Custodial dad murders daughter's husband--and gets away with it




Publish Date: 3/1/2010

40 years after husband’s murder, woman still fears killer

By Pierrette J. Shields

© 2010 Longmont Times-Call

LONGMONT — Investigators have closed the case on the 40-year-old murder of Diane Dykstra’s husband, but she still looks over her shoulder for the killer to attack her.

The man she fears seeing, the man who became her bogeyman, is her father, Jake Jones. Investigators concluded he died in 1979, but after 40 years of paranoia and fear, Dykstra can well imagine ways that the body in that Oregon grave is not her father and her husband’s killer.

“I would like them to exhume the grave and do DNA,” Dykstra said.

Boulder County Sheriff’s Detective Steve Ainsworth closed the books on the 1970 homicide of 18-year-old Harold “Nicky” Nicholson this month, concluding that Jones beat his new son-in-law to death, likely with a tire iron. An Adams County deputy found Nicholson’s body stuffed into the trunk of his new car — parked near 136th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard, just inside the Boulder County line — the day after he was reported missing.

Dykstra, who now lives in Oregon, said she never doubted that her biological father killed Nicholson and that the investigation was botched, leaving her to fear for her life and her loved ones’ lives for decades.

Dykstra said she moved in with her father when she was 16 to reconnect with him and because her mother and stepfather upset her when they moved the family from California and away from her friends.

“I think I have been in danger from the day I was picked up from the airport,” she said. “If he truly is not dead, I think I am still in danger.”

She said Jones began abusing her on her first day in Colorado and became enraged when she secretly married Nicholson, whom she called “just the sweetest person.”

Now 57, Dykstra said she never fell out of love with her groom, who took her to movies and McDonald’s and was a talented bass guitar player.

“His favorite (band) was The Beatles,” she said. “He was just kind of a quiet person, just very sweet.”

She wonders how her life would have been different had he lived.

“I still have a lot of emotions around that. I mean, it is so sad. It is so sad to lose a young life like that and you always wonder what your life would have been, what he would have been like,” she said. “You never fall out of love with him; it just stays there forever.”

Shortly after their wedding and after spending some time being angry, Jones suddenly changed his tune, Dykstra said. Jones arranged for the couple to buy a car, and Nicholson accompanied Jones to the car lot where Jones worked on May 23, 1970, while Dykstra was at beauty school.

She said Nicholson was supposed to pick her up in the car during her lunch hour to go for a drive, but he never showed up. She was instantly scared for him.

“He didn’t show up. I started calling around, and I didn’t find him,” she said, adding that Jones eventually picked her up and made a show of driving around to look for Nicholson.

“I am sure it was in the opposite direction,” she said.

A deputy found Nicholson’s body the next day. The last person with whom he was seen alive was Jones, who returned to his dealership with blood stains on his shirt. Investigators at the time concluded the blood was human but could not determine it as Nicholson’s.

Dykstra fled from her father within days. Over the years, she said, investigators would re-examine the case, call her and bring it all flooding back.

She returned to California after Nicholson’s death to move back in with her mother and stepfather, who also had returned to the state. Investigators over the years found that Jones had followed her and once sent her a birthday gift. On one occasion, she believes, he followed her from a job, so she stopped at a restaurant and called police.

Ainsworth was able to determine that Jones had stolen the identity of a dead Boulder man, Larry Dean Seitzinger, and had gotten involved in other crimes in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and other states. Ultimately, Jones landed in Oregon, just a couple of hours’ drive from Dykstra’s home.

Ainsworth said witnesses who knew Jones as Seitzinger said the man would brag that it wasn’t his real name. They also described Jones’ identifying characteristics, including his Marine tattoo.

Ainsworth said Jones, living under his assumed name, was killed in a 1979 boating accident. His grave has been located in Oregon.

He also obtained fingerprints from one of Jones’ arrests under the alias that conclusively determined it was Jones who was using the name.

Dykstra said she isn’t 100 percent convinced that it is Jones’ body in the grave. She said not all the bodies from the boating accident were recovered, and she worries about the outside chance that he staged his own death and that someone else is in the grave.

Ainsworth said he is convinced.

“I have no doubt in my mind that it is him,” Ainsworth said. “I think he’ll never be dead enough for her.”

Dykstra is prepared in case he is not, she said. She keeps a gun in her home that she has been trained to use.

Still, she said Ainsworth’s work has given her some peace of mind.

“They have decided that (Jones) did commit the crime. I feel like the original investigation was botched, because he should have been arrested and tried then,” she said.

Ainsworth’s cold-case work has netted big results for the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office. He helped identify a young woman killed in 1954 known until last year as Boulder Jane Doe. Her real name was Dorothy Gay Howard. With assistance from local historian Silvia Pettem, Ainsworth believes Howard was a victim of “Lonely Hearts Killer” Harvey Glatman.

Ainsworth is now focusing on the 1982 unsolved stabbing death of 20-year-old Susie Becker, whose body was found 4 miles west of Boulder in Boulder Canyon, and the 1977 strangulation death of 17-year-old Christine Jones, who was found in Left Hand Canyon about 3 1/2 miles from her home.

Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273 or pshields@times-call.com.

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