Murder, She Wrote 7.15 “The Taxman Cometh”

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Jessica Fletcher is on her Midwest book promotion tour and takes the opportunity to visit her dear old friend Edna Hayes in Jonesburg, Missouri. Edna, who runs the company Aunt Edna’s Pies (alternatively referred to as Aunt Edna’s Baked Goods), is in trouble because she is being investigated for $2 million in unpaid taxes!

(Unusually for Murder, She Wrote — which tends to use fictional names for smaller towns — Jonesburg, Missouri really does exist. It is approximately 65 miles west of St. Louis, meaning that the general geography of this episode makes sense.)

Just the facts:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Nolan Hayes, Edna’s ex-husband! (JK Davern, one of Nolan Hayes’ coworkers is also later killed.
Click to reveal the killer It was Richard Wellstood, the company’s in-house attorney!
Click to reveal the weapon Both Nolan Hayes and JK Davern were shot!
Click to reveal the location Nolan Hayes body was found outside his car in a dangerous neighborhood! JK Davern was killed in the parking lot in front of the company offices.
Click to reveal the motive JK and Richard had been defrauding the company! They killed Nolan because he was getting too close to finding out the truth. Eventually Richard double-crossed JK by shooting him and trying to put all the blame on the dead man.

Cast of characters:

The main story revolves around Jessica’s friend and the fact that her business is being investigated for unpaid taxes:

  • Phyllis Newman plays Edna Hayes, Jessica’s friend and founder of Aunt Edna’s Pies. Newman had co-starred in the short-lived medical detective drama ‘Diagnosis: Unknown’ (1960).
  • Macon McCalman plays Nolan Hayes, Edna’s ex-husband and a consultant for the company who is also being investigated for unpaid taxes. This is McCalman’s second and final appearance on MSW. He previously appeared in “Doom with a View“.

Employees of Aunt Edna’s Baked Goods include:

  • Kent McCord plays George Harris, the company vice president. Fans of detective shows might recognize McCord for his starring role as Officer Jim Reed in ‘Adam-12‘. McCord also had recurring roles in several other mystery/crime shows such as ‘Unsub’ (1989) and ‘Silk Stalkings‘.
  • Roy Thinnes plays J.K. Davern, the company’s sales and marketing exec. This is Thinnes’ third and final appearance on MSW. He previously appeared in “Dead Heat” and “Trouble in Eden“.
  • Gregg Henry as Richard Wellstood, the company’s in-house attorney. This is Henry’s third of six total appearances on MSW. (Note, one of those appearances was the two-parter “Death Stalks the Big Top”.)
  • Robin Dearden plays Gail Manning, the corporate accounting supervisor. This is Dearden’s second of three total appearances on MSW.

There is also a mysterious employee named Spencer Prinz who works as the company’s tax accountant based in St. Louis.

The characters in charge of the investigation include:

  • Fred Willard plays Lieutenant Phillips, local police summoned to investigate the murder.
  • Max Wright plays Gerald Yelverton, the IRS tax auditor in charge of investigating the company’s unpaid taxes. (Wright is best known for playing the dad on ALF.)

Additional minor characters include:

  • Joan Crosby as Spencer Prinz’s maid.
  • Annie O’Donnell as Mrs. Leeman. This is O’Donnell’s first of two appearances on MSW.
  • Dominic Oliver as Pizza Shoppe Owner.
  • Gregg Allan Martin as Officer #1.
  • John Christopher as Officer #2.
  • Larry Eisenberg as a Clerk.

Final thoughts:

This isn’t the first time that the Tax Season and the IRS are major themes in a Murder, She Wrote episode: this was previously addressed in “No Accounting for Murder“.

Additionally, this is yet another episode written by Donald Ross, who frequently names his fictional characters after jazz musicians. (I’ve mentioned this before in my summaries of “A Fashionable Way to Die“, “Three Strikes, You’re Out“, “The Error of Her Ways“, and “A Body to Die For“. I’m not a Jazz fanatic, but by doing some Googling, I was able to identify that in the case of this episode:

  • J.K. Davern was probably named after Kenny Davern (full name John Kenneth Davern), who was a jazz clarinetist.
  • Richard Wellstood was probably named after Dick Wellstood (full name Richard MacQueen Wellstood), who was a jazz pianist and spent time playing with Kenny Davern.
  • Gerald Yelverton was a clarinet and saxophone player with the Glenn Miller band.

One additional bit of trivia that another fan online noted is that the exterior shot of the IRS office was actually not of a building in St. Louis but rather stock footage of the Terminal Tower in Cleveland OH.

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