Juan Ignacio Blanco  


  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.




Mary Jane FONDER





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Police say Fonder was jealous of Smith and her relationship with their church pastor
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 23, 2008
Date of arrest: April 1, 2008
Date of birth: July 5, 1942
Victim profile: Rhonda Smith, 42
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Springfield Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on December 5, 2008
photo gallery

Mary Jane Fonder (born July 5, 1942) is an American criminal who murdered Rhonda Smith, a fellow congregant, inside their church in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 2008.

Fonder has also been investigated, but not charged, in connection with the disappearance of her father, Edward Fonder III, in 1993.

Early life

Mary Jane Fonder was born on July 5, 1942, to Alice and Edward Fonder III of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fonder and her brother, Edward Fonder IV, grew up in West Philadelphia, where their father was a machinist and their mother was a proofreader.

Fonder experienced emotional problems during her childhood. When Fonder was eight ears old, her family purchased a second home in Springfield Township, a small rural town in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She attended John Bartram High School in Philadelphia, but had difficulty with her schoolwork due to emotional issues. She was institutionalized for one month during her childhood after attempting to commit suicide by overdosing on chloral hydrate. Shortly afterward, Fonder dropped out of high school and found social interactions increasingly difficult.

Fonder worked various jobs during her early adulthood, including at a ceramics studio, a department store, various knitting factories, and the J.P. Lippincott publishing company, where she was a punchcard operator. Fonder did not start dating until her late thirties and never formed any serious romantic relationships.

In 1987, at age 45, Fonder moved back to Springfield Township to care for her aging parents. In 1992, her mother had a leg amputated due to circulation problems, but the surgery went badly and she died after spending four months in a coma.

Father's disappearance

Edward Fonder III became depressed after his wife's death and began fighting with his daughter more often. Mary Jane Fonder later claimed their relationship became damaged beyond repair after two of Edward's elderly cousins visited from the Philadelphia area and harshly criticized how Mary Jane ate chicken.

On August 26, 1993, the 80-year-old Edward Fonder III disappeared from the Springfield Township residence he shared with his daughter. Mary Jane Fonder claimed she had heard the front door open while lying in bed that morning and believed her father was stepping outside to get the newspaper.

Fonder claimed she went back to sleep and, after waking up at around 11:00 a.m., found that her father had disappeared. Fonder contacted the police and unsuccessfully searched for her father with the assistance of neighbors. Township police were suspicious of Fonder's claims that her father had wandered off, partially because the elderly man had trouble moving by himself and had no money or access to his medication.

Mary Jane Fonder became the primary suspect for the possible homicide of her father. The investigation was led by Springfield Township police officer Kimberly Triol. During one interview in Fonder's home, Triol discovered a bucket filled with pinkish water along with towels and a mop. She also found the corpse of a dog wrapped in plastic inside Fonder's freezer. Fonder also displayed a Taser gun in a non-threatening manner to Triol during one of their interviews.

Fonder initially cooperated with police in their investigation, but ceased contact with them after she perceived Triol had attempted to elicit a confession from her. In February 1994, about six months after her father's disappearance, Fonder voiced her displeasure with police tactics, claiming they had forced her to hire a lawyer and to ban police from her property.

Murder of Rhonda Smith

On January 23, 2008, 42-year-old Rhonda Smith was shot as she did volunteer work in the office of the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Springfield Township, Pennsylvania. Smith, shot twice in the head, died at a hospital after being disconnected from life support.

Fonder, then 65 years old, became a suspect early on in the investigation after the church's pastor told police about Fonder's history of inappropriate behavior, which included leaving rambling voicemail messages for him and surreptitiously placing food in his kitchen without his knowledge or consent.

According to police and prosecutors, Fonder had called the church on the day of the murder and discovered that Smith would be alone in the church's office that day. Fonder, who often wore a wig, kept an appointment to have her natural hair washed and styled after shooting Smith and left her wig at the hair salon, where police later retrieved it.

