UPDATE: Russell sheriff says wife's boyfriend charged with murder in husband's homicide

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comApril 29, 2013 

UPDATE: Russell County authorities are charging with murder the boyfriend of a woman whose husband’s body was found dumped in a ditch Monday.

After hours of questioning the witness, investigators decided they had sufficient evidence to charge Travis Leonard in the fatal shooting of Fort Benning Staff Sgt. Donald LaShon Wilson, 34, whose widow, 34-year-old Gloria Denise Wilson, was charged Tuesday morning with her husband’s killing.

Investigators probing the soldier’s cold-blooded killing say the case has turned into a sordid tale of love, murder and money.

Sheriff Heath Taylor said the couple, who lived in Lee County within the Phenix City limits, married when Donald Wilson returned from a tour in Iraq in 2011. He that year was reassigned to Hawaii for a year.

While he was gone, Leonard moved in with his wife, whose explanation for this odd arrangement was that she and Leonard had a close but platonic relationship.

They did not, and that eventually came to light after Donald Wilson, who went by the name “Shon,” came home in July 2012, Taylor said. Shon Wilson kicked Leonard out of his house this past March, but his wife and Leonard continued to see each other, the sheriff said.

Other pressures began to mount, Taylor said: The couple was having financial difficulties and had consulted an attorney about declaring bankruptcy. Gloria Wilson told friends she was pregnant with Leonard’s child. Shon Wilson finally decided to divorce his wife, and told her so Saturday.

A divorce likely would have left her nothing, under the circumstances, Taylor said. So they plotted to kill Shon Wilson so that the widow could collect about $450,000 in death benefits from the military, the sheriff said.

For his widow to collect, Shon Wilson’s body had to be found and identified, Taylor said, which is why it wasn’t burned along with his Mercury Marquis. Phenix City police found it afire about 4:30 a.m. Monday in the Central Highlands Apartments’ parking lot, off 22nd Avenue west of the 280 Bypass.

About an hour earlier, a newspaper carrier had found Shon Wilson’s bullet-riddled body in ditch near Wood Loop and Russell County Highway 39, also known as Nuchols Road.

Taylor said investigators believe Shon Wilson was lured from his 4 Trafford Trail home sometime around midnight Sunday. They had not yet determined where he was killed, the sheriff said.

“From his appearance it looked like he was potentially in clothes that you would lounge around the house in,” Taylor said earlier this week. “He didn’t look like he was dressed to leave and go somewhere and do something.”

He had multiple gunshot wounds, the sheriff said.

Gloria Wilson this week was given a $500,000 bond by District Court Judge David Johnson. Taylor said Travis Leonard’s bond will also be $500,000.

Maj. Ellis Gales Jr., a public affairs officer with the 3rd Brigade, said Wilson served two tours to Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and again from 2010 to 2011. He was a fire direction chief with a mortar platoon.

Here are previous reports on this case:

Update (Wednesday, 4:10 p.m.): The apparent boyfriend of a woman charged with killing her husband was interviewed Wednesday by the Russell County Sheriff’s Office in connection with the homicide.

Sheriff Heath Taylor said Wednesday morning that Travis Leonard “just came to (the) Sheriff’s Office.” Authorities announced Tuesday they were searching for the man. As of Wednesday night, Leonard faced no charges but was still being questioned.

Leonard, 27, was wanted for questioning in the homicide of Fort Benning Staff Sgt. Donald LaShon Wilson, 34, who was found dead in a ditch Monday morning near the Lee County line. The 15-year Army veteran’s body was found at the intersection of Nuckols Road and Wood Loop at about 3:30 a.m., apparently dropped off away from where the homicide occurred. He suffered from multiple gunshot wounds.

Wilson’s Mercury Marquis was later found on fire in the Central Highlands Apartments’ parking lot by Phenix City Police. The vehicle was extensively burned, Taylor said in a press conference Monday.

Taylor said Tuesday that Leonard is the boyfriend of 34-year-old Gloria Denise Wilson, who was married to Donald Wilson. She was charged Tuesday morning with her husband’s killing and is being held at Russell County Jail. Gloria and Donald Wilson lived together at 4 Trafford Trail.

In court documents investigator Rob Miller stated Gloria Wilson “intentionally caused the death of Donald LaShon Wilson by shooting him with a pistol.” On April 16, Gloria Wilson posted a photo of a pistol on what appears to be her Facebook page.

Gloria Wilson was given a $500,000 bond by District Court Judge David Johnson.

Maj. Ellis Gales Jr., a public affairs officer with the 3rd Brigade, said Wilson served two tours to Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and again from 2010 to 2011. He was a fire direction chief with a mortar platoon.

Update (Tuesday, 4:15 p.m.): The Russell County Sheriff’s Office is still looking for the boyfriend of a woman charged with shooting and killing her husband Monday morning.

