Cold Case Explorations

Researching Cold and Unsolved Cases from the US and Beyond

A Christmas Tragedy: The Unsolved Murder of Margaret Sweet

This case has remained unsolved for 14 years, 11 months, and 14 days.

It was Christmas Eve 2008, and Margaret Sweet was taking turns visiting the hospital to visit her stepmother. It was her father’s turn to be there and Sweet was staying at her parents’ home over the holidays. However, when her father returned home early on Christmas morning, he found her outside in the cold, deceased. She’d been shot to death.

Suspicion almost immediately fell on Sweet’s ex-boyfriend, Jere Batts, who had allegedly harmed her in the past and whom she had a permanent order of protection against. However, authorities have never made an arrest in the case, and almost 15 years later, the murder remains unsolved. Who murdered Margaret Sweet?

Table of Contents

About Margaret “Mae” Sweet

Margaret “Mae” Sweet was born on April 22, 1970 to parents James and Susan Egger in Glasgow, Montana. She graduated from Mitchell High School (also located in Glasgow) in 1988. She also sometimes went by the alias Shelby Jamison when she was meeting people online.

A photograph of Margaret Sweet.
A photograph of Margaret Sweet (Justice for Margaret Sweet).

According to friends and family, Sweet loved music, animals, and was a fan of the Air Force Academy football games. She also loved being outdoors and enjoyed white water rafting, hiking, and the beach. “She wanted to live life and live every bit of it,” said her younger brother, Paul Egger, who also described her as “very strong-willed.”

Described as a reliable and caring woman, her family was baffled when she ended up murdered on Christmas Eve in 2008. Why would anyone want to harm Margaret Sweet? 

The Months Leading up to the Murder

In the months leading up to the murder, 38-year-old Sweet was attempting to leave an abusive relationship with her then-boyfriend, Jere Dale Batts (56). The two met while Sweet was living in Nashville, TN, and many of her friends described the relationship as troubled and tumultuous.

Although Batts denied ever physically harming Sweet, her family members recalled seeing bruises and injuries on her body several times while she was dating him. Sweet’s best friend also said that Sweet confided in her and confirmed that Batts was physically abusive and “beat her up pretty good.”

A photograph of a younger Margaret Sweet.
A photograph of a younger Margaret Sweet (FOX 21).

Moving Back to Colorado

Eventually, Sweet ended up moving back to Colorado Springs, CO to try to get away from Batts both emotionally and physically. Batts allegedly made a trip out to Colorado Springs, leaving a stuffed teddy bear, a dozen roses, and a diamond engagement ring on her car. Many agree that this behavior was stalking, and it was about to get worse.

Instead of escaping the relationship by moving, as Sweet had hoped, Batts followed her. “I moved to Colorado Springs to see if we could try again to make our relationship work,” Batts told a news outlet. 

Order of Protection Filed

On May 13, 2008, Sweet filed and order of protection against Batts. A judge granted her a permanent restraining order, which suggests to me that sufficient evidence was presented that demonstrated Batts was a clear and present danger to Sweet. 

Additionally, around the same time, Sweet was getting counseling from TESSA, a local organization that helps victims of domestic violence along with other issues. (As an aside, if you need help yourself, reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.) That being said, I couldn’t find any evidence that Batts had been formally charged with domestic violence.

The Night of the Murder

Both Margaret Sweet and her father, James Egger, had been taking turns caring for Penny Egger (Sweet’s stepmother) in December 2008 in Colorado Springs, CO. Penny had surgery and was recuperating in the hospital near the Christmas holiday, and Sweet and her father had been taking turns visiting her. 

On Christmas Eve, it was Egger’s turn to go to the hospital and keep Penny company. He wouldn’t return home until the next morning, leaving Sweet alone at the home. It seems that Sweet went to her best friend’s home earlier in the night before returning to her parents’ residence. Sweet’s best friend, Tammy Matthies, told a news outlet:

“The day [Margaret] died was Christmas Eve and she had been at my house. She was very fearful and [Batts] had beat her up pretty good. She had a lot of bruises on her torso. He had threatened to shoot her, is what she had told me.”

Tammy Matthies (Source: FOX 21)
Margaret Sweet as a child.
Margaret Sweet as a child (FOX 21).

