of it.

“They really conned the detective,” Bailey tells me. She still has the email from him where he told her he didn’t believe the women had anything to do with Irwin’s disappearance.

The case went cold.

The women kept Irwin’s cabin and the house in Upland. The following summer, Johnson reported a burglary at the cabin and collected an insurance settlement. About a month later, in August 2000, a fire broke out at the cabin. Neighbors told arson investigators they’d seen Johnson’s white Corvette peeling down the road away from the cabin minutes after the fire started. Johnson, however, told investigators she was in Upland at the auto mechanic at the time.

The women collected an insurance settlement for the cabin and the items they said were destroyed in the fire, among them an antique brush and mirror and a collection of VHS tapes. They sold Irwin’s Upland house for $190,000, according to public records, then moved to Alpine, near San Diego, about three hours south of Mt Baldy. Investigators estimate that between Irwin’s bank account, the sale of his house and car and two insurance settlements, the women acquired about $450,000.

Nearly two years after Irwin’s disappearance, with no leads and mounting pressure from the Mt Baldy community, Upland PD kicked the case over to the San Bernardino District Attorney. “Apparently Sandy [Bailey] had been making a lot of calls,” says Morey Weiss, a former investigator with the San Bernardino DA’s office. “That’s probably why it came to [me] — ‘Take this over so I can get this lady off my back!’”

Weiss is tall and mustachioed with a neatly trimmed goatee. He has a patient fastidiousness, refined over a career in law enforcement dating back to the 1970s — murder, domestic violence, gang crimes and elder abuse.

The file on Irwin was thin. “It was about a two- or three-page report. That was it,” he says. It had the original missing persons report filed by Johnson, and a note that police had put a stop on Irwin’s Social Security direct deposits. “If his Social Security wasn’t hitting the bank, I guarantee you he’d be wanting to know why,” says Weiss. The fact that Irwin hadn’t showed up at the bank in almost two years was a strong sign he was gone for good.

Weiss talked to Bailey, who explained her theory — that the women killed Irwin for his money. “Right at the beginning, I’m pretty much convinced that they killed him, no two ways about it,” he says. “It wasn’t hard to put one and one together and figure that out.”

Starting his investigation at the bank, he quickly discovered Irwin’s account was empty — down to $14 from $73,449. Next, Weiss checked with morgues and hospitals up the coast all the way to Seattle for men matching Irwin’s description. Nothing. He interviewed neighbors and insurance adjusters. He timed the drive from Irwin’s cabin to the car repair in Upland to see if Johnson could have started the fire and still arrived for her appointment, which he discovered was possible.

He continued to follow the money. “Marcia just had to get more money. Everything she did was toward getting more money,” he says. “If you look at this whole case — from the fire to the insurance — it all had to do with the money.” About a year into his investigation, Weiss discovered a malpractice lawsuit Johnson had filed against a therapist. In it, Johnson said she and her therapist, Debra Martin, had a sexual relationship. The suit was settled for around $30,000, Weiss recalls.

Poring through depositions from the suit, Weiss was stunned to find, buried in pages of Martin’s sworn testimony, a reference to Jack Irwin. Martin said Johnson told her she’d shot him and chopped him up. “That was the first time I ever heard that there’d been an admission by Marcia anywhere about killing him,” says Weiss.

Still, there was no physical evidence. “No nothing,” Johnson says. “Just old Dr. Martin!” She lets out a short laugh. She and Gellert had split briefly. I ask her why she told Martin about the murder at all. “Well, I really thought that I was in love with her,” she says. “I asked the girl to marry me.”

Martin denied the relationship at trial, but Johnson says the two had a short affair. She says Gellert encouraged the lawsuit. “It was kind of a condition of us getting back together,” Johnson says. “Judy told me I had to report her. That’s the only reason.”

For Weiss, it was an enormous break. He returned to the remains of the burned cabin with a warrant, enlisting a forensics team from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. “After three years, it was a shot in the dark,” Weiss says. The lab found blood outside the cabin. It was deteriorated to the point that there was no way to determine if it was even human. But along with the other evidence Weiss had compiled, it was enough to make the case for murder.

The remains of Jack Irwin’s cabin

Except for one important detail: There was no body.

“So how do you prove a crime occurred?” asks Bobby Dean, a homicide detective with the sheriff’s department at the time. “A violent crime related to the theft of funds and assets?” Add to that the challenges of the terrain: “You ever look at an aerial?” Dean laughs. “If you’re killed in Mt Baldy — you start dealing with the mountain range, dirt roads — you’ll never find them. It’s a needle in a haystack.”