Sheriff Heath Taylor said Tuesday at 4:45 p.m. that police are looking for Travis Leonard, who is a second suspect in the shooting death of Donald LaShon Wilson.

Wilson’s wife and Leonard’s girlfriend, 34-year-old Gloria Denise Wilson, was arrested and booked into Russell County Jail at about 2:53 a.m. Tuesday. She was charged with her husband’s homicide.

A fire direction chief in the mortar platoon with the 3rd Armored Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Donald Wilson, 34, was found dead in a ditch at the intersection of Nuckols Road and Wood Loop Monday at about 3:30 a.m. Taylor said during a press conference Monday that the body appeared to have been dumped away from the site of the murder.

Authorities believe the murder took place between 11:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m., as an acquaintance of Donald Wilson’s claims to have spoken with him at about 11 p.m. At about 4:30 a.m., Phenix City Police responded to Central Highlands Apartments, where they found the sergeant’s Mercury Marquis on fire in the parking lot.

Gloria Wilson’s apparent Facebook page shines some details on the couple.

In her “About Me” section, Wilson says she’s “Loving Shon 4 Life. I got him and I want ever let him go, he’s my cookie and I’m going to gobble him all up... Mrs. Wilson 4 Life.”

On Monday, Wilson posted a photo that said “Be as happy as possible.” On April 16, she posted a photo of a pistol.

Wilson served 15 years, 10 months in the U.S. Army and was deployed at least twice. He returned from his last deployment to Iraq in June 2011. He was slated to receive a promotion to sergeant first class, Taylor said Monday.

According to Maj. Ellis Gales Jr., a public affairs officer with the 3rd Brigade, Wilson was deployed to Iraq March 2004-March 2005 and July 2010-June 2011. His awards and medals include six Army Commendation medals, a Meritorious Service Medal, three Good Conduct medals, two Iraq Campaign medals, Expeditionary and Service medals, Korean Defense Service Medal and a Combat Infantry Badge.

An affairs specialist at the Pentagon said his assignments included Schofield Barracks, Hawaii (Dec. 2009 to Dec. 2012); Fort Benning, (July 2005 to Dec. 2009); Fort Hood, Texas (May 2001 to June 2005); and Fort Wainwright, Alaska (Dec 1997 to June 2000). There was a break in service, according to the specialist, between Alaska and Texas.

Authorities may be searching for other suspects. Anyone with more information should contact the Sheriff’s Office at 334-298-6535.

Monday's story:The Russell County Sheriff’s Office is looking for suspects in the shooting of a Fort Benning staff sergeant who was found dead in a ditch in Seale, Ala., Monday morning.

Sheriff Heath Taylor said during a press conference that Donald LaShon Wilson, 34, was found dead at the intersection of Nuckols Road and Wood Loop at about 3:30 a.m. Monday. The body was reported to the Sheriff’s Office by a person delivering newspapers, Taylor said.

“At this time, we’re looking into everything that we can,” Taylor said. “We’re looking into all of his associates and friends and family to give us some sort of indication as to what happened last night.”

Wilson appeared to have suffered multiple gunshot wounds. His body was found several miles from his home on Trafford Trail, where he lived with his wife. Taylor also said Wilson was found in comfortable clothes and didn’t appear as if he intended to leave his home.

“From his appearance it looked like he was potentially in clothes that you would lounge around the house in,” Taylor said. “He didn’t look like he was dressed to leave and go somewhere and do something.”

The body is being transported to Montgomery, Ala., where it will be processed for an autopsy.

Wilson appeared to have been dumped in the ditch, Taylor said. Law enforcement officials suspect the shooting took place somewhere else. Because investigators have received information indicating an acquaintance of Wilson’s spoke with him at 11 p.m., officials suspect Wilson was shot between 11:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m.

“It’s too early to tell why he was away from the home, and why he left the home,” Taylor said. “All those things are speculation.”

Shortly after Wilson’s body was discovered, Phenix City Police found the sergeant’s Mercury Marquis on fire in the parking lot of Central Highlands Apartments behind Tate Furniture Distributors on 22nd Avenue. Taylor said the damage to the vehicle was extensive.

“It’s pretty much burned the whole way through, with the exception of the trunk area,” Taylor said.

Taylor said Fort Benning officials have informed him that Wilson was a staff sergeant who was soon to be promoted to sergeant first class.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family — not only here, locally, but he has some family in Texas as well — and of course to the military men and women that were serving with Mr. Wilson,” Taylor said.

Wilson’s death is the fourth homicide of the year for Russell County.

Taylor urges anyone with more information to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 334-298-6535.

“Right now we do not have a suspect,” Taylor said. “We’re asking anyone who has any contact with Mr. Wilson here in Phenix City or Columbus if they had talked to him or knew of his whereabouts to please call us. We’ll be glad to take the information.”

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service