Led Campaign to Keep Daughter’s Former Math Teacher Behind Bars : Murderer’s Escape Revives 20-Year-Old Nightmare for Victim’s Mother
Lavonne Rimer spent almost 20 years trying to keep her daughter’s murderer behind bars. Last year he escaped, and Rimer believes he is capable of killing again.
Police investigators agree.
“He’s like a little time bomb out there,” said State Trooper Raymond Fratangelo, who is working on the case. “Some officer may pull him over for a broken tail light and get shot without even knowing why.”
On April 28, 1966, Jon E. Yount stopped Pamela Sue Rimer as she walked home from her school bus stop. He beat, raped and stabbed the 18-year-old high school senior before slitting her throat, authorities said.
Pamela Sue, an honors student who rode horses, played the clarinet in the school band and planned to enroll at Penn State University on a scholarship, was buried in her prom dress. Her classmates laid their graduation tassels across her grave.
Yount, who had been Pamela Sue’s math teacher, was twice convicted of first-degree murder, once of rape. Rimer worked constantly to ensure that Yount didn’t have his life sentence commuted. She wrote to politicians and led petition drives for Yount’s nine pardon hearings, gathering as many as 13,000 signatures in this rural coal and farm community in central Pennsylvania.
On Farm Detail
Yount escaped April 5, 1986, while on an unsupervised farm detail at Rockview State Correctional Institution.
“He’d been a model prisoner for 20 years. Who’d have thought he was going to go?” said Trooper William F. Madden, who heads the investigation.
Madden said Yount apparently walked to a nearby road and fled in a car with Diane Brodbeck, a woman who had visited inmates with a church group.
In 21 months since Yount’s escape, police have received a number of leads, including alleged sightings in central Maryland and in State College, Pa., and information that he was in Montreal, Madden said. The last lead came in November.
For a time, investigators thought Yount might have written a book titled “Vanish: Disappearing Through I.D. Acquisition” under the name Johnny Yount. The book describes how a person can change identities and vanish, but authorities determined that Johnny Yount was the pen name of a Los Angeles writer.
Jon E. Yount, now 49, holds a master’s degree in education and learned computer programming in prison. He also traveled between prisons as an organist and headed the prison chapter of the Jaycees.
“The way he manipulates people, he could be in any setting. He could be teaching. He could be data processing,” Madden said.
Madden believes Yount will eventually be recaptured. “He’s not God. He’s not infallible.”
Yount met Brodbeck in 1983 when he was at Camp Hill state prison and she was a volunteer for Lutheran Social Services in Harrisburg.
According to Madden, Brodbeck, 40, married with two children and one grandchild, began visiting and writing to Yount. She continued to see Yount after he transfered to Rockview, about 100 miles away, in September, 1985.
Yount’s letters to Brodbeck were full of sexual overtones, Madden said. Yount sent them to a post office in Lewisberry, where Brodbeck had rented a box using her middle and maiden names, Brenda Warner, the trooper said.
“He may actually have cared for her, but after December, 1985, he saw her as a way to get out,” Madden said. “If he was manipulating her and used her only as a means for escape, then she’s dead somewhere.”
In addition to his petitions to the Pardons Board, Yount had two trials in Clearfield County and a federal appeal for freedom that failed before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Third Trial Denied
In December, 1985, a petition for a third trial was denied. F. Cortez Bell III, assistant district attorney in Clearfield County, believes Yount fled when it appeared that all his legal avenues had been closed.
“Yount consistently felt the sentence he received was unfair,” said Bell, who argued before the Supreme Court in Yount’s case.
Yount thought he should have been convicted of second-degree murder, for a non-premeditated slaying, which then carried a 10- to 20-year sentence, Bell said.
Three months after Yount’s final appeal, Brodbeck withdrew $7,410 from a $7,500 bank account, Madden said.
Brodbeck, who was working as a receptionist at a beauty salon in Wormleysburg, also rented storage space in Harrisburg, where she left a light blue car, he said.
At 1 p.m. the day of his escape, Yount was dropped off by a labor foreman about a mile from the prison to drive a tractor on a farm detail. The foreman discovered him missing at 3:30.
Walter Regel, an off-duty prison guard who knew Brodbeck from her visits, saw her driving near the prison about 1:45 p.m., Madden said. He learned later that Yount had escaped.
“The biggest break he got was getting a three-hour jump on us,” Madden said.
A month later, police discovered the purported getaway car, which was tan, in a parking lot in Harrisburg. Authorities believe Yount and Brodbeck swapped the car for the blue car she left in that city.
Although it’s been 21 years since the killing, Rimer’s eyes fill with tears as she talks about her daughter. Her only other child, Douglas Jr., was killed in a farm accident in 1963 when he was 10. Her husband died in 1976.
“I miss her so much. I just miss her so much,” Rimer said in an interview at her home. The afternoon Pamela Sue was killed is still so vivid to Rimer that she can recall what she bought at the market--jelly rolls and hair curlers, the latter for her daughter.
A quarter-mile from her house, she pointed out the big tree where Pamela Sue, lying face down, drowned in her own blood. She believes her daughter ran from Yount and was cutting through the woods to try to reach the main road when he caught up with her.
According to Yount, he was driving in the area looking for property when he saw Pamela Sue walking home from the bus stop. He said he offered his student a ride.
Yount testified that he then made an innocent comment she misconstrued as an advance, and she tried to get out of the car, promising to tell the authorities. Yount said he vaguely recalled striking her with a wrench, but he didn’t remember stabbing her with his pocket knife.
Rimer said she believes Yount had been waiting for a chance to catch her daughter on the desolate road. Pamela Sue had told her mother she had seen Yount drive by the house on several previous afternoons.
The girl had also asked if she could transfer out of Yount’s advanced math class, according to Rimer.
“She said, ‘Oh, Mom, you should see his eyes.’ ”
Pamela Sue Rimer had asked if she could transfer out of Jon Yount’s advanced math class, her mother says. ‘She said, “Oh, Mom, you should see his eyes.” ’