On April 1, 2008, Fonder was arrested for Smith's murder, some weeks after fishermen found a 38-caliber revolver on the shore of Lake Nockamixon. During police questioning, Fonder had already admitted to having purchased and registered a .38; she claimed to have thrown it into Lake Nockamixon in 1994, though she gave police two different reasons for having done so. Forensic testing found that the recovered gun and ammunition had been placed in the lake much more recently, contradicting Fonder's claims. The gun found was indeed registered to Fonder and had been used to kill Smith.

Fonder's trial began on October 21, 2008. Prosecutors argued that Fonder, a member of the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church for 14 years, was jealous of new member Smith, who had received sympathetic attention and some financial assistance from the church's pastor and congregants.

Fonder's defense attorney told the court that his client was not present at the scene of the crime and did not shoot Rhonda Smith. Fonder's attorney further argued that Smith's death might have been suicide, or a homicide committed by a jealous wife or a lover. During closing arguments, Fonder's attorney told the jury that Mary Jane's brother, Edward Fonder IV, was also a likely suspect, pointing out that he had hired a lawyer after finding bullet fragments in his car and notifying police.

On October 30, 2008, a jury found Fonder guilty of first-degree murder and possession of an instrument of crime. On December 5, 2008, she was sentenced to serve life in prison. At her sentencing hearing, Fonder made the following statement:

I did not kill Rhonda Smith—I thought she was a lovely girl... and I certainly wasn't jealous of this woman for any reason. I'm so sorry she's gone, but in the same respect, I will be gone, too. I'm the second person in the church to be murdered, by the system.

In February 2010, Fonder dropped her appeal of the conviction.


A life in prison

By Amanda Cregan - Bucks County Courier Times

January 17, 2010

"I feel like this is my destiny, like God wanted me to be here," Mary Jane Fonder said last week, as she finishes the first year of a life sentence for murdering a church secretary in Springfield.

MUNCY, Lycoming County - Mary Jane Fonder doesn't mind spending the rest of her life behind bars.

After more than 20 years of struggling to find acceptance among the members of her small, rural Springfield church, Fonder, 67, finally has found sisterhood at a state women's prison.

The murderer, once described by her own attorney as the "aunt nobody wants to sit next to at Thanksgiving," now has her place at a table of women who do not judge her by her strange ways or even her most evil act.

Fonder said she no longer can imagine her life outside of prison.

"I feel like this is my destiny, like God wanted me to be here," she said last Sunday.

Fonder, the Kintnersville woman who a jury convicted for the cold-blooded killing of Rhonda Smith in the office of their Upper Bucks church, said she is happy now.

She finally has come to accept responsibility for the murder of the younger woman who she irrationally thought was a rival for the attention and affection of the congregation and its pastor.

Fonder is serving a life sentence at Muncy State Correctional Institution after a Bucks County jury found her guilty of first-degree murder in October 2008. A jury agreed she shot Smith in a jealous rage over the affection she believed Smith was getting from Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church's handsome, bachelor pastor.

Fonder maintained her innocence throughout the trial.

But as she marks her first year of a life sentence, she is beginning to recall the actions that brought her there.

On Jan. 23, 2008, she cornered Smith in a basement church office, snapped back the hammer of the pistol and fired two bullets into her brain.

For the first time, Fonder is taking responsibility for Smith's murder and said she regrets telling everyone - the judge and Smith's family - she was innocent.

With time to think in prison, the hours and events that led up to the 42-year-old Hellertown woman's murder are beginning to become clear, she said.

Just two months ago, she looked at a newspaper picture of Smith and said she realized what had happened to her.

She cried for days, recalling how bad she felt about Smith's murder.

With tears in her eyes, Fonder said she never meant to hurt her.

A murder in a house of God

For decades, the embarrassing struggle to fit in, emotional isolation and cold rejection by church members buzzed in her ears like "white noise."