Arguing and a Gunshot

As for the incident in which Margaret Sweet was killed, there isn’t a lot of information about exactly what happened that night. According to news sources, a neighbor in the Colorado Springs neighborhood heard a loud argument going on around 11 PM on December 24, 2008

The neighbor told police that there was a male voice yelling obscenities, although it isn’t clear exactly what was being said. Shortly thereafter, a shot rang out in the night. The neighbor, for whatever reason, did not call 911. It’s possible that gunshots were not uncommon in the area, or that the neighbor didn’t think the noise heard was actually a gunshot. 

Egger Returns Home

At 5:50 AM on Christmas Day, Egger drove home from the hospital and saw something that seemed out-of-place. When he approached, he found Sweet crumpled up on the porch, one leg in a basement window well. She’d been shot and wasn’t moving.

Contacting authorities immediately, Egger reported what he’d found. He went to his daughter and tried to see if she was still alive, but it was too late. Sweet was soon thereafter declared dead at the scene of the crime by authorities.

The Investigation

Colorado Springs Police Department (CPSD) responded to the 911 call quickly and immediately began investigating the circumstances regarding Margaret Sweet’s death. Egger complied with any tests or examinations that law enforcement had for him: “I told [authorities] anything that will help them decide I didn’t commit the murder, so they could look somewhere else, I was willing to do.” 

Family and Friends Stunned

Sweet’s family and friends struggled to understand why she’d been murdered. Younger brother Paul Egger said of his sister’s murder:

“Knowing who my sister was and how positive she was, how she loved everybody, I couldn’t imagine why somebody would do that to her. It was just such a foreign idea.”

Paul Egger (Source: FOX 21)
Margaret Sweet’s younger brother, Paul Egger, giving a TV interview on his sister’s unsolved murder case.
Margaret Sweet’s younger brother, Paul Egger, giving a TV interview on his sister’s unsolved murder case (FOX 21).

However, many pointed the finger at Jere Batts, Sweet’s allegedly abusive ex-boyfriend, as the person that authorities ought to look at. To date, Batts has denied any and all accusations that he had anything to do with Sweet’s murder.

GSR Test Performed

Authorities performed a gunshot residue (GSR) test on Egger’s hands to see if there was any evidence that he’d been the one to shoot Sweet. Although there isn’t additional information about the results of this test, I believe they came back negative because law enforcement didn’t look much further into Egger as a suspect. 

Egger also had a solid alibi because he’d been at the hospital all night with his sick wife, something that could have been easily confirmed by viewing security camera footage. That being said, authorities have stated that they hadn’t “ruled anyone out” in this case.

Batts’ Alibi

The day after the murders, Batts told authorities that he couldn’t have murdered Sweet because he was on a date with another woman at the time of Sweet’s death. According to Batts, police gave him a lie detector test — which he said he passed — and that his hands were checked for GSR, but none was found. Batts also told a news outlet that he had nothing to do with the murder

“I just wanted to clear myself one way or the other. I have nothing to hide. I wish they could find who did this. I’m trying to move on with my life.”

Jere Batts (Source: Denver Post)

The Murder Weapon

During the course of the investigation, police learned that the gun that was used to shoot Sweet was the same one used in another shooting that happened the year prior in a drug deal gone bad. That victim survived the shooting and an arrest was never made in that case, nor has the owner of the gun been identified.

Another picture of Margaret Sweet.
Another picture of Margaret Sweet (Justice for Margaret Sweet).

Autopsy Performed

Because the gun that had been used to kill Sweet had been used in a drug deal gone wrong before, authorities wanted to rule out the idea that the killing was drug-related. An autopsy was performed on Sweet, and it confirmed that she had not been using any illegal substances at the time of her murder. Law enforcement also confirmed that Sweet had never been involved in the drug trade.

An Argument Days Before the Murder

A detective working Sweet’s case revealed that she’d gotten into a verbal altercation with some people just a few days before her murder. The people involved have not yet been identified, although authorities want to speak with them regarding the argument. There is very little information about what the argument was about or who the people might’ve been. 

A Secret Life?

During the course of the investigation, authorities would learn that Sweet sometimes went by the alias Shelby Jamison and was talking with and potentially meeting people online. Her family also has admitted that there were parts of her life that they weren’t aware of. Her father, James Egger, said, “There’s a lot about her life that I didn’t know about.”

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any additional information about this: whether Sweet actually went out and was meeting the people she talked with, who she was talking with, or what they were talking about. 

Murderer Known to Sweet

Authorities have suggested that the murder was done by someone who knew Sweet and wasn’t a random attack. They also stated that the shot was fired at close range. Detective J.F. Somosky stated: 

“Based on our investigation, we believe that the person was someone either known to Margaret Sweet — someone she expected… That person knows who he is.”

