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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Murdering Jocelyn Earnest: A Circumstantial Case

     On December 19, 2007, a friend discovered the body of 38-year-old Jocelyn Earnest just inside the front door of her house in Pine Bluff, Virginia. The victim had been shot in the back of the head. Next to her body lay a .357 magnum revolver and a typewritten suicide note that in part read:

     To Mom
          I'm sorry for what I've done. Please forgive me. Wes [the victim's estranged husband] has put us in such a financial bind--can't recover. My new love will not leave the family.

     The heat inside Earnest's house had been jacked up to 90 degrees and there were no signs of forced entry. The dead woman's dog, a black Lab, was locked in a crate without food or water in a back bedroom.

     Investigators immediately suspected that Jocelyn Earnest had been murdered and the scene had been staged to look like a suicide. Detectives knew that people who kill themselves and leave notes rarely type them. In searching Jocelyn's two home computers investigators did not find drafts of this document. And the word choice and syntax of the note were inconsistent with the writing style found in the victim's handwritten journals. The police suspected that the furnace had been turned up to alter the body's decomposition rate to throw off the biological time of death determination. Apparently the killer had wanted the police to believe Jocelyn had been killed earlier in the day, perhaps to support an alibi.

     Suspicion immediately fell on the victim's estranged husband Wesley Earnest who had moved out of the house a year earlier. As an assistant high school principal he lived and worked 200 miles away in Chesapeake, Virginia. Jocelyn had been employed as a financial services manager in Lynchburg, Virginia. Although together they had been earning $200,000 a year they were deeply in debt. Wesley, over Jocelyn's objection, had built a three million dollar, seven thousand square foot mansion on nearby lake property. The $6,000 a month mortgage on this second home they couldn't sell because it was financially under water had put them $1 million in debt. On top of this, Wesley Earnest found himself faced with the disastrous financial consequences of divorce.

     Wesley Earnest claimed he hadn't been to the Pine Bluff house for at least a year. After he had moved out Jocelyn had changed the locks. Investigators, however, could connect him to the crime scene in two ways: he had purchased the .357 magnum and two of his latent fingerprints were on the typewritten note next to the body. Two days before his estranged wife's death the suspect had borrowed a pickup truck from a friend. When he returned the vehicle two weeks later it had new tires. Detectives believed Wesley had changed out the tires to avoid a crime scene tire track match-up.

     Investigators also read the victim's journal, handwritten in seventeen notebooks. Several of the entries, however, written from Jocelyn's point of view, were in Wesley Earnest's hand. These forged additions portrayed the suspect in a favorable light. However, in one of the notebooks the victim had written: "If I die, Wesley killed me and he probably shot me."

     Wesley admitted to detectives that he had girlfriends but claimed that his wife had known about these affairs and approved of them. At his place of employment in Chesapeake, however, he told co-workers he was single.

     In May 2009, the $3 million house on the lake burned to the ground. Cause and origin fire investigators ruled the cause "undetermined." Because the place was heavily insured the fire accrued to Wesley's financial benefit.

     Wesley Earnest went on trial in March 2010 for the murder of his wife. His attorney, in an effort to uncouple the defendant from the typewritten crime scene note, contested the forensic reliability of latent fingerprint identification. (Perhaps the defendant would have better been served by offering an innocent explanation for the presence of his prints.) The defense attorney also put his client on the stand to testify on his own behalf. The defendant told the jurors that he had purchased the .357 revolver as a gift for his wife so she could protect herself. He portrayed Jocelyn as having been distraught over their financial problems. He also said she was having trouble with the woman who was her new lover.

     The jury, a few days after listening to the defendant, after deliberating less than four hours, found him guilty of murdering his wife.

     A month following the conviction, before Earnest was sentenced, a posting on a newspaper web site revealed that the jurors had read Jocelyn's journal. The trial judge had not wanted the jury to see this evidence. The notebooks had been inadvertently put into a box that found its way into the jury room. In July 2010 the judge declared a mistrial.

     In November 2010, in Amherst, Virginia, Earnest went on trial again for the murder of his wife. His attorney, once again, put him on the stand to claim his innocence. On cross-examination the prosecutor got Earnest to admit that in 2006 he had forged entries into his wife's journal. When asked how he had gotten into the Pine Bluff house he had been locked out of, Earnest said he had climbed through an unlocked window. In so doing the defendant revealed to the jury how he may have entered the house to murder his wife. The second jury found the defendant guilty of first-degree murder. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.

     In December 2012, a three-judge panel of the Virginia Court of Appeals upheld the murder conviction and life sentence for Wesley Earnest.

     No one saw Wesley Earnest enter the Pine Bluff house and shoot his wife. No one claimed he had confided to them he had committed the crime. And he never confessed to the police. All the prosecutor had was what looked like a staged suicide, a motive, and a pair of latent prints on a suspect suicide note. But, with these two juries the prosecution had enough evidence to convict.     


  1. This is very interesting cases story explain about the A Circumstantial Case. Crime is biggest problem of the city.


  2. anonymous, settle down. lol. seriously, yes he isn't a good guy. bad sick person. I don't even like associating with murderers and calling them people. they have no empathy, sympathy or remorse like an animal. but we don't have to cuss.

  3. I apologize, u didn't cuss. I'm sorry honey. it just sounded aggressive about the butt thing. lol. but
    (pardon the pun) we hope that he gets what he deserves!

  4. I just watched the 48 hours on ID version. Both juries got it right. The staging was obvious from the thermostat setting and the police's determination that the body had been moved. She would not have left her dog locked up without food and water if it were a suicide. The suicide note was an obvious fake from the typing, lack of emotion, and syntax, and, furthermore, Wesley's prints were on it! The time of death was readily determined to be around 7:30 PM from Jocelyn's stopping her frequent texting with friends. Wesley had no alibi for that timeline. He borrowed a truck a few days before the murder. He made the 3 hour drive to the house, committed the crime, and drove back. He shut off his cell to avoid leaving a trail during the drive and murder. He returned the truck later with new tires (even though the truck had had practically brand new tires) to avoid being tied to the crime scene by tire track impressions. His lying was made clear by the many witnesses at his places of employment. His financial motive was obvious.

    It amazes me that this guy thought that he could get away with it. And he still professes his innocence! And his mother believes him!

  5. @tommie I'm not surprised by his mother's denial either. Very rarely, if any do you see a parent of a murderer agree with the guilty verdict. I too watched this episode on 48 hours on ID. At first glance this guy looks like he's innocent but as I watched him and listened to all the evidence and listened to the witnesses around the time of her death, both juries got it right. He is an arrogant selfish SOB who got what he deserves.

  6. She was a star basketball player at WVU. Famous for her three pointers.

  7. He’s a filthy liar.