But as 2008 approached, Fonder told herself that, once and for all, life would be different. Maybe, somehow, she could start over and be a new person.

Instead, what she described as her white noise kept getting stronger.

Fonder soon lost her job as a home health care aide; her relationship with her brother, with whom she shared a home, grew increasingly strained; and her car kept needing repairs and was creating financial burden.

At the same time, Smith, who had attended Trinity for the past two years, was dealing with her own personal struggles and reached out to congregants for help.

From the shadows, Fonder watched as this younger woman was so easily supported and cared for by the same church members Fonder spent years trying to connect with.

Then she starting losing track of time and events, and couldn't account for portions of her day, Fonder recalled last week - a description of her life prior to the murder that was not presented during her trial.

As Fonder grew increasingly frazzled over her blackouts, she said she called her psychiatrist, thinking the cocktail of anxiety and depression medications she was prescribed needed to be adjusted.

But he was on vacation that week, and was told she would have to wait, Fonder claims.

On Jan. 22, 2008, the day before the murder, the white noise grew stronger, telling her she was an outcast.

She again seemed to black out that morning, and recalls suddenly finding herself on a park bench at Lake Towhee in Haycock. She estimates she had been there for hours, but did not know why or how she got there.

That afternoon, trying to get her mind back on track, she remembered chatting at church with Smith about the nice apartment building Smith lived in.

Maybe that was just the place to start over, Fonder thought.

So, she called the landlord and toured the apartment next to Smith's that same day, but it was too small and the rent was too high, she concluded.

Fonder said she went to church choir practice that evening, but as she left, Pastor Gregory Shreaves ran past her, toward the front door, as if, she believed, he was trying to avoid her. She called out to him, and even joked that he should slow down because he was still sick with a head cold, but he didn't respond.

She said she became hurt and confused by the pastor, the only friend she said she had.

She went to her car, and looked up and saw lights on in an upstairs church room along with a number of cars parked in the lot.

It must be a birthday party for Smith, she thought. Yet another social event she was not invited to.

There was no birthday party, just another assumption that she was not included.

The following morning, Jan. 23, Fonder said she woke to that sound pounding in her head like a drum; bringing her clarity amid the confusion.

It's what led her to the church office, where she cornered Smith, who was helping out as a secretary.

Fonder said she wishes she never went into the church that day, noting that it's the last memory she has of the events of that fateful day.

Fonder shot Smith twice in the head point blank and left her to die.

She said she does not remember shooting Smith. But with all the evidence added up, Fonder acknowledges it had to be her.

The murder frightened a community for months as police searched for a suspect. Then a boy fishing with his father found Fonder's gun submerged in the shallow waters of Lake Nockamixon. Bullets in the gun matched the ones that killed Smith.

A new life

The killing within church walls led to one of the most unusual murder cases in recent Bucks County history.

Police, prosecutors, newspaper headlines and even a Dateline NBC episode portrayed the murder motive as jealousy stemming from a love triangle Fonder perceived between two troubled women and a charming pastor.

Prosecutors say Fonder was in love with Pastor Shreaves, and flew into a jealous rage over the attention he and other church members were showing Smith.

Fonder continues to say she wasn't jealous of Smith. However, Fonder still believes the pastor was interested in a romantic relationship with her and perceived some of their dealings as flirtation.

When he walked into a room, Fonder said the pastor would look around to see if she was there, an action she perceived as proof of his interest.

Shreaves has denied any romantic interest or involvement with either woman.

He even notified church leadership when he felt Fonder was becoming obsessed with him. She was asked to leave the church, but never did.

On Sunday mornings, Fonder was tolerated at Trinity, where church members likely found her to be too chatty, too nosy, too eager, and just downright annoying.

Last Sunday, she walked through the visiting area of the women's prison with a sense of belonging as fellow inmates waved to her and gave her an easy smile and hello.

As one of the older inmates, Fonder is treated more like a matriarch than a murderer.

