Sheriff: 3rd suspect in soldier's slaying claimed emergency to lure him from home, used gas victim brought to burn car

Mike Tucker arrested after boyfriend charged in soldier's slaying

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comMay 2, 2013 

A Columbus man arrested today is accused of luring slain soldier Donald LaShon Wilson from home late Sunday with a fake tale of having run out of gas, then using the gas Wilson brought to burn Wilson’s car after killing him..

Michael Tucker, 42, was arrested about 1 p.m. today when he saw investigators tailing him as he drove into Phenix City from Columbus on the J.R. Allen Parkway. He pulled over at the Summerville Road exit and began to vomit on the roadside, telling officers he had taken about 30 sleeping pills, apparently in an attempt to overdose, said Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor.

He was rushed to Phenix City’s Hughston Hospital for treatment.

He’s charged with murder in Wilson’s death, as are the soldier’s widow, Gloria Wilson, 34, and her boyfriend Travis Leonard, 27. Wilson was arrested Tuesday and Leonard was charged Thursday . In a news conference today, Taylor disclosed more details of the bizarre case that began with a newspaper carrier’s finding Wilson’s body about 3 a.m. Monday in a ditch at Wood Loop and Russell County Highway 39. He had been shot three times with a .380 -caliber pistol investigators believe belonged to his wife, who once posted a photo of the gun on Facebook.

Within 30 minutes, Wilson’s Mercury Marquis was found ablaze at Central Highlands Apartments, off 22nd Avenue west of the 280 Bypass in Phenix City.

Since then sheriff’s investigators have been working around the clock to piece together what happened. Taylor today gave this narrative:

Gloria Wilson long had maintained a romantic relationship with Leonard, even moving him into the Wilson’s home at 4 Trafford Trail while her husband was deployed, telling her spouse Leonard was a “god-brother” or longtime family friend.

Wilson, 34, eventually learned the truth after he returned home last summer, and this past March kicked Leonard out. But Gloria Wilson maintained their illicit love affair, the sheriff said. He said she had sought a divorce, and for more than a year had commented to friends that she wanted to kill her husband.

The couple also were having financial issues and had contemplated declaring bankruptcy, Taylor said.

On Saturday, Shon Wilson told friends he would give his wife “what she wanted,” a divorce. Authorities believe his wife already was plotting to have him killed, but this decision “threw everything into high gear,” Taylor said, adding investigators have been tracing calls and text messages between those charged in the plot.

He said Michael Tucker’s girlfriend was friends with Gloria Wilson, and sometimes socialized with Wilson and her husband. Investigators suspect Tucker and Gloria Wilson also had an affair once, he said.

Tucker used his friendship with Shon Wilson to play upon the soldier’s trust, texting him around midnight Sunday to say he had run out of gas at the Colonial Inn on Phenix City’s 280 Bypass, and had children with him, Taylor said. Wilson got up, still in clothes he wore to lounge around the house, got a can of gas and went to meet Tucker.

Gloria Wilson was not home, but out socializing, choosing her destinations to be seen and establish an alibi, Taylor said. Her husband texted her to tell her where he was going.

When Shon Wilson found Tucker, he was met with both Tucker and Leonard, who shot him with Gloria Wilson’s gun, drove him out to the county in his own car, dumped his body, then drove the car back to Phenix City and used the gasoline Wilson brought to set it afire, to destroy evidence, said Taylor, who believes they picked the apartments parking lot to leave the car because it’s within walking distance of the Colonial Inn, where Tucker’s vehicle would have been.

He said investigators believe they have found the site where the two killed Wilson, but he declined to disclose it or say who the triggerman is thought to be.

Gloria Wilson’s motive not only was to rid herself of Shon Wilson, but to collect military death benefits totaling around $450,000, Taylor said.

Each of the three suspects is charged with murder and being held on $500,000 bond, he said. While paying tribute to his investigators who worked with little sleep to clear the case within days, Taylor also thanked private citizens who have volunteered what they knew about the Wilsons and about Gloria Wilson’s relationships.

He said authorities have yet to find Gloria Wilson’s .380-caliber pistol, but they have not finished sifting through the burned car, where its remains may be.

Below are previous updates to this ongoing saga: Update (1:08 p.m.)

A third suspect sought in connection to Monday's slaying of Sgt. 1st Class Donald LaShon Wilson was arrested Friday, according to the Russell County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Heath Taylor announced the arrest of Mike Tucker during a press conference held at 1 p.m. Friday. Tucker, who lives in Columbus' Lawyers Lane area, is suspected of assisting in Wilson's murder. Wife Gloria Wilson, 34, and her boyfriend Travis Leonard, 27, have also been charged with Donald Wilson's murder.

Original story

While seeking a third suspect in Columbus, Russell County authorities Thursday charged with murder the boyfriend of a woman whose husband’s body was found in a ditch Monday.

After hours of questioning the witness, investigators decided they had sufficient evidence to charge 27-year-old Travis Leonard in the fatal shooting of Fort Benning Sgt. 1st Class Donald LaShon Wilson, 34, whose widow, 34-year-old Gloria Denise Wilson, was charged Tuesday morning in her husband’s killing.

On Thursday night, Russell County investigators had teamed up with Columbus law enforcement agencies in the hunt for Mike Tucker, who is believed to have helped carry out the killing, Taylor said. He said Tucker, who is older than his alleged accomplices, lives in Columbus’ Lawyers Lane area, where officers were tracking him.

Investigators probing the cold-blooded killing say it has become 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. That same year he was reassigned to Hawaii for a year.

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

The romantic nature of their relationship 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, Taylor said.

A divorce likely would have left her nothing under the circumstances, he said. So she, Leonard and Tucker plotted to kill Shon Wilson so that the widow could collect about $450,000 in death compensation from the military, the sheriff said. He said he suspects Tucker also once had an intimate relationship with Gloria Wilson.

For his widow to collect the benefits, Shon Wilson’s body had to be found and identified, Taylor said, and that’s why it wasn’t burned along with his Mercury Marquis, which Phenix City police found afire around 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 a ditch near Wood Loop and Russell County Highway 39, also known as Nuckols 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.

District Court Judge David Johnson this week set Gloria Wilson’s bond at $500,000. Taylor said Travis Leonard’s bond will also be $500,000, as will Mike Tucker’s.

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

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