Real Name: Delores Joan Jefferies
Location: Webster, Texas
Date: November 29, 1994
Details: Fifty-eight-year-old Joan Jefferies was a clerk at an aerospace firm in Houston, Texas who worked with software engineer Sam Patel. He convinced her to help him start a commuter airline company called "Best Aviation". In April of 1994, he hired her part time and had her placed on the company's Board of Directors. Although Sam was married, he and Joan often met at the home of his then-girlfriend, Richie Guyote. He told Richie that he was in an arranged marriage and that he could not get divorced.
Sam told Joan that foreign investors would help fund Best Aviation in the coming months. Meanwhile, a top priority was obtaining life insurance policies on the company's key people; Joan herself was insured for $250,000. Joan's family could not understand why she was insured for that high amount of money, as she was basically a secretary. Sam agreed to pay her a monthly salary. However, between April and November of 1994, she received only one check and it bounced.
Joan's daughter Kelley claims that by November, her mother was planning on ending her involvement with Best Aviation and Sam. He apparently became defensive and tried everything he could to get her to stay. However, Sam claims that they agreed for her to work until they could find someone else to work part-time.
Two weeks later, sometime during the night, Sam showed up Joan's apartment unannounced. He showed her a certified check; however, he claimed that he had to go and get the check xeroxed. Joan called Kelley and talked with her for a few minutes. When Sam returned, he claimed that he could not find a xerox machine. He asked her if he could use her phone as he did not have a car; she agreed. Sam's wife got him a rent-a-car to pick him up at Joan's house. Strangely, he then gave her a door alarm and a taser gun, claiming that she needed protection. He then asked her for a ride home, as the car had not shown up yet. When Joan called Kelley back, she told her not to give him a ride home.
According to Kelley, while she was on the phone with her mother, Sam showed up a third time. She told him to leave. Sam, however, claims that he never showed up at Joan's apartment that night. Two weeks later, on November 28, 1994, she had a business dinner with Sam. She expected a check from him for $4000 in back wages. She also planned to hand over the company files and sever her ties with Best Aviation. Kelley asked her mother to meet with Sam at work, as she did not trust him; however, Joan felt that she would be safe in a public restaurant. Interestingly, Sam insisted that Joan did not mention quitting her job at Best Aviation. He claims that the meeting just involved talking about investors. He also claimed that he gave her a check, post-dated to December 9, which was when the investors' money would arrive.
Joan and Sam left the restaurant at around 10PM. Early the next morning, Joan would be found dead in her car; she was shot twice to the head and twice to the chest. She was missing her purse and keys, but still had her diamond necklace, plainly in view. Robbery was an unlikely motive. The amount of shots seemed to indicate that the killer was known to her. Investigators believe that Joan was killed the night before.
Sam was brought in for questioning. He claimed that on the night of the murder, the two parted ways in the parking lot. He claimed that he went to his girlfriend Richie's house. Initially, he said that he had never been in Joan's car. However, during a second interview, he changed his story and said that he had been in her car. He also told investigators that he was riding his bike around a cul-de-sac near Richie's house. He then showed up at her home. She said that he did show up at her house that night with his shirt wrapped around his neck. He claimed that he was hot from riding his bike. However, she felt that something was not right. Interestingly, the shirt that he was wearing was never found.
Other evidence was found at the scene, including vomit, apparently left by the killer. Subsequent analysis revealed the contents, which were the same contents of the meal that Sam had eaten on the night of the murder. Unfortunately, DNA testing on the vomit was inconclusive. Despite this, Joan's family is convinced that he was the killer.
Suspects: Sam Patel is considered a prime suspect in the case. Joan's family was first suspicious of the large life insurance policy taken out on Joan, even though she was basically a secretary for Sam's company. When months passed and she had not received a check from Sam, she threatened to quit. Sam, however, pleaded with her to stay. Her family was also suspicious about his actions on the night that he showed up at Joan's home three times. Her daughter Kelley believes that, had she not been on the phone with her mother, Sam would have killed Joan that night.
Investigators and Joan's family believe that his actions on the night of the murder were also suspicious, especially his supposed bike ride and the conflicting stories about the shirt he was wearing. He has yet to turn over that shirt to the police. If he was the killer, he would have had to reach over Joan's body and turn off her car; in the process, he would have gotten blood on his shirt.
Kelley believes Sam had to murder Joan that night while she was still an employee in order to collect the insurance. She believes that he staged the flimsy robbery to divert attention from himself. Sam continues to maintain his innocence. He claims that after the murder, he met with the Board of Directors; they agreed to donate the insurance money to either a charity of her family.
Extra Notes: This segment originally ran on the April 12, 1996 episode.
Results: Unsolved. In January of 1996, Joan's children filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Sam Patel. The outcome of this lawsuit is unknown. No charges have ever been filed in Joan's murder.
- Joan Jefferies at Unsolved.com
- League City family files wrongful death suit
- Sitcoms Online Discussion Thread