How investigators solved a missing person's case-turned murder investigation in 5 days
Vero Beach, Florida police investigators focused on cellphone tower pings and surveillance footage cameras to catch a man who murdered his former girlfriend.
Diana Duve's body was discovered in the trunk of her car parked at a Florida Publix shopping center in June 2014. In just three days, investigators were able to put the pieces together to find her and her killer.
Missing young woman
Diana Duve was a 26-year-old nurse living in Vero Beach, Florida. On Thursday, June 19, 2014, she was out with some friends but left them to meet up with her on again, off again boyfriend Mike Jones.
The former boyfriend
Mike Jones was 32 years old at the time and working for PNC Bank in Wealth Management. He met Duve in 2013 at a bar in Vero Beach.
Duve's mother Lena Andrews reported her daughter missing after Diana failed to return home. Andrews said she spoke to Diana every day. "I was trying to tell everybody who would listen … if she's not calling me, it's because she can't," she said.
On Friday, June 20, 2014, Duve was last seen leaving this bar, What A Tavern, around 1:30 a.m. with Mike Jones. Duve texted her mom at 1:45 a.m. and told her that she would not be home. That was the last time anyone heard from her.
Searching for Diana
Sergeant Brad Kmetz and Lieutenant Matt Harrelson from the Vero Beach Police Department were assigned to work the case. They made a promise to Lena Andrews that they would find her daughter one way or another
Caught on camera
The investigators learned that about 12 hours after Diana and Mike Jones were last seen at the bar, Jones was captured on surveillance cameras at this PNC bank withdrawing $2,500 in cash. Jones told a co-worker he was feeling sick and was going to be gone for a couple of days.
Investigators also learned Mike Jones had a criminal record. In 2012, he was charged with aggravated stalking for threatening to kill an ex-girlfriend near Fort Lauderdale. Jones was placed on probation and required to stay in the Vero Beach area.
According to Duve's friends and family, no one knew about Jones's criminal past.
Investigators analyzed cellphone tower pings from Duve and Jones's phones. One ping from Jones's phone was from a cell tower located about 25 minutes from Vero Beach, in the Fort Pierce area. Local authorities were told to be on the lookout for Duve and Mike Jones's cars.
Investigators were alerted that Mike Jones's car had been located in the parking lot of a Hampton Inn. This surveillance footage shows Jones checking in to the hotel almost 24 hours after Duve went missing. He paid in cash and instructed the hotel staff not to tell anyone he was there.
When investigators arrived at the Hampton Inn, they found Jones sitting in his room talking on a burner phone — a phone that is difficult for police to trace. Jones provided no information as to where Duve was, but because he was in violation of probation for that aggravated stalking incident from 2012, he was arrested and placed in jail
The burner phone
Investigators traced the purchase of the burner phone to a Walmart in the Melbourne, Florida area. In this surveillance footage taken from the Walmart the day after Duve disappeared, Mike Jones is seen walking into the store to purchase the burner phone. The surveillance footage also showed what appeared to be Duve's car in the parking lot, but there was no sign of Diana.
The search ends
Investigators reanalyzed Jones's cellphone pings and discovered that Jones had picked up a call in the Melbourne area. Local authorities were alerted and discovered Duve's car parked in a Publix parking lot. Her body was in the trunk.
Faced with a murder charge
Two days after Diana's body was found, Mike Jones was charged with first-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty.
Scene of the crime
Mike Jones went on trial in October 2019. Prosecutors told the jury that he had mentally and physically abused Duve throughout their relationship. They believed that Jones had beat and strangled Diana in his apartment.
Police found small droplets of blood by Jones's garage door threshold. The blood belonged to Duve. Prosecutors believed this evidence showed Jones had placed Diana's body in the trunk of her car while it was parked in his garage.
Mike Jones was found guilty of first-degree murder. Prosecutors went for the death penalty, which would have required a unanimous decision by the jury, but the jury's decision was split 11-1. In November 2019, Jones was sentenced to life in prison.
Duve's mother Lena Andrews wants people to remember and learn from Diana's story. "If you feel something is not right, listen to yourself, because something is not right," she said.