Sister of Ripley Co., MO murder victim says criminal past may ha - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Sister of Ripley Co., MO murder victim says criminal past may have slowed investigation

Jonathan Tarvin (Source: Jennifer Stepanek/KFVS) Jonathan Tarvin (Source: Jennifer Stepanek/KFVS)
Jonathan Tarvin (Source: Jennifer Stepanek/KFVS) Jonathan Tarvin (Source: Jennifer Stepanek/KFVS)

Did a Ripley County murder victim's criminal past play a role in the investigation into his case? 

Jonathan Tarvin went missing back in April. Now two men face murder charges after human remains were recovered in a burn pile, and his sister wants answers.

The victim's criminal history

Jennifer Stepanek admits that her brother was a registered sex offender - and feels this may have impacted his case.

"I hate to admit it, and it's just my opinion, but mostly likely [his case was not seriously investigated] because he was not only an outsider but he was also a sex offender," she said. "I mean he hadn't offended since his initial offense in 18 years but once you're a sex offender you're always... I guess they just didn't like him."

Law enforcement officials, however, firmly deny that this is the case. 

"It's irrelevant, that doesn't matter to us at all... If they're a victim, they're a victim," said Ripley County Chief Deputy Richie Phillips.

A four month gap

The probable cause statement on Tarvin's case shows he went missing on April 26, 2016 - but the document then jumps straight to August 30, 2016, when police say two men confessed to the crime - a gap of nearly four months.

"I think if they looked at it closer as they [should] have, they would have more evidence in that point in time - a blood trail, more remains, the weapons involved - and because it has been 4 months, I'm sure they have used that burn pile more than that one time... There isn't much to be found," Stepanek said.

Phillips said Tarvin's case could have been handled better, and he said yes, he thinks more should have been looked into sooner. He could not answer if anything specifically happened between April, when he was reported missing, and August, when two men confessed to the crime.

Making sense and moving forward

Stepanek said she found out the her brother was missing on Aug. 24 - and just a few days later, she read the two men had confessed to his murder.

"What they had done to him... It was really hard to take. He had a lot of issues, he was mentally disabled and mentally disturbed, but he was not a horrible person," Stepanek said. "He had a good heart... The people that knew him close [knew] he would give the shirt off his back for [them]... He was a very loving and caring person - he just had a lot of issues." 

Stepanek said she's glad that her family has closure, but still wishes that the case would have been handled differently - and hopes that similar cases in the future are taken more seriously.

"It was really hard to take, it's a little harder to know he was burned - but at the same time at least we know he wasn't rotting away somewhere... I think that if they responded after the missing person's reports came in and taken this reports a lot more seriously, things would have been solved a lot sooner. From what I know, it is still an ongoing investigation."

"They had no reason to kill him over something like that, I'm sorry. I just don't understand why," Stepanek said.

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