Jill Ann Weatherwax was a former beauty queen, singer, dancer and cheerleader from Fenton, Michigan. Growing up, she performed folk and contemporary duets with her father, who once sang with a folk group at Carnegie Hall and played the guitar and saxophone in a local country band. She attended Mott Community College and the Genesse Area Skill Centre where she graduated as a cosmetologist.1 She had come from a tight-knit family.2
The 3.0 GPA-student truly was heading for great things when she departed for Hollywood in 1990. Like many young women, Jill dreamed of becoming a star and she believed the bright lights of Hollywood was the starting point of achieving this goal. After all, Jill had dominated beauty pageants between 1987 and 1990, having been crowned a Miss Flint finalist as well as Miss Great Lakes.3 She had also been the face of Revlon Cosmetics. As Susan Arnold, a Michigan modelling agency owner, said: “She was extremely talented. She had the modelling. She had the looks. It is hard to pick a talent where she excelled most.”4
Jill found success in Hollywood when she was crowned Miss Hollywood. Part of her prize was a contract with a London recording company. She flew out to London to record two CDs and remained here for a period. She travelled through Europe and sang in restaurants. She returned with her boyfriend, Ciro Orsini, who owned the recording company in London; Jill was infatuated with him. However, upon their return, they seemingly went their separate ways and Jill felt as though she had been abandoned. Her friends said that Jill’s demeanor would completely change. “She was incredibly paranoid,” said her friend Benet Garcia. “She was convinced that somebody was trying to kill her.”
Within five years, Jill somehow ended up involved in drugs, working as an exotic dancer, allegedly to fund her methamphetamine addiction. As one friend said, she always kept a little bag of it in her purse and it would keep her awake night after night.5 She was arrested three times for alcohol and drug related charges.
In May of 1997, she was arrested on suspicion of drug felony possession. She was placed on drug diversion for two years, was ordered to get drug treatment and to contact the Public Health department for AIDS education classes. In August of 1997, she was charged with misdemeanour public intoxication. Then in January of 1998, she was arrested on the same charge.6
According to those who knew Jill in California, she bounced between Ventura County and Hollywood and ran with a fast-paced crowd. According to one friend, men “used her as a trading card” while others said that she traded sexual favours for money. She had diagnosed by psychiatrists as “totally disassociated” and she had feared that she was under constant surveillance. Some friends said that when she spoke, she looked down so that nobody could read her lips from afar.7
Around the 19th of March, 1998, Jill went to Fresno. The following day, she was arrested for being drunk in public. She was then spotted at an abandoned house where she was said to often stay. Then at around 10:30PM on the 24th of March, she was seen in the company of three men at Villa Motel. These men were estimated to be in their late 20s of early 30s, driving a green or grey four-door Ford Tempo. Jill was spotted leaving the motel with the three men that evening. 8
The following day at around 1PM, a construction worker came across the scantily clad body of Jill. She had been stabbed and bludgeoned to death. Her body had been discarded in a field littered with used condoms, just behind the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals headquarters. Since Jill had no identification on her, it would take a week for her to be identified using fingerprints.9
The murder took place in an area that was frequented by sex workers and the investigation was met by silence. Those who frequented the area didn’t want to speak to police. Investigators on the case were quick to say that they believed that Jill had met with the three men for escort purposes. Lt. Jerry Davis, who headed the investigation, stated: “It’s one of those tragic endings that we often see when someone becomes involved in a spiral of drug use that turns into prostitution, that ultimately ends in murder.”
Jill’s family scoffed at the idea that she was involved in sex work or drugs. “She had no reason why she would ever have to stop that low,” said her sister, Julie Shilts. “It’s just ludicrous. My sister had access to as much money as she needed and as many important and powerful people as she needed.”10 Her family felt that investigators were struggling to solve the case so decided to “victimize the victim.” As a matter of fact, Jill’s toxicology report would show that there were no narcotics or alcohol in her system at the time of her murder.
Jill’s funeral was held on the 3rd of April, 1998, at Sharp Funeral Homes in Fenton. Her father, Jim, played Amazing Grace on the saxophone and then sang the lyrics. Over 100 people packed into the church to pay their final respects to Jill. The attack on Jill had been so frenzies and brutal that she had to have a closed casket. Afterwards, she was buried at Oakwood Cemetery.
Investigators announced that they were wanting to track down the three men that were last seen with Jill in the hopes that they could shed some light on what had happened to her. Investigators believed that the men were seasonal workers. Following Jill’s murder, a sex worker reported seeing one of the three men at a labor camp. They speculated that the men killed Jill and then moved on elsewhere. 11 By this point, it still wasn’t known why Jill was in Fresno, around 200 miles from where she lived. Sadly, however, their attempts to identify these three men were unfruitful and it was never uncovered why Jill travelled to Fresno. Had she arranged to meet somebody? Was it a spur of the moment idea?
Jill’s career skyrocketed and then came crashing to the ground. Never in a million years did anybody from her hometown, especially her family, fathom that Jill would meet such a grim ending in life. Sadly, Jill’s parents both went to the grave without knowing what happened to their daughter. They were both buried alongside her.
