Crime

Accused killer returns 41 years later to answer murder charge in Warner Robins

Cheryl White
Cheryl White

It took more than four decades for an accused killer to be booked into the Houston County jail.

Mary Jane Stewart, 59, was extradited Monday to Warner Robins from San Antonio, Texas, where she was arrested earlier this month.

Stewart is charged with felony murder in the Nov. 12, 1975, stabbing death of 16-year-old Cheryl White, whose body was found in the apartment they shared on Crestview Drive.

According to Telegraph archives, Mary Jane Stewart Staples had lived with White one week before she was fatally stabbed.

A photo of 18-year-old Stewart with a cigarette in her mouth appeared in the newspaper the day after the killing.

Back then, she was known as Mary Jane Stewart Staples.

The night of the killing, Stewart Staples told police she had an “uneasy sensation” all evening that something was wrong at her apartment. She said she returned at 10:30 p.m. to check on White, who wasn’t feeling well and went to bed.

At 1:10 a.m., White’s body was found. Her throat was cut and she had been stabbed 15 times, in her throat, arms and side.

Neighbors said they heard her scream and saw a man flee from her apartment into the woods.

Two men went to check on her and found her body slumped next to the bed in the Parkway Apartments, just south of Russell Parkway and across Ga. 247 from Robins Air Force Base.

White had moved out of her parents’ house in October, about a month before she was killed. She’d just gotten a job and, for her birthday in August, a car. However, she was failing classes at Warner Robins High School, so her parents told her she’d have to quit work until her grades improved.

White would have turned 57 this year.

Stewart Staples, who told The Telegraph she’d known White for nine years at the time of the killing, said White was “mixed up” and wanted to prove she could take responsibility for herself.

Relying on Stewart Staples’ testimony, police arrested two men and charged them in White’s killing. Stewart Staples was taken into protective custody since she was “known to run with the drug crowd,” a detective told The Telegraph about a year after the killing.

However, both men were released from jail within two weeks after police detectives discovered “a serious question of credibility” in Stewart Staples’ statements. A few months after the killing, she was found guilty of perjury and sentenced to psychological counseling, three years of probation and a $300 fine, according to Telegraph archives.

More than 41 years later, Stewart, who apparently has dropped Staples from her name, was booked into the Houston County Detention Center just before 6 p.m. Monday.

On March 15, San Antonio police arrested her at an apartment on the city’s far east side. Neighbors there told Texas TV reporters she was a heavy drinker and was often seen walking her dog around the complex, Fox San Antonio reported.

They “had no idea she was wanted for murder.”

Liz Fabian: 478-744-4303, @liz_lines

Laura Corley: 478-744-4334, @Lauraecor

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