Area mother charged with daughter's murder, P.I. to look at case


Kendall Downing

BENTON, Ill. — A local mother accused of murdering her daughter returned to court Thursday because her lawyer wants to hire a private investigator to review evidence in the case.

Mary Zumwalt-Jophlin is charged with first degree murder in connection to the death of her 8-year-old daughter Alexus Smothers.

Investigators believe Zumwalt-Jophlin drowned Smothers and hid her body at a home in West Frankfort, Illinois, in July.

Family members are confident the private investigator will uncover new leads.

"Without her, I just feel like I'm lost. Without my sister I'm lost," said Jennifer Gaskin, Zumwalt-Jophlin's sister.

Gaskin said her family is looking for justice and her sister Mary is telling the truth.

"She's stuck to that story the whole entire time," said Gaskin.

Zumwalt-Jophlin did not speak during Thursday's motion hearing.

The judge said he would release the funds, allowing her to hire a private investigator to take a look at the case.

"Hard, it's already hard. We deal with it," said Linda Zumwalt, Zumwalt-Jophlin's mother.

Family members hope that private investigator will find evidence showing what they believe happened: that someone else is responsible for the child's death.

Investigators have not charged anyone else in the crime.

"These days, when I stare at her picture I have, I just wonder what it would be like around the holidays with her," said Gaskin.

It's a circumstance that has one family grieving during this special time of year for two very different reasons.

"We've got to go one day at a time and that's all it has to take," said Zumwalt.

Also in court, the judge granted the state's attorney's motion to require hair and DNA samples from Zumwalt-Jophlin.

Zumwalt-Jophlin's sister told us the family is looking into hiring an additional lawyer from Marion, Illinois.