Murder of Dawn Magyar

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Dawn Magyar
Dawn Magyar.jpg
Born Dawn Lee Swan
(1952-03-28)March 28, 1952
Corunna, Michigan
Died January 27, 1973 (1973-01-28) (aged 20)
near Zilwaukee, Michigan
Cause of death Gunshot wounds
Nationality American
Citizenship United States
Known for Murder victim
Spouse(s) Don Magyar
Children 1

The Murder of Dawn Lee Swan Magyar occurred on January 27, 1973. She had been abducted, raped, and shot three times.[1] The case was resolved 28 years after her body was found.[2]


Magyar was born Dawn Lee Swan on March 28, 1952 in the U.S. state of Michigan, and grew up there in the city of Corunna. At the time of her murder, she was 20 years old, married and had one child, and was a housewife living in Chesaning, Michigan with her husband Don Magyar and baby son.[2]


Magyar was abducted while she was grocery shopping in Owosso, Michigan in Shiawassee County on January 27, 1973. She was last seen by a friend who briefly talked with her in the supermarket checkout line and saw her leave the store with her purchases. After Magyar failed to return home, her husband reported her missing. The following day, the borrowed truck that Magyar had been driving was found in the shopping center parking lot with her purchases inside and her keys scattered in and around the truck, suggesting a forceful abduction. Despite a massive search of the area involving 4,000 local volunteers, Magyar was not found.[3]

On March 4, her body was discovered in a wooded area in Saginaw County, Michigan. She had been raped and then shot three times in the head and back with a .22 caliber gun. An autopsy indicated that Magyar had probably been killed within 90 minutes of being abducted.[3] The bullets were indicated as coming from two Remington and one Winchester brand ammo.

In June 1974, a .22 caliber revolver believed to be the murder weapon was recovered from the Shiawassee River in Owosso.[4] The revolver was rusted and unable to fire but was still loaded and had three spent rounds that matched the same brand of bullets that killed Magyar. The gun was traced to a pawn shop in Yuma, Arizona where a man named Robert Shaw purchased it in 1965, but investigators could not locate Shaw at that time. Magyar's wallet and identification were found in 1976 on the riverbank in the same area where the gun had been found.[1]


2005 mugshot of Jerald Wingeart

In 1994, police decided to reopen the case. DNA analysis (which had not been available at the time of the earlier investigation) was then performed from the sperm specimens found with Magyar's corpse.[1] In 1998, Robert Shaw was located, and told authorities that the gun had indeed belonged to him, but that it had been lost many years before. He was later cleared by DNA testing. He provided information that a man named Jerald Leroy Wingeart, whom his previous wife had known, may have been involved in the murder.[1][2]

Wingeart, a former University of Michigan (U-M) engineering student, had a prior 1961 conviction for the rape of a blind female U-M student and the robbery of her escort in Ann Arbor Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan, for which he served a prison sentence between 1961 and 1969.[1][3][5][6] Wingeart had also been charged in the 1979 rape and murder of 16-year-old Laura McVeigh near Hubbardston, Michigan, but that case was dismissed before trial due to errors in evidence retrieval.[3][7] However, by 1994, Wingeart was living a quiet life in Center Line, Michigan with his fourth wife and working for a Big Three automobile manufacturer in Detroit. He was considered a respectable member of his community, known for his computer skills.[1][2][3]

Arrest and Conviction[edit]

Police subsequently obtained Wingeart's DNA from saliva on cigarette butts he had used and discarded in his trash, and found that Wingeart's DNA matched the samples taken from the Magyar crime scene. They also determined that Wingeart had been in the Owosso area visiting a friend around the time of Magyar's murder. As investigators were unable to establish any link between Wingeart and Magyar, they believed that Wingeart had seen her in the shopping center parking lot and randomly chose her as his victim.[1]

On March 7, 2001, Wingeart, then aged sixty, was arrested and charged with Magyar's murder.[4] Wingeart went on trial later the same year. Wingeart claimed that he had had consensual sex with Magyar; however, experts testified that Wingeart's DNA was left on Magyar during the timeframe that she went missing and was killed. On November 27, 2001, Wingeart was found guilty and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.[1]

In media[edit]

Magyar's case was detailed in TruTV's crime documentary series, The Investigators (also aired as Crime Stories), titled "The Disappearance of Dawn".[4]

The A&E Network series Cold Case Files also documented the case in Season 2, Episode 13, "Vintage Murder".[8]

Anthony "Tony" Hornus, a high school classmate of Dawn Magyar who covered the case as a reporter for the Owosso Argus-Press, later wrote and co-directed the 2004 film An Ordinary Killer based on Magyar's murder. The film starred Terence Knox, Dennis Haskins and Dan Haggerty, and utilized many of the actual locations related to the crime and investigation.[9][10] Hornus also wrote a book about the Magyar case entitled An Ordinary Killer, which was published in 2008.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Disappearance of Dawn Magyar." The Investigators. TruTV. Atlanta, Georgia, 2002. Television.
  2. ^ a b c d Hornus, Tony (March 11, 2001). "Is Dawn Magyar's Alleged Murderer Jerald Wingeart a Serial Rapist?". Argus-Press. Owosso, Michigan. Retrieved March 7, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Hornus, Tony (March 8, 2001). "Dawn Magyar Murder Suspect Was Arrested By Police March 7". Argus-Press. Owosso, Michigan. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c Boston, Gabriella (August 24, 2002). "Court TV Puts Case to Public; Forensic Choices on 'I, Detective'.". The Washington Times. Washington, D.C. Retrieved May 15, 2014. (subscription required)
  5. ^ "Accused Assaulter Demands Hearing, Is Free On Bond". The Ann Arbor News. Ann Arbor, Michigan. July 11, 1961. Archived from the original on October 15, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Cold Case: Dawn Lee Swan Magyar Murder". My Life of September 14, 2006. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  7. ^ Hornus, Tony (May 16, 2004). "Michigan Supreme Court Denies Wingeart's Leave to Appeal Conviction: Magyar Killer Likely to be Charged in 1979 Slaying of Ionia 16-Year-Old". Argus-Press. Owosso, Michigan. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Cold Case Files: S2 E13: Vintage Murder/ Trouble in Paradise". A&E. Archived from the original on 2016-05-07. Retrieved 2016-12-22. 
  9. ^ "'An Ordinary Killer', Based on Magyar Case, Will Be Filmed Here". Argus-Press. Owosso, Michigan. December 2, 2001. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  10. ^ "An Ordinary Killer (2004) (overview)". The New York Times. 2010. Archived from the original on October 15, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  11. ^ Hornus, Anthony (2008). An Ordinary Killer. Alexander, North Carolina: Alexander Books. ISBN 9781570902451.