Gary, Pastor, Clarkson Community Church
Photograph by Martha Deed
Gary and Jane met in college and have children the ages of John and Annette's children. The two families became close after John and Annette began attending the Clarkson Community Church, where Gary was pastor.
When Annette became acting manager of a Gloria Jean's Coffee Shop at nearby Greece Ridge Center Mall, it seemed only natural that she would hire friends -- like Jane -- to work there. It was an opportunity to put some money aside for special events and to augment Gary's salary. Only after John's disappearance did it become evident that Annette had two sets of employees at the coffee shop, and the two rarely met.
Jane says, "Everyone felt guilty about John's death. Only afterwards did each of us realize that each of us had a piece of the puzzle."
Jane is a "clean freak." She would use slow times to clean at Gloria Jean's. "You had to be particularly careful not to let the Cappucino toppings spoil."
One day in Spring, 1998, "I found a vile container on a high shelf in the back room at Gloria Jean's. I lifted the lid and it smelled terrible, so I threw it out. It was before vacation in 1998. This must have been the first batch of poison. I told Annette, and she said, 'Oh, yeah, things spoil sometimes,' and that was the end of it."
Gary and John Montstream were not only pastor and parishioner, they were pastor and counselee, and best friends. When John began confiding in his pastor, Gary was bound by his pastoral role to keep all of their conversation confidential. This complicated Gary and Jane's relationship and the family's ongoing friendship with John and Annette, because Annette was complaining about John to Jane -- and Jane believed her at first.
At some point, John released Gary from confidentiality. "John would ask me, 'Why does she have to scream at me all the time?'
"If I'd had any inkling about what was going on, I would have told him to take the children and run."
After John's body was found, Gary faced creating a memorial service for his best friend. His grief was complicated by persistent rumors that he was having an affair with Annette. It was discussed on the local talk show.
Annette was the source of the rumor.
Gary didn't visit Annette in jail after she confessed to planning John's murder.
Annette wrote letters to church members complaining that Gary had abandoned her.
Gary says he will never have a best friend in his church again.
In Spring 2002, Gary Jones left the ministry. A few years later, the family moved out of state.
Gary doesn't think John's murder is the cause of his leaving the ministry.
*Names changed by request.