She spends her days talking with the other women, studying her Bible, doing crossword puzzles and attending to her cleaning duties.

She also sees a therapist, and said she was immediately put on a whole new track of depression and anxiety medication upon entering prison.

Although a cousin hascome to see her, she said, Fonder doesn't see too many visitors in Muncy. She communicates with her brother, cousin and even a couple of elderly women from Trinity through letters.

Overall, Fonder is flourishing the strict routine of prison, and has even lost 50 pounds.

Fonder said she has no plans to continue with her appeal of the murder conviction. Last year a Bucks County judge ruled she was eligible for a public defender but she would have to put up her house as collateral to pay the legal bills. The property she co-owns with her brother, a home on 11 acres in Kintnersville, is valued at nearly $400,000.

She said money was a factor in deciding not to go forward.

Yet, the appeal is still active in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, according to first assistant district attorney David Zellis. In her appeal there are claims made that her trial counsel was ineffective, he said.

Her trial attorney, Michael Applebaum, could not be reached for comment.

At her trial, Fonder claimed she didn't commit the crime so there was no testimony about blackouts or problems with medication for depression.

A mental health report prepared for the case was not introduced at her sentencing. At the time Zellis said the report did not reveal that Fonder is suffering from any kind of mental illness.

Her attorney for the appeal, Ann Russavage-Faust of the Bucks County Public Defenders office, declined to be interviewed for the story.

Fonder is the oldest woman convicted of murder in Bucks history. Her sentence offers no chance of parole.

However, she is still being investigated by Bucks County prosecutors for her 80-year-old father's disappearance in 1993. Fonder said she doesn't know what happened to her dad, and concludes he may have suffered from the same sort of blackouts and confusion as she does.

Continuing to cope

A year after he described to the newspaper his struggle with anger and bitterness over the murder, Pastor Shreaves said he's finally forgiven Fonder, but the event has changed him.

"I'll never be the same person. I always will be a different person in some ways," said Shreaves. "I'm trying to be more attentive, to look for signs of needfulness in individuals."

It's also taught his congregation a little more about their faith.

"We've learned a great deal about forgiveness, and how difficult and messy that can be, and I've learned that God's grace will always overcome evil and tragedy."

Throughout the time he had known and counseled Fonder, she never vocalized feelings of rejection, he said.

"Rhonda asked for help. Mary Jane didn't. If she had asked for help, we would have given it to her," said Shreaves, who noted Fonder never discussed any blackouts or the psychiatric medications she said she was taking.

"When people have a need and let it be known, then we respond," he said. "I know Mary Jane struggled, and I also asked her if we could help and what we could do, and she never let me know that she needed anything. That's the best we can do."

But he never doubted Fonder felt like she was a part of the church body.

"Mary Jane was different. I felt like she felt at home here. I think she found it as a place of comfort and safety and inclusion."

In the end, Shreaves is glad to hear that Fonder has found the acceptance she so deeply craved.

"I think its God's grace that Mary Jane is where she belongs," said Shreaves. "I'm happy for her. I'm happy that she's found a community that embraces her and that she feels a part of. We all deserve that."

Two years after their only daughter was gunned down, Jim and Dorothy Smith, both 74, say they struggle daily with grief.

This Christmas season felt the emptiest, said Jim Smith, a Hellertown resident.

"It's been even more of missing Rhonda this year than last year because everything was going so fast before our eyes with the trial and everything."

Upon hearing that Fonder has taken responsibility for his daughter's death, Jim Smith said it will never make up for his family's loss.

"It doesn't make us any happier. We gain nothing. We lost a daughter. Nothing changes my feelings right now. We're going to go through this the rest of our lives" said Smith, who, along with his wife, visits Rhonda's grave each day. "No matter what happens, that's not going to bring Rhonda through this door."

Making amends

Like Fonder, Smith struggled with depression and was hoping for a new start in life.

Yet Smith represented all that Fonder could not attain.