So Dean thought it would be a good case for a wiretap. The court authorized taps on four phones — Johnson and Gellert’s landline, their cell phones and Debra Martin’s home phone. Then Weiss and Dean strategized about how to get them talking about a three-year-old crime. “You’ve got to motivate them to talk about it. What we call, ‘Tickle the wire,’” Dean explains. “People talk about things that are relevant in their lives at the time. So you have to make this relevant again.” They sent the women a notice that the remains of the cabin were a hazard and needed to be cleared. Weiss hand-delivered a warrant to Johnson to show up for a court date related to elder abuse and theft charges.

“A wiretap is only good for a certain period of time. So you have to structure your moves,” Dean tells me. “I do this on Monday, let it ride. Do something else on Wednesday, let it ride. The heat starts, the motivating factors build up.”

Weiss says his interactions with Johnson in person were pleasant. “Marcia and I got along,” he says. “I like to lay back, be quiet, be calm.” She had an explanation for everything; he’d smile and nod. “We’re just trying to find Jack,” he’d say to her. “Let me know if he comes home. I need to know so I can close out this report.” He laughs and shakes his head. During a search at their new home, he found many of the items reportedly destroyed in the fire: an antique brush and mirror; VHS tapes stacked on shelves in the same order that they’d been listed on the insurance claim.

The final move was to seize the Ford Expedition they suspected was used to transport Irwin’s remains. Gellert was working as a counselor at a prison. Police showed up to take the vehicle.

She picked up the phone and called Johnson.

“Hello dear,” Johnson answered almost in a sing-song, happy to hear from her.

Gellert was in a full panic. “They just confiscated the Expedition,” she said, according to recorded audio of the conversation.

“What?!” Johnson turned angry. Gellert explained the homicide unit was at her work. “So we need to talk. Big time. Big fucking time.”

Johnson tried to reassure her, “You cannot be charged with anything by association, Judy. Just because you knew me and I did things, does not mean that you are going to get into any kind of trouble.”

Police arrested Gellert, not Johnson. “I wanted more evidence,” says Dean. “So it was all tactics. It wasn’t that [Johnson] shouldn’t go to jail; it was a tactical decision to leave her out so I could get more evidence.”

“It lit Marcia up,” Weiss says. “She was calling everybody under the sun, ‘They took Judy! What am I going to do?’”

Johnson called her aunt. “It’s all over. Everything’s over,” she said, according to tapes of the conversation. “I’m turning myself in for killing Jack. They already know. They already know.” Her aunt didn’t express shock or sound like she was hearing the information for the first time. She simply said, “Oh no.”

But Johnson didn’t turn herself in. She asked her family to look after Gellert and their dogs and went to a motel. “Bobby called me from the wire room and said it looks like she’s getting ready to split,” Weiss tells me. They worried she might head to Mexico.

On October 11, 2002, a little more than three years after Irwin’s disappearance, police arrested Johnson for Irwin’s murder. In the car on the two-hour drive back to San Bernardino, she repeated that Gellert wasn’t involved. “She was really concerned about Judy,” Dean says. “‘Judy didn’t do nothing, I don’t want Judy to take the fall for this.’”

Marcia Johnson (L) and Judy Gellert (R)

Back at the station, Johnson waived her Miranda rights and confessed to shooting Irwin and dismembering him with a chainsaw — she remarked how heavy his head was to pick up in her hands.

She told police she’d show them where she distributed his remains, but after her confession, she changed her mind.

On one of our calls, I ask her myself: Where’s Jack Irwin?

She sounds audibly relieved and lets out a short laugh. She thought I was going to ask her about the crime itself, which we hadn’t gotten to yet in our conversations. “Oh, okay, all right,” she says. “He’s up on the old highway up there — Glendora Ridge Road.”

“You [asked] is there anything I would want people to know?” Johnson says on one of our calls. “I would like people to know that they shouldn’t mess with people’s animals. I was so attached to my animals. He poisoned my three dogs. That’s ultimately what pushed me over the edge — him doing that.”

Johnson says there was another side to the kind old man. “Jack was an asshole. He was a feisty little shit. I loved him. But then I got to know who he really was. He was constantly trying to create problems between me and Judy. He didn’t like Judy that much, but he really wanted me,” she draws out the word. “He bitched about Judy. Bitch, bitch, bitch. I used to tell him, ‘That’s my wife,’ but he continued to do it.”

One afternoon, she says she came home to the house in Upland and found powder around her dogs’ dishes. “I asked him what the hell it was, and he told me it was ant poison.” She says the dogs didn’t eat the poison or get sick, but still, she was livid. “I told him after he poisoned my dogs that I was going to kill him. I said, ‘I’m going to kill you,’” she says. “And I did a couple weeks later.”

