A Mount Girl Gone: What Happened to Jane Maguire
Posted on November 02 2021
A Mount Girl Gone: What Happened to Jane Maguire
It’s been said that no one is ever really gone as long as they’re remembered. The Latin celebration of Dia de los Muertos, celebrated November 1st and 2nd, honors passed-on loved ones by lighting candles and leaving out the deceased persons’ favorite foods and drinks. In the spirit of the day, we wanted to dedicate today’s post to a special alumna taken too soon from this world – Jane Maguire, Class of 1971.
This is our candle for you, Jane. May your story never be forgotten.A red-haired girl in bellbottoms. An orange Volkswagen mini-bus. A warm September afternoon. The day Jane Maguire went missing must have felt like any other in the early Fall of 1972.
On Wednesday, September 20, 1972, Class of ’71 graduate Jane Maguire left her family’s home in Washington, Pennsylvania, to visit her sister Martha, who was still a student at the Mount. It wasn’t meant to be a long trip, and Jane told her parents to expect her home by 5:30 that afternoon. She never made it to the Mount.
Instead, Jane’s body would be found that Friday in a wooded area outside of Akron, Ohio. “Local Girl Found Murdered in Ohio” and “Victim’s Family Stunned by Co-ed’s Murder” are what the headlines read that weekend. In the 49 years since her death, the details of the murder itself don’t seem as important as remembering who Jane was.
“People who knew Jane, even if only for a short time, remembered her as a bubbly girl, outgoing, with a zest for life,” reporter Jon Stevens wrote in the Observer-Reporter the day after Jane’s body was found.
“She was on the swimming team at Elmhurst Swimming Club when I was coaching,” friend Dan Stone told the newspaper. “She was the bright spot on the team. When Jane lost a race, she lost it smiling.”
It was her zest and friendly personality that her father, the late Mount de Chantal board member James Maguire, worried led her to pick up a hitchhiker during the drive in which she went missing.
“She was one of those typical 19-year old girls who thought everyone was good and would pick up anyone,” he said.
Sadly, Mr. Maguire’s fears would be part of the reality of Jane’s murder.
Convicted of her killing that same year, Larry Via and his accomplice Charmaine Phillips carried out a string of crimes in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky between May and September of 1972. Phillips told investigators the pair would pretend to be hitchhiking to get motorists to pull over. Both she and Via had long blond hair – Via’s was nearly down to his bottom – and many passing by would think they were a pair of women needing a ride.
Via is now serving a life sentence at the Marion Correctional Institution for Jane’s murder. As part of his punishment, he was ordered to spend every September 20 meditating on Jane Maguire’s life. From prison, he published a number of short stories in “outlaw” biker magazines, including one titled ‘Moonlit Ride’ that involved scenarios closely matching the circumstances of Jane’s death.
In 2017, a similar story along with evidence connecting him to the September 18, 1972, death of Pennsylvania man Morgan Peters, was used to charge Via with murder a second time.
If you Google the name Jane Maguire, search results are quickly and closely followed up by the name Larry Via. This hardly seems fair. In a just world, it would be Jane’s name that we knew without any influence from the person behind a brief encounter that ended her life.
The point of this blog entry is not to sensationalize what happened or dredge up old, painful emotions. Rather, I hope these words help memorialize Jane and bring her story to a new generation. Maybe it’s best to honor that life the way newspaper accounts recalled at the time…
“Jane liked close contacts with her friends. She would sit for hours and talk about her favorite subject, art,” the Saturday, September 23, 1972 edition of the Observer-Reporter reads. “While at the Mount, she was vice present of the student government, and at Windham College, where she attended one year, worked as the business manager of the school newspaper.”
The article goes on to list funeral arrangements and ends with “For those who wish to make memorial contributions, the family suggests they be made to Mt. de Chantal Academy, Wheeling.”
A tree planted on the Mount campus by her classmates in memory of Jane had been replanted in the sisters' cemetery when Wheeling Hospital purchased the Mount property and tore down four of the six buildings and made playing fields after the school closed in 2008
• Cassie Bendel was born in Wheeling and raised in Bellaire. A graduate of St. Vincent College, she began her writing career as a reporter with The Times Leader and the Steubenville Herald-Star before writing content for SiriusXM Satellite Radio and a national faith-based consulting company. After more than a decade in Pennsylvania, she has moved back to the Ohio Valley with her husband and two sons.