Det. J.F. Somosky (Source: FOX 21)

And that’s all the information we currently have to date about the murder of Margaret Sweet. No arrests have ever been made in the case, nor suspects named. Over 15 years later, her family and friends still have few answers.

Theories on What Happened

In this case, there isn’t a whole lot of information or evidence to go off of. There are a few theories that people have in this case, mostly relating to the idea that Sweet was targeted for one reason or another (like an angry lover), but she also might’ve been the target of a random attack. 

Batts Killed Sweet

What seems to be the most prominent theory in this case is the idea that Batts killed Sweet. After all, he’d moved from Nashville to Colorado Springs to “try to make their relationship work,” a move that many viewed as stalking behavior. There was also some evidence of physical abuse — namely bruising that Sweet’s family and friends reported.

However, Batts claimed he had an alibi, and that he’d taken a polygraph test and a GSR test and had suggested that he was cleared by authorities based on the results. As I’ve said before in other cases, I don’t put much faith in polygraph examinations one way or the other. They are an investigative tool and not a foolproof method for detecting deceit

Furthermore, the fact that GSR wasn’t found on Batts’ hands doesn’t surprise me either; even if he had been the one to fire the gun that killed Sweet, he likely would have washed his hands at least once between the time of the murder and the meeting with police. This would have washed away any GSR, resulting in a negative test result.

An Online Acquaintance Killed Sweet

Some have suggested that perhaps one of the people Sweet was speaking with online under the alias Shelby Jamison might’ve ended up killing her. There is a dearth of information in this regard, however, and we don’t know that much about who she was talking to or what she was talking about. It’s possible that she was simply trying to make friends online, or she could have been looking for romantic partners. 

A Random Stranger Killed Sweet

As frightening as it is to think about, it’s also possible that Sweet’s death was the result of a random attack. Perhaps she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, as much as I hate that expression. Random killings don’t happen often, but they do happen, as was the case in my article Where is Convicted Murderer Adam Emery?

What Do I Think Happened?

Statistically speaking, it’s much more likely that Batts killed Sweet than any of the other possible outcomes. Over half of female homicide victims in the United States are murdered by current or former male intimate partners. Given that Batts had an alleged history of abuse, stalking, and that a permanent — not temporary — but permanent order of protection was approved against him, the circumstantial evidence is not looking great for Batts.

I tried to find more information about the protective order and the evidence provided to get it granted, but I wasn’t able to find much. When people interested in this case reached out to the CSPD to have the record unsealed, the order was denied because “the documents… requested are part of an active law enforcement investigation.” At least it seems that the CSPD is still investigating this case. 

A photograph of Margaret Sweet and her family.
A photograph of Margaret Sweet and her family (FOX 21).

Questioning Batts’ Alibi

Batts’ main story was that he couldn’t have killed Sweet because he was on a date with another woman, but Sweet was murdered sometime around 11 PM. It seems very possible to me that Batts would have had time to go on the date, then murder Sweet, and then go home and wash his hands, change, shower, etc. before the police met with him the following day. 

That being said, it is possible that Sweet’s killing was something like a random attack or an attack by an acquaintance she met online. I don’t think these outcomes are very likely, but they are possible. 

Case Outlook

Despite there being a number of circumstantial pieces of evidence in this case that suggest Batts was the murderer (allegations of domestic violence, a permanent order of protection granted, the fact that he followed Sweet to Colorado Springs), I don’t believe there is currently enough evidence to prosecute him. 

In order for this case to be solved, we’d need more evidence to come to light or something akin to a confession by the murderer to be uncovered. Additional information may be gained by determining who possessed the gun that was used to murder Sweet. 

Regardless, Sweet’s family and friends deserve to know the truth of what happened on that Christmas Eve night, and the murderer needs to be brought to justice. As Detective Somosky put it, “We will find a way to successfully identify the suspect and bring that person to justice.”

Case Updates

Unfortunately, there have not been any updates in Margaret Sweet’s murder case that I could find.

Do You Have Information?

If you have information about the murder of Margaret Sweet, please contact the Colorado Springs Police Department at (719) 444–7000 or Crime Stoppers (719) 634-7867. 

Information regarding Margaret Sweet’s case.
Information regarding Margaret Sweet’s case (Colorado Bureau of Investigation).

Cold Case Questions

  • Who do you think murdered Margaret Sweet?
  • Did authorities do enough to protect Sweet?
  • Do you think this case will ever be solved?

Tell me your thoughts about this case in the comments below!

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