Julianne Wagner Death – Obituary, woman killed in helicopter crash was ‘conned’ by pilot

By | January 14, 2022

A friend said the woman killed in a helicopter crash in Sevier County was “conned” by her pilot boyfriend, who the National Transporation Safety Board said ignored multiple safety warnings about flying and who had been ordered not to fly by a federal magistrate judge one week before the Dec. 29 crash.

Julianne “Juli” Wagner, 35, died when the leased Robinson R-44 helicopter that Matthew Jones was piloting went down on a ridge at about 2,000 feet near the Sevier-Cocke county line in overcast, drizzly and foggy conditions.

“Juli had a really big, beautiful heart and she loved people,” friend Gina Blake told KSL-TV. “I feel like [Jones] is a con man who conned his way into Juli’s life.”

On Wednesday, a judge remanded Matthew Jones, 35, into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service for transportation to Utah to face previously-filed charges of mail fraud and “operating as an airman without an airman’s certificate.”

Jones participated in the hearing over Zoom from his UT Medical Center hospital bed, where a spokesperson listed his condition as stable.

Multiple people at the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport warned Jones against flying on the day of the crash, a preliminary NTSB analysis showed.

When one cautioned him of the dangers of flying in the Smoky Mountains in poor weather conditions, the report said Jones replied, “those are hills.”

Jones told a LifeStar pilot he planned to fly along I-40 past Asheville, North Carolina to Raleigh to visit relatives. The report said the pilot replied, “there was no way he would make it there.”

Julianne Wagner Death – Obituary, woman killed in helicopter crash was ‘conned’ by pilot

The Lifestar pilot told Jones the mountains were 6,000 feet in elevation and there were powerlines above the I-40 gorge, the report said.

Around 12 minutes after taking off shortly before 2:15 p.m., the helicopter crashed off Apple Tree Lane near Hooper Highway.