That same day, she talked to her girlfriend about it. “I couldn’t even see straight. When Judy got home, her and I went on a walk, and I told her that I was going to kill the bastard,” she tells me. Did Gellert think she was serious? “I don’t know,” she says. “I don’t think so.”

The night Johnson was arrested she mentioned the detail about the dogs to police but says they brushed it off, “because probably it would humanize me, make me look like I have feelings or something,” she says. “I’m an animal person. I’d much rather have animals in my life than people,” she laughs.

When she was a kid, Johnson tells me, a neighbor poisoned and killed her family boxer. The episode with Irwin brought back all of those feelings, especially as one of her dogs in Mt Baldy was also a boxer, which she had named after her childhood pet.

She and Gellert moved back up to the cabin with their dogs after the incident with the ant poison. Not long after, she and Irwin talked about him coming to the cabin to help her with some construction work. She picked him up one morning in Upland and told him she had to use his bathroom. “I went inside his house, grabbed his gun, then came back out,” she says. “It was loaded.” She planned to pull over and kill him on Glendora Ridge Road, a deserted stretch in the mountains. But after two cars passed by, she decided to take him to the cabin instead.

Once there, the two were in the back yard. “He called me a ‘nasty girl,’” Johnson says. “It really pissed me off. I’ve got issues. And when he said that… .” Again, she said she had to use the bathroom. “The bathroom window was right where he was, so I heard him out there, just bitching away.” She says he was complaining about Gellert. “That’s all I needed to get my nerve up. I ran out there, and I just shot him.” She wasn’t worried about anyone hearing the gunshot, but “it was louder than I thought it was going to be,” she tells me.

She looked under the cabin for something to cover the body, “and I saw the chainsaw sitting there. That’s when I got the idea of chopping him up.”

She describes getting plastic bags and gloves and a giant Rubbermaid container. She cut his head off first. Then his hands and feet. “Piece, by piece,” she says. “I started bagging him up.”

Afterwards, “I felt fine,” she says. “After I first shot him, and after I chopped him up, I sat on a step of wood, smoked a cigarette and thought, That was really easy. It’s easy to kill someone. People don’t realize it.”

She placed Irwin’s bagged body parts into the Rubbermaid container, “then I carried the container to my Expedition and I put it in the back. I didn’t know where I was going to put him, I just started driving around,” she says.

She ended up back on Glendora Ridge Road. “I took the head out of the bag and rolled it down the mountain,” she says. She estimates she drove a few more miles. “His torso was in a sleeping bag, and I threw the sleeping bag over the side of the cliff,” she says. “I was getting ready to take off, and I went, ‘Son of a bitch, his wallet is in his pocket.’ So I had to climb down and get his wallet out.” She ripped up the contents, pocketed $20 in cash and tossed the rest into a dumpster.

Irwin’s torso, she estimates, is down the mountain, about 10 miles past the campsite where she and Gellert had lived in their RV, before moving to the cabin. “I’d have to show you,” she says. The head is a couple miles before that.

There was no blood on her clothes, no blood in the Expedition. “It wasn’t a messy job,” she says. “It was clean. I wore the same clothes that I chopped him up with to go down to Upland to change my tires.” (Weiss tells me that there’s not as much blood as one might think in these situations. “The heart’s not pumping,” he says. “It’s cold to talk about, but if the person is dead, you dismember them, you’re going to get some blood on you, but not like if they’re alive and it’s pumping and spurting.”)

With Irwin’s hands and feet still in the Rubbermaid container in the back of the SUV, Johnson drove into town. She got new tires. “I wasn’t planning on getting caught,” she laughs, and got a free car wash “for, you know, getting the tires.” She told them to stay out of the back. “I saw them getting in back — that was kind of scary,” she says. But they didn’t see anything, just the container, which she’d strapped shut with motorcycle ties.

Next, she says, she headed about 20 minutes east of Mt Baldy to the 15 Highway. “I pulled off the side of the road somewhere. His feet were still in his shoes.” She tossed them, “and then went down a little further, threw his hands out, and then turned back around.”

She threw out the plastic container and the sleeping bag in different dumpsters in remote locations, then returned to the cabin, and dismantled the chainsaw and gun. “I put each piece in a different trash,” she says. “The gun — I threw that over the mountain, over there by Glendora.”

Today, almost 20 years after the murder, she has no regrets. “I would do the exact same thing again,” she tells me. “If they let me out and somebody messed with my animals, I would shoot him too. Him or her.”

