How A Dead Man From Utah Just Became A Serial Killer

In 1956, 18-year-old Barbara Jean Jepson was found raped and stabbed to death in her San Fernando Valley home in California. The young wife of Joe Jepson was pregnant when she died (via Deseret News). Around the same time that Barbara died, a number of similar murder and sexual assault cases occurred in the area, such as when 15-year-old Mary Ann Perdrotta was stabbed and killed some four years later. What linked all those crimes together ⁠— including Jepson's murder, which up until 2022 was the oldest cold-case murder in California ⁠— was a man named Monte Merz.

Though Merz at that time was a suspect in each case and was even arrested in 1964 under suspicion of killing Jepson and sexually abusing a third unnamed teen girl, authorities at that time failed to link him to the crimes. Using a mixture of modern-day DNA analysis with old-school crime-solving techniques, a Los Angeles police detective named Rachel Evans — working her first-ever cold case — now knows not only who killed Jepson but also who raped and murdered a number of other girls from that era.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Jepson was Merz's former stepdaughter

Born in 1911 in Mount Pleasant, Utah, Monte Merz was married several times in his life, including once to a woman known only as Bernice (via That marriage reportedly ended in 1945 when Bernice alleged cruelty from her husband. Having relocated to the San Fernando Valley area some time prior to 1948, Merz is next known to have lived with a woman named Fern Spiva, who had a daughter from a previous relationship named Barbara, who would one day become Barbara Jepson.

Though Merz and Spiva never legally married, their relationship lasted six years, and Merz is said to have adopted the role of a stepfather to Barbara. That's not all that he did, though, according to L.A. detective Rachel Evans. Merz, Evans said (via KSL), "[G]roomed and molested Barbara along the way," and that was how he operated. "He'd marry these young women that had these young girls," and then he would abuse them, Evans said.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Merz married again in 1955

By 1955, Monte Merz and Fern Spiva had split, and Merz married an unknown woman who also had a young daughter, as Deseret News goes on to note. Around that same time, Barbara also married Joe Jepson. One year later, though, she was dead, and her husband, Joe Jepson, was a suspect. Joe Jepson found his dead wife's body naked in their bedroom with a knife in her chest before he called the police. Though he was never accused or convicted and was exonerated, suspicions surrounded Jepson until he died. 

Thanks to Detective Rachel Evans' hard work, Jepson's name is now cleared — something even his own mother could not accomplish, though she tried. In fact, the entire Jepson family always suspected Merz was responsible for Barbara's death. Jepson's sons from a subsequent marriage were still alive in 2022, and Detective Evans was once and for all able to clear their father's name. According to Deseret News, Evans said, "[W]hen I called his sons and told them, 'Hey, I just wanted to let you know your dad was a good guy, he didn't do it.'" They responded, "'Oh my gosh! Thank you!'"

The stabbing death of Mary Ann Perdrotta

Based on further reporting from, 15-year-old Mary Ann Perdrotta from the San Fernando area was stabbed and killed in 1960. Though Monte Merz had no known relationship with Perdrotta's mother, he did maintain horse stables near the young teen, and they were known to ride horses together. Still, no one was ever arrested for Perdrotta's death, and it wasn't long before Merz was married again to his fifth and final wife, Ina, who had two sons and a daughter from a previous relationship.

By 1964, Merz's crimes began to catch up with him. He was arrested that year for molesting a 14-year-old girl, just one of many young girls authorities now believe Merz abused. Though little is known about the particulars of that case — case files were subsequently destroyed — Merz was set to go to trial for that crime when he died. Merz's family relatives back in Utah were told that Merz and Ina died in a car wreck. His surviving relatives now know the truth.

The shooting was accidental, Merz said

Also in 1964, Monte Merz showed up at a nearby hospital with a gunshot wound that he reportedly said was accidental. That shooting is now believed to have resulted from a possible confrontation with an unknown assailant about Merz's past abusive behavior and possible connection to the murder of Barbara Jean Jepson and Mary Ann Perdrotta. Though Merz recovered, it wasn't the last time that a gunshot wound played a part in his story. One year later, Merz was questioned about Jepson in a polygraph test. He denied knowing her, despite his relationship with her mother and the fact that he even attended the young girl's funeral.

While awaiting trial on the abuse allegations stemming from the aforementioned 14-year-old girl in 1965, and with authorities closing in on him regarding Jepson (he failed the polygraph test, but those results were inadmissible in court), Merz's current wife at that time, Ina, reportedly found unfamiliar girl's underwear in her husband's belongings. Because of this, Merz is said to have used a gun from inside the house to shoot his wife to death in the street before he turned the gun on himself. From there, the tragic deaths of Perdrotta and Jepson, as well as the abuse allegations, turned cold (via Deseret News).

One of Merz's former stepdaughters came forward

In 2017, before Rachel Evans took the case, one of Monte Merz's former stepdaughters ⁠— whose mother was married to Merz at the time that Mary Ann Perdrotta died ⁠— came forward to allege she saw Merz come home on that day covered in blood and carrying a bloody knife. Through fear, abuse, and intimidation, Merz kept her quiet. But once she spoke out, she revealed that Merz likely abused a number of young girls in the neighborhood at that time. According to Detective Evans (pictured), that former stepdaughter said (via KSL), "[I]f she ever told anyone, she would be killed by the suspect." The informant also reported still having nightmares about Merz.

Evans was aware of that information when she was assigned the Barbara Jean Jepson cold case. At the time that Jepson died, collecting DNA evidence was unknown in law enforcement, and there were other errors, as well. For example, a bloody rag photographed at the scene of Jepson's murder was, for unknown reasons, never entered into evidence. Given advancements in DNA testing technology, surviving DNA from crime scene evidence was compared to samples gathered from Merz's elderly son, who died shortly after they were collected. What transpired did not so much prove guilt in the eyes of the courts, but the match did allow the Jepson cold case to be solved per the standards of law enforcement: With 99% certainty, Merz had done it. He was also likely guilty of the other murders and abuse at that time. 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).