One of three suspects in the April 29 slaying of Fort Benning Sgt. 1st Class Donald LaShon “Shon” Wilson told authorities that he killed Wilson while under the influence of voodoo, that three people were living inside him, and that voices in his head told him what to do.
That testimony Tuesday in Russell County District Court added yet another weird twist to the sordid murder case against Gloria Denise Wilson and two accomplices accused of killing her husband so she could collect about $450,000 in military death compensation.
Also charged are Travis Leonard, who was having an affair with Gloria Wilson, and Michael “Money Mike” Tucker, a family friend.
It was Tucker who gave a written statement saying voodoo and voices in his head led him to kill Wilson, sheriff’s Sgt. Grover Goodrich testified. But Tucker told investigators different stories at different times, Goodrich said: Once Tucker said Gloria Wilson hired him to kill her husband, and Leonard helped dispose of the body; in another statement he said neither of his co-defendants were involved. Investigators said Tucker lured Shon Wilson from his 4 Trafford Trail home sometime around midnight April 28, texting Wilson to say he was out of gas, had children with him and needed help. Wilson brought a can of gas to meet Tucker at the Colonial Inn on Phenix City’s 280 Bypass, authorities said.
At 3:22 a.m., a newspaper carrier found Shon Wilson’s body in a ditch near Wood Loop and Russell County Highway 39, also known as Nuchols Road. Around that same time, Phenix City police found Wilson’s maroon Mercury Marquis afire in the Central Highlands Apartments’ parking lot, off 22nd Avenue west of the 280 Bypass, within walking distance of the Colonial Inn.
Investigators believe Tucker used the gasoline Wilson brought to burn the victim’s car after shooting the soldier in it, dumping the body and driving back to town.
On the witness stand Tuesday, Goodrich said Shon Wilson was shot three times with a .380-caliber pistol, one bullet traveling through his neck, another going through his forehead and lodging in the back of his skull, and a third striking him in the chest above the heart.
Authorities retrieved two bullets, which they believe could have come from a .380 Cobra pistol belonging to Gloria Wilson. Witnesses said Leonard had the gun April 27, but at 11:33 p.m. April 28, Gloria Wilson sent him a text telling him she needed it back, Goodrich said.
The text message was in code, the words spelled backward, the sergeant said. When reversed the message read, “Bring me my gun,” he said. After getting the gun from Leonard, she then met Tucker in Columbus around midnight to give him the weapon, Goodrich said.
The gun was never found. Goodrich said it may have burned in Shon Wilson’s car, which investigators estimated reached a temperature of about 1,200 degrees.
Goodrich’s testimony detailed suspicious conduct that preceded the homicide:
Investigators found evidence of Gloria Wilson’s affair with Leonard in a packed suitcase in the trunk of her car. Inside was a spiral notebook containing photographs of her and Leonard in various stages of undress or together in sexual positions.
Though she and her husband were on the brink of bankruptcy, Gloria Wilson took Leonard to Columbus’ Legacy Chevrolet in mid-April to look at a $50,000 Camaro she said she would buy for him. When the sales associate, a friend of hers, asked how she would pay for the car, she replied, “I’m going to be getting some money soon,” Goodrich said.
She already bought Leonard a 1999 Chevy Tahoe, registered in her name, worth about $7,000, Goodrich said.
About a week before the slaying, she and Leonard traveled together to Macon, Ga., where for two nights they rented a room at a Best Western, for which she paid, registering under her maiden name “McCoy.” While in Macon, Leonard got a tattoo of her middle name “Denise,” for which she also paid.
Leonard later told investigators she stole Guest-Tex brand towels from the inn. Goodrich said Guest-Tex towels were found in her suitcase and her closet, and a Guest-Tex towel smeared with blood and brain tissue was near Shon Wilson’s head when his body was found.
Two days before the homicide, Leonard sent Gloria Wilson a message saying he could not wait until she could be Mrs. Leonard, the sergeant said.
Their relationship intensified while Shon Wilson was overseas. An Army spokesman said Wilson, a fire direction chief with a mortar platoon, was deployed twice to Iraq, in 2004-2005 and again in 2010-2011.
Relatives at Tuesday’s hearing said the couple married June 4, 2011. Shon Wilson afterward was assigned to a post in Hawaii, returning in December 2012. While he was gone, Leonard moved in with Gloria Wilson.
Goodrich said Gloria Wilson told him her husband knew she and Leonard had a sexual relationship and didn’t mind. Other witnesses said she told her husband Leonard was an adopted brother.
Leonard was unemployed. Asked how Leonard made a living, Goodrich replied, “Off of women.” He said Leonard had a second girlfriend, too.
In March, Shon Wilson kicked Leonard out of the Wilsons’ home. On April 27, the Saturday before he was killed, he told his wife he wanted a divorce.
At 12:16 a.m. April 29, Tucker texted Shon Wilson the distress message that he was out of gas with his kids. Shon Wilson then texted his wife, who was not home that night, telling her he was going to help Tucker. She texted back, encouraging him to go.
Goodrich said that after Tucker was arrested May 3, he told investigators both he and Leonard met Shon Wilson at the Colonial Inn, then took Wilson’s Mercury Marquis east on the 280 Bypass and south on U.S. 431, stopping at a closed BP gas station.
That’s where Tucker shot Wilson, after which he and Leonard took the body in the front floorboard from U.S. 431 to Alabama 165, then down Russell County 39 to Wood Loop, Goodrich said.
After dumping the body, they pulled into a Mount Olive-area neighborhood and threw out Wilson’s shoes, which authorities later recovered, Goodrich said. He said Shon Wilson’s body was clothed as if he’d just got out of bed — in a T-shirt, pajamas and a skull cap. Goodrich said the next set of text messages investigators found from that morning were from Gloria Wilson to Leonard: At 2:36 a.m., she texted “Did you get a tat,” ostensibly meaning a tattoo, though Goodrich thought it a code. Defense attorneys Tuesday objected to Goodrich’s speculating what it meant. At 4:21 a.m., she texted Leonard “Come outside to smoke,” Goodrich said.
After the body was found, investigators immediately became suspicious of the wife and her lover. They questioned Gloria Wilson for hours before arresting her April 29. Travis Leonard also was charged that day. Each defendant is being held on $500,000 bond. At the conclusion of Tuesday’s hearing, Judge David Johnson refused to lower those bonds and sent the case to a grand jury for indictment.