Late former boarder of woman missing since 1984 said she wouldn’t have left her young son: fiancé

The night before she disappeared in June 1984, 25-year-old Mary Ann Bagenstose watched TV with a boarder at her home near Willow Street.

The next day, her estranged husband, Jere Bagenstose, took their 2-year-old son to Long’s Park while she finished getting ready to go with him to get a new car.

When Jere returned for her, he would later tell police, she was nowhere to be found, but had left a note saying she walked to a Turkey Hill nearly a mile away.

Two days later, Mary Ann’s mother reported her missing.

On Tuesday, armed with a sealed search warrant, investigators searched Mary Ann’s West Willow Road property, where Jere Bagenstose still lives. It’s not known what, if anything, they found. Jere Bagenstose declined comment after the search.

William Yellets, the boarder with whom Mary Ann watched television, died Sept. 8 of complications associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to his fiance, Erica Yarnall.

Yellets would talk about Mary Ann occasionally over their 26 years together, Yarnall said Wednesday, particularly if her case came up in the news.

“He was just always saying for mercy sakes, he hopes that everything just gets taken care of and they find out what happened,” said Yarnall, who lives in Columbia. 

About a year and a half ago, Yarnall said, investigators came to talk to Yellets about the case.

Because of Yellet’s health troubles, she was with him while investigators questioned him.

“They were asking questions, something about a dug-up area in the garage, and years later it was covered over in concrete,” Yarnall recalled.

The focus, Yarnall said, was not on Yellets.

“They were just here to see if maybe something came up throughout the years that might help,” she said.

While Yellets did not talk specifically about what he thought happened to Mary Ann, “What he would always say is, she loved her son that much that she would not leave her son behind.”

A second boarder

Yarnall said Yellets came to live at the Bagenstose house through a friend, Thomas Whittington, who had also been a boarder at the house. Whittington had moved out several weeks before, under orders from Jere Bagenstose, following his arrest for growing marijuana in flower pots at the house, according to news reports.

Yellets had lived at the Bagenstose home for at least a couple months, according to newspaper reports from the 1980s. It’s not clear when he moved out.

Yarnell said she did know know Yellets then, nor anything about the disappearance of the young nurse’s aide. Yarnell and Yellets were together for more than 26 year and, while engaged, they just never got around to getting married, she said. 

A reliable number for Whittington could not be located, and he did not respond Wednesday to a message sent via Facebook, nor to a message his ex-wife said she would relay to him.

Yarnall said Yellets didn’t know Jere Bagenstose and had come to know Mary Anne through Whittington. Yarnall recalls meeting Whittington twice. One of the times was at a court proceeding related to Mary Ann’s disappearance, she said. 

“It was probably over 20 years ago they had to go to court for this,” Yarnall said. 

She doesn’t know what the proceeding was about.

“I wasn’t allowed in the courtroom. They had the windows covered,” Yarnall said.

Yellets would have been hopeful that Tuesday’s search meant investigators are closing in on an answer, Yarnall said, especially for Mary Ann’s son.

The son, Jeremy Bagenstose, told LNP | LancasterOnline in an email Wednesday that he did not want to talk about the case.

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