As she wrestles with Smith's murder, Fonder said she's trying to make things right where she can.

She said she doesn't dare contact Smith's parents for fear of upsetting them, but she wrote her first letter to Pastor Shreaves in December, apologizing for hurting him and asking for his forgiveness.

He received Fonder's letter, but has refused to read it.

"I have to move on," said the pastor. "I just had to draw a boundary and say 'I'm not going to deal with it anymore.' "

Rhonda's father, Jim hopes it's a letter he'll never receive.

"I wouldn't want something like that. If there's any forgiveness, it's just between her and God."

Fonder has sought forgiveness from God, and said she's looking forward to seeing Rhonda Smith again one day.

She believes they will meet again in heaven.

Editor's note: Staff writer Amanda Cregan visited Muncy State Correctional Institution on Sunday, Jan. 10, and spoke with Mary Jane Fonder for two hours following the exchange of letters over the past couple months.


Church Lady Gets Life for Killing

By Dan Stamm and Jillian Mele -

December 5, 2008

Church Lady Mary Jane Fonder committed an ultimate sin by killing her fellow congregant Rhonda Smith and now will have the rest of her life to atone.

Fonder will serve life in prison after being found guilty for the January 23, 2008 murder of Rhonda Smith inside a Bucks County church.

In October Fonder was found guilty of first degree murder in the killing of Smith, who was working at the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Springfield Township when she was shot.

"She was just finishing up her three hour job -- [Fonder] knew to get in there and do away with her like she wanted," said the victim's mother Dorothy Smith.

The motive was jealousy, according to police. Jealousy of the emotional and financial support the 42-year-old Smith was getting from the church and its pastor led Fonder to pull the trigger, said police.

Fonder maintains that she didn't murder Smith. "I didn't do it -- you can't say you're guilty when you're not," said Fonder.

Fonder said she was never jealous and that she is just another victim.

In court Smith's family read aloud letters that Smith wrote to them before she was killed.

Fonder's lawyer told NBC10 that she will not appeal the ruling.


Police: Jealousy led to church murder

By Erin O'Hearn -

April 1, 2008

A 65-year-old woman has been charged with last January's church murder in rural Bucks County.

Action News spoke to Rhonda Smith's parents, and as you can imagine their shock when they learned the woman arrested for their daughter's murder was not only a member of their church, but had been in their house and was at a church lunch with them earlier this afternoon.

James Smith, the victim's father, says, "The woman sat right close to me as you are. You know? I had no idea what was going on."

The woman was 65-year-old Mary Jane Fonder, and just hours after she had lunch with Jim and Dorothy Smith she would be arrested for the murder of their daughter. They say Fonder even started visiting the Smith's at their home after Rhonda was murdered.

Smith's mother Dorothy says of Fonder, "One Sunday she had tears in her eyes. She said, 'I just talked to her. I thought she was nice,' and just agreed with us."

But police say Fonder was jealous of Smith and her relationship with their church pastor.

Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry told reporters, "(Fonder) indicated that she had romantic feelings for this pastor. And the issue was the victim was receiving some attention from the pastor."

Investigators say in January Fonder called Smith at the church and learned she was getting emotional, financial and spiritual support from the Trinity Lutheran Church. Police say two days later Fonder shot Smith twice in the head while Smith was working in the church.

Church spokesman Paul Rose told Action News, "We're all shocked. We're surprised and very sad that this could possibly be one of our members."

Police say the break in the case came this weekend when a fisherman found the gun in Lake Nockamixon. It was registered to Fonder and forensics linked it to the crime. Tonight, Fonder pleaded not guilty to first degree murder. She was denied bail.

Since January there was speculation Smith, who battled bipolar disorder for two decades, committed suicide. Her parents believe the arrest has put that speculation to rest.

The affidavit says Fonder once threatened a fellow Denny's employee and that she called the pastor so much he blocked her number.



home last updates contact