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TAMA COUNTY, Iowa - The mother-in-law of a Tama woman found dead in her home on Wednesday has been charged with her murder.
Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation special agent-in-charge Bill Kietzman said during a press conference Friday that 57-year-old Ginger Jefferson has been charged with the murder of 32-year-old Kerry O'Clair-Jefferson. O'Clair-Jefferson was marred to Ginger Jefferson's son, Dustin Jefferson. Dustin Jefferson, 38, is in custody on an unrelated manner.
The investigation is ongoing, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation special agent-in-charge Bill Kietzman said during a press conference in Tama Friday morning. O'Clair-Jefferson was marred to Ginger Jefferson's son, Dustin Jefferson. Dustin Jefferson, 38, is in custody on an unrelated manner.
Jefferson made her initial appearance Friday afternoon at the Tama County Courthouse in Toledo. Judge Richard VanderMey set Jefferson's bond at $1 million cash. She will be represented by the Marshalltown Public Defender's office.
According to Kietzman, police responded to the Jefferson's home Wednesday afternoon to serve an arrest warrant on Dustin Jefferson. Police learned O'Clair-Jefferson was inside and possibly injured.
"They went inside and found her body," Kietzman said.
Kietzman said authorities learned Ginger Jefferson might have had information about the crime and she was taken into custody at a material witness. On Thursday, an autopsy performed in Ankeny determined O'Clair had died from sharp force trauma and the manner of her death was determined to be a homicide. Based on the autopsy and information learned in the initial investigation, police and the DCI conferred with the Tama County attorney and charged Ginger Jefferson with first-degree murder, a class A felony punishable by life in prison.
Because the investigation is ongoing, authorities were tight-lipped about what they have learned so far. Kietzman said they don't know what led to the alleged murder.
"Right now, we don't have a concrete motive," he said.
Tama Police Chief Jeffrey Filloon said police have not been called to the Jefferson's residence in the past and he was unaware of any problems between O'Clair-Jefferson and her mother-in-law.
Members of both Jefferson and O'Clair-Jefferson's family sat near each other in a small courtroom during the initial appearance, occasionally dabbing tears from their eyes. Family members and friends have said O'Clair-Jefferson's family would not comment on Friday.
After the hearing, Laurie Davenport - who is O'Clair-Jefferson's sister-in-law and Jefferson's daughter-in-law - said the two families are united.
"We're all sticking together, both sides of the family," Davenport said. "It's been a rough week for us all."
When asked if Jefferson and her daughter-in-law had been experiencing any problems, Davenport said "all families have tiffs."
"We all love each other," she said.
Steffanie Kyle, O'Clair-Jefferson's friend, said Kerry and her husband had been having marital problems and have been separated. Kyle said she didn't think her friend had any reason to fear her mother-in-law and described their relationship as, "that normal in-law hatred that some people have."
Jefferson had been living at 307 Main Street in Toledo up until about a month ago, according to her husband's nephew, Skylier Makesroom, who lives at the residence. Makesroom said his mother kicked Jefferson out of the house about a month ago and she had been living with other family members since then.
Makesroom described Jefferson as a "nice person" and "easygoing."
"This is not her," he said. "It doesn't sound like her at all."
Filloon said the community is still in shock over the murder.
"Everybody knows everybody, everybody is related," he said. "It's a big impact."
Ginger Jefferson's criminal history includes arrests for drug, alcohol and theft-related offenses.