St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri on November 20, 1988 · Page 14
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri · Page 14

St. Louis, Missouri
Issue Date:
Sunday, November 20, 1988
Page 14
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14A REGION ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH .' SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 1988 Murder From page one 'jury investigation. of Wilson's arrest and conviction. ,, "I think he ought to at least get a new trial," said Johnny Moneymaker, a farmer and feed mill operator. ; Wilson never had a trial. On April 30, 1987, he entered an Alford plea to a charge of first-degree murder on the advice of his lawyers. He was sentenced by Jasper County Circuit Judge L Thomas Elliston to life imprisonment without parole for 50 years. "a Under the Alford plea, Wilson did 'not admit guilt, but he acknowledged that the state had enough evidence to convince a jury that he was guilty. ' In return for the admission, the state agreed not to seek the death penalty against Wilson. Now, a new attorney has filed an appeal motion for Wilson, challenging the effectiveness of his lawyers. Firefighters found the bound, gagged and burned body of Pauline Martz in the gutted and ransacked interior of her home. Martz lived alone in Aurora, a town of 6,500 people, 240 miles southwest of St Louis. She was the widow of the founder of a large, local printing company and was well-known in town. She often could be seen wearing colorful floppy hats and driving a powder blue 1963 Corvette that was in mint condition. .. Police suspicion focused quickly on Wilson. , His grandmother, Nellie Maples, 83, was a bridge partner of Martz, and Wilson often parked his bicycle in Martz's carport while he attended high school nearby. Another young man, an acquaintance of Wilson, told police that Wilson had told him on the night of the fire that Wilson had committed the crime. When he was 6 years old and spending a second year in kindergarten, Johnny Lee Wilson's mother, Susan, had him tested by a specialist. The evaluator said Wilson had been "apprehensive throughout the testing situation and frequently asked if it was time to leave. He was often on the verge of tears during the ; questioning." Wilson was considered to be "borderline to mildly retarded." His IQ was placed at 71. He attended special-education classes at Aurora High School and graduated. He lived with his mother and grandmother and worked part time as a janitor, a carpenter and mowed lawns. Before his arrest in the killing, he never had been in trouble with the law. "He lived in a sheltered environment," Maples said. "We might have protected him too much." Within one week of the slaying, po lice questioned Wilson three times. Each time he denied being involved. But at 12:11 a.m. on April 19, after about four hours of questioning, Wilson gave a statement to Lawrence County Sheriff's Deputy Douglas Seneker. "Was Pauline Martz inside the house when you set it on fire?" "Yes." "Did you take anything out of the house before you set it on fire? "Yes." "What did you take out?" "Jewelry and some money." "Did you hit Pauline Martz while you were inside the house?" "Yes." "With what did you hit her, and where?" "My fist. On the chest and the face." Wilson went on to say that he had tied Martz up with tape and rope and that be had set the house on fire with paper and gasoline. In an interview last week at the Missouri Penitentiary, Wilson said he had given the statement because he was afraid of the police. "At the time they were questioning me, I was saying things, hoping they would let me go home because they would get what they wanted," Wilson said. "Sometimes I sit back in my cell and wonder why I confessed to them. Why didn't I ask for an attorney?" Later, after Wilson was charged, his attorneys three public defenders from Monett, Mo., Victor Head, Carr Woods and Michael Garrett tried to keep the statement from being used against Wilson. But the judge overruled their objections. Larry Maples, a public defender based in Joplin, Mo., represents Wilson. He is unrelated to Wilson's grandmother. Maples has filed a motion asking the court to set aside the verdict or to hold a trial for Wilson. His motion, filed in August, raises questions about how the confession was obtained. It says tape recordings of the interrogations of Wilson show that police cajoled, pressured and harassed Wilson until he confessed. A hearing date on Maples' motion has yet to be set by Judge Charles D. Darnold of Vernon County; that judge has been specially appointed to hear, the motion. Brownfield is serving a life sentence for aiding and abetting a murder that occurred 16 days after Martz was killed. The second murder took place in Pittsburg, Kan., just across the state line from southwestern Missouri. When he hasn't been in prison or jail, nearly all of Brownfield's 32 years have been spent in the Joplin area. His parents abandoned him as a baby, and he was raised by his grandmother, who is now dead, and an aunt, Ruby Oxendine of Neosho, Mo. "From the time he was born until he got sent to prison, I tried to bring the boy up right," Oxendine said. Hunted Robbery Suspect Kills Himself , MILLERSBURG, Mo. (AP) A man being sought after an armed robbery committed suicide Saturday, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said. Ralph A. Williams, 25, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound about 7:30 a.m., the patrol said. His last known address was in Fulton, Mo., according to the patrol. His body was found in a creek bed by troopers participating in the manhunt. 1 Williams was suspected in the robbery Friday night of a convenience store in Columbia, Mo. The patrol said several shots were fired at police cars chasing the suspect after the robbery, but no one was injured. MR! Put your home movies on VHS tape at Venture u u for first 200 feet of Super 8mm, regular 8mm or 16mm film. Each additional 50 feet of movie film 2.50 Maximum par tap: 1400' 8mm, 1600' Supers, 1400' 16mm 14 tpa, or 2600' 16mm 24 tpa. Bring us the item you want copied and a blank video tape. Any of the following can be converted into VHS video tape: Super 8mm film 35mm film 1 6mm film Regular 8mm film Any photographic print Pricing for special affect Hi background music and liTtas available at camera department counter and on order form. i i i cik ua ir r:: i ai , t . r . 