- The Flint Journal, 31 March, 1998 – “Flint Journal Classified Obituary”
- Santa Cruz Sentinel, 3 April, 1998 – “Beauty Queen’s Death Baffles Authorities”
- Detroit Free Press, 3 April, 1998 – “Beauty Queen Found Dead”
- Elko Daily Press, 3 April, 1998 – “Former Beauty Queen Found Dead Last Month”
- Ventura County Star, 31 May, 1998 – “Dreams Die First”
- Ventura County Star, 2 April, 1998 – “Former Beauty Queen Killed”
- The Fresno Bee, 2 April, 1998 – “Quest for Fame, Fortune Ends in Death”
- Santa Maria Times, 9 May, 1998 – “Police: Slain Beauty Had Become Prostitute”
- The Flint Journal, 1 April, 1998 – “Slaying Ends Hopes, Dreams”
- The Fresno Bee, 12 April, 1998 – “Beauty’s Death a Growing Mystery”
- The Flint Journal, 4 May, 1999 – “Mystery of Fenton Native’s Slaying”
Heartbreaking. Emily, I love the way you write about sex workers in that you have never talked down about that line of work in any way. It also adds to your level of empathy in showing these victims deserve justice JUST AS MUCH as everyone else and they aren’t “lesser” people because of their work or addictions. I just want to thank you for that.
That said, Emily what are your thoughts on the fact that she was allegedly incredibly addicted to drugs and alcohol yet had a clean toxicology report??
Thank you, Heather! It’s a conflicting one because a lot of people who knew her, including Ciro said that she was addicted to drugs and he said that was the reason they drifted apart. However, this was several years before she was murdered… There’s every chance that she could have quit taking drugs by the time she was killed. She never mentioned drugs to anybody in her family and she was in constant contact with them. However, I think her movements, especially in Fresno, indicate that something in her life was amiss… She seemingly drifted from place to place and… Read more »
Maybe she hadn’t taken meth in a while and that’s why she was hooking – to be able to afford more? Hmm, I wonder how long it stays in your system. What a terribly sad story. My heart breaks!
Meth stays in ur system 72 hours
So it is possible that she was still using but had been unable to have any prior to death… although wouldn’t she have been withdrawing and possibly unable to do much? I don’t know…. I have these crimes that leave us with only questions and no answers.
Love Morbidology keep them stories com ing!
I don’t understand how they couldn’t have located these 3 men? We’re they in a hurry to drop the case because her life wasn’t worth it?
they probably were undocumented migrants if they were in a “labor camp” (no offense but is this a euphemism for the local home depot or u-haul parking lot?), so no phones, no contacts, hitching rides, etc.
Just so you know I know Jill and she wasn’t a sex worker and the story in true hollywood doesn’t have all the facts I saw her the week before she died she thought she was going up north to make a music video. I begged her not to go and this whole thing still haunts me she asked me to go with her as she was leaving I can still hear her singing in the back round as they drive away . After I didn’t hear from hear I called all the bars the police station I found out… Read more »
Comment for Shannon: It has Always been my Belief and Opinion that our lives are all ready planned out for us . I believe we have free will but our destiny in this life and our fate is determined by a higher power. Please Cherish the Memories you had with Jill, and Keep in your prayers Always and Forever.
Hello o understand what your saying and I do think your wanting to help Shannon not to feel guilty which I agree she shouldn’t feel guilty as like you said free will and all. But I don’t like the thought of us having a destiny already planned… As someone who had been through so much trauma and abuse and still struggling its hard to think that this is something I was destined to go through. I appreciate your thoughts though.
Losing our Loved ones will always put a wound in our Hearts that may never heal. Yes we all have Our demons in our lives such as Alcohol, Addiction, Anxiety, and Etc. I am sorry about all the terrible things that you have gone through in your life . I honestly mean it.
Losing a Loved one puts a wound in our Hearts that May never Heal. We all have our personal demons that we have to deal with it. Alcohol, Addiction, anxiety, And Etc. I am sorry for the terrible things you had to deal with in your Life . Honestly I am.
reply to Shannon: Shannon, you were friends with Jill. Your story is the only one that says Jill left in a red car. Every other report reads a green ford tempo. Maybe that difference in car color might help solve this murder. Somebody has to know about this. Maybe those 3 men have records that DNA can prove them guilty or not.
Who killed Jill Ann weathermax? And why?
why was Jill Ann weathermax in Fresno? Why didn’t she just leave?
I miss her Jill Ann weatherwax she would’ve been a great singer
Comment for Shannon: It is my Believe that Our Lives are already planned out for us. Even though we have free will a Higher Power will determine our Fate . Cherish the memories you had with Jill. Always and Forever Keep her in your prayers.
So going by your theory, a higher power felt that it was in the best interest of everyone that this woman die a horrible death and then get discarded like trash, only to have the perpetrators get away with it? I suppose such is filed under the tired and asinine explanation of ‘the lord works in mysterious ways”?
This…. See this is why I can’t and don’t agree that we already have out life’s planned out and destined. If that’s the case why does God allow children to suffer and die and so much evil in the world. What is that bringing for the greater good.
Michael your right it is only a Theory. I am quite sure that Karma as already set in on those responsible for Jill’s Death. Bottom line is they need to be accountable for their actions hear on Earth or in the After Life for those who believe in it. Her Family like all the Families of the world who have suffered missing or murdered Love need closure.
Michael your right it is only just a Theory. I am sure that Karma as already set in those responsible for Her death. The bottom line they need to be held accountable for their actions here on Earth or in the After life for those who believe in it.
Actually, for more than 20 years, they’ve been able to detect drugs in hair analysis. Meth remains in the hair of users for up to 5 months. However, it’s not the most common method used for detection and since it seems as if they made many assumptions, it likely wasn’t even considered.