The same day she killed Irwin, she took money out of his bank account. If there’s one thing she would do differently, she says, it’s that. “I touched that money too fast. If I wouldn’t have spent the money, I wouldn’t have been caught. If I would’ve waited a year, none of this would have happened.”

She also says she started using again: alcohol and Klonopin, a drug used to treat panic disorders and seizures. Up at the cabin, she tells me she started hearing Irwin’s voice, seeing him. “I thought he was haunting me,” she says. “I started hallucinating, and that’s why I burned the damn thing down. They say I did it for insurance purposes. That had nothing to do with it. Nothing at all.” (She and Gellert did collect a hefty insurance settlement.)

Once Johnson confessed to the murder, she called Gellert a few times from jail. She says Gellert’s sister started hanging up on her, “then I quit calling.” She didn’t see Gellert again until nearly two years later, at the trial, when Gellert testified, having made a deal with the DA.

“She wouldn’t even look at me,” Johnson says. “It was very painful; it ripped my heart out. It’s still painful to this day because I still love her. She’s a real good person, and whatever happened between her and me — I have to respect that. Because I know she still loves me.”

Johnson won’t discuss what role or knowledge, if any, Gellert had of the crimes. “I gave up my life for her,” she says. “She dropped me like a hot potato, and I’m the reason why she got out of jail. I was thinking — my wife’s in jail. I’ve got to get her out. I knew she couldn’t handle it. I knew I could.”

At trial, according to Weiss, Gellert testified but said she didn’t remember much, so her testimony wasn’t useful. She pled guilty to one felony charge of receiving stolen property and was sentenced to 180 days in jail, to be served on weekends. Years later, according to court papers Gellert tried to get the conviction dismissed and to get the felony reduced to a misdemeanor. The court denied both requests. She didn’t comment for this story and was last living in Indiana. She still has a valid license to work as an addiction counselor.

“I could’ve gotten her in so much trouble. I mean, oh my god!” says Johnson. “She could be down right now with me.”

A jury convicted Johnson of 26 counts, including murder, arson and grand theft. She was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, and her appeal was denied.

Weiss points out that theoretically, if new evidence were to emerge, Gellert could still be tried as an accessory to murder. “Murder’s got an unlimited statute of limitations, so if the right information came up, that could be brought back up.”

It gnaws at him that she walked.

“That bothers me to this day. It really does,” he says. He gets quiet before he speaks again. “It really, really does. She was very involved. With everything. You can’t sit here and tell me, when you’re buying a Corvette, a motorhome, using Jack’s money… .” He shakes his head. “Give me a break. She knew what was going on.”

“She had to know,” Dean agrees. “I mean, come on. But the evidence just wasn’t there to show she was a principle in the murder before it occurred.”

Johnson is 57 years old now. “Prison is bad on the one hand, and on the other hand, it’s not so bad,” she says. “My sister told me how bad it is out there now; people are so angry.”

She doesn’t ruminate on the past, but says occasionally she wonders what her life would be like if she had never been caught. “I’ve thought about if Judy and I would still be together,” she says.

“I’ve talked to a number of people who have killed in my lifetime,” Weiss tells me. “And I can honestly say Marcia was one of the coldest, non-remorseful persons I’ve ever seen.”

After the trial, those in Mt Baldy hosted a dinner for the prosecutors and investigators at the Snowcrest Lodge, “for all they did for Jack,” Sandy Bailey tells me. “We had a big cake for them, and a good part of the village turned out. Everyone was so appreciative of what they’d done.”

It’s still painful for Bailey to talk about. She keeps a picture of Irwin holding her son in her sewing room, “so I get to see him all the time,” she says. “The kind heart that he had and the love that he had for our son and for us personally… We love Jack. I’m going to cry.” She takes a moment to collect herself.

More than a decade ago, she purchased a burial plot for Irwin at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier just in case his remains were found. “He’s just always in our heart and I have a place, if they ever do find his body, where he can be buried. He was very dear to us, and I know it’s something he’d want us to do.”

There’s a steep, cement driveway off Mt Baldy Road leading to what used to be Irwin’s cabin. With the passage of time and overgrowth of vegetation, it’s difficult to tell that anything was ever here. The spot, though, has a perfect view of the mountains. After Irwin left Mt Baldy, his new neighbors in Upland asked him why he decided to buy a two-story house instead of something smaller. Irwin said it was because he loved the mountains and he loved Mt Baldy. “When I go upstairs, I want to see the mountains,” he told them. “I don’t want to live there anymore, but I still want to see them.”