2 s . ' Our evervdav low Dries nn virion tana conversion from prints and slides First 40 slidesprints 1 1 .99 Each additional slideprint 18c All Christmas orders must be to the stores on or before November 23. 1988. jut-'' kyv r r L "T a . hey can't do nothing to me now to shut me up about it. I don't care what they do. They can give me the death penalty, but I ain't shutting up about it. 97 CHRIS ALLEN BROWNFIELD, serving time in Kansas Lriref ighters found the bound, gagged and burned body of Pauline Martz in the gutted and ransacked interior of her home. Martz lived alone in Aurora, a town of 6,500 people, 240 miles southwest of St. Louis. I aJJJeN SiteOfMuKler MISSOURI V Kansas v--ift Citv St. LoulsY O Springfield Aurora "A tt the time they were questioning me, I was saying things, hoping they would let me go home because they would get what they wanted, 9 9 JOHNNY LEE WILSON, serving time in Missouri Post-Dispatch Map "But he got in with the wrong people. Chris is very easily talked into things." Brownfield has served time in Missouri and Oklahoma for robberies and burglaries. He has 20 years yet to serve in Oklahoma and 10 in Missouri, in addition to the life sentence he is serving in Kansas. In a two-hour interview on Nov. 2, Brownfield told how he and another man had gone to Martz's house at the suggestion of a third person who once did work for her. Brownfield said that Wilson had not been his accomplice and that he never had met or known Wilson. He said they had found Martz in her bed, watching television. His accomplice covered her with a blanket while the house was ransacked, Brownfield said. No money was found, but in the process of going through the house, Brownfield said a stun gun that his accomplice had was lost. "The stun gun was the reason for the whole fire. We were afraid the stun gun could be traced back to us," Brownfield said. "We decided to burn the house down because we thought it would destroy the stun gun." Brownfield said that he had wanted to bring Martz out of the house but that his accomplice had set fire to the house with the victim still inside. "You could bear her hollering from right in the den area, in there where the fire was at," Brownfield said. "It was dark in the house. The fire was going, and there was a curtain, kind of a drawn curtain, coming across this sliding plate glass window. It was partially drawed, and I couldn't see the lady in the house. But I knew she was still in there and she was alive because I could hear her hollering." He said they had fled in Brown-field's car and spent the night in a motel in Joplin. Only after he was in the Kansas prison did Brownfield learn, early this year, that Wilson had been arrested and convicted. To back up his story, Brownfield drew pictures of the stun gun and diagrams of the house, showing where he last saw Martz. He admitted that he was confessing to participating in a killing and that he ran the risk of getting the death penalty in Missouri. When asked why he was confessing, Brownfield said: "Because of the things they've done to that boy. I've been through the system. I've seen how it works, and this is exactly what can happen when all of these people are saying 'slay the criminals.' " Brownfield said that he had been rightfully convicted and that he deserved his punishment. But he said in Wilson's case, a mistake had been made. "All I'm trying to do is straighten it out for the kid," he said. Warren Ormsby, a bail bondsman who lives in Aurora, said he had known Brownfield for 10 to 12 years and that he believed his story. "There's no reason for him to lie," Ormsby said. "He doesn't want favors. He wants no deals. He knows he's flirting with the death penalty. He Just wants to clear his conscience." His disclosures began as a trickle earlier this year, when Brownfield tried to tell police Indirectly through another prison Inmate that the wrong man was imprisoned for the killing of Martz. In February, Brownfield had the other Inmate get in touch with authorities in Lawrence County asking if a reward had been offered for information that could solve the crime. When that did not work, he began getting in touch with authorities directly. He wrote a letter June 25 to Ashcroft confessing to the crime and saying the wrong man was imprisoned In Missouri for it Ashcroft's office and that of Attorney General William L Webster have said that it is up to local authorities to look into Brownfield's claim. Brownfield believes the elections for state and local officials delayed the official response to his confession claim. Now, his disclosures have become a torrent, with Brownfield giving interviews to the press. Lawrence County Prosecuting Attorney Scott S. Sifferman said Sheriff David J. Tatum was investigating the matter. Sifferman acknowledged that a stun gun, not publicized at the time of the original investigation, had been discovered at the crime scene. But he said it was "not a critical part of the evidence of the crime." When asked whether he thought Wilson was guilty, Sifferman said: "He pled guilty before the court and was convicted. I don't let my personal feelings get involved. I let the evidence show that he was guilty. The evidence was that he was guilty. "He made statements to non-law enforcement people and he made statements that indicated knowledge of the crime that only the perpetrator would know," Sifferman said. The prosecutor added that he was just as interested now in determining whether or not Brownfield was guilty as he was about Wilson's guilt two years ago. "We will get to the bottom of it eventually," he said. A Money Market Account with the hish teofa CD, high liquidity Slid q iyp Introducing the Premium Money Market Account from Commerce Bank. The new Premium Money Market Account from Commerce Bank offers significant advantages over traditional money market accounts. Your investment will be safe, more accessible, and earn a very high rate of return up to a remarkable 8 guaranteed through the end of 1988 rates traditionally associated with long term "locked-in" certificates of deposit. All of this without the risk of uninsured mutual fund accounts. And you will have immediate access to your funds, with teller services, 24-hour A.T.M. service at all Connection 24 locations, and limited check writing. 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