Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida on September 20, 1981 · 4
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Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida · 4

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Location:
St. Petersburg, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 20, 1981
Page:
4
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T 4A ST. PETERSBURG TIMES SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 20. 1981 i Valdosta from 1-A INSIDE THE BOX were the skeletal remains of Mrs. Hanks, who was a 35-year-old secretary and bookkeeper for the Wilcox Outdoor Advertising Co. when she mysteriously disappeared from work on Aug. 31, 1972. There was some clothing and jewelry found along with the bones. Mrs. Hanks' legs had been severed at the knees so that her body would fit into the box. Foxy Wilcox reportedly told police at the time of the disappearance that he had returned to his business on Aug. 31 after a trip to Atlanta and discovered the front door ajar and Mrs. Hanks' purse on her desk. There also were reports that Mrs. Hanks was seen get-' ting into a car with Alabama license plates. For more than eight years, local authorities speculated that Mrs. Hanks, married and the mother of three children, had "gone off to make a new life," as the local gossips were fond of phrasing it. But her family and close friends simply weren't buying that Hellen Hanks, they said, was not the sort of person to desert her family. AFTER SIX YEARS, her husband positive that his wife had been a victim of foul play divorced her (she had not been declared officially dead) and remarried. "Deep down, we knew damn well she didn't leave," Mrs. Hanks' twin brother Herman Griffin told a reporter after her remains were discovered. It would be better than seven months before anyone would be arrested in the case, but when the arrests were made, Valdosta was sent reeling. At about 4 a.m. on July 3, Keller Wilcox was arrested at his home and charged with murdering Mrs. Hanks. Shortly after his arrest, Foxy was arrested and charged under a warrant that alleged he helped "to remove and bury the victim." Keller was released under $100,000 bond, and Foxy was freed on a $25,000 bond. If convicted, Keller possibly could face the death penalty, and Foxy could receive up to five years in prison. Two elderly men who worked for the Wilcoxes, Ed Wrentz, 78, and Lorenzo Marshall, 69, also were arrested on charges of helping to dispose of Mrs. Hanks' body. Wrentz, however, has been granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony. At a preliminary hearing, Wrentz testified that he and Marshall placed Mrs. Hanks' body in a box and buried it in a shallow grave at the direction of the Wilcoxes. EARLIER THIS MONTH, Keller, Foxy and Marshall were indicted by a grand jury and trials could begin as early as November. All have entered pleas of innocent. Authorities have released little information about the case, other than to say that they classify it as a "sex crime." Even the cause of Mrs. Hanks' death remains undisclosed. But it is anticipated that the prosecution will attempt to show that Mrs. Hanks had been sexually harassed while working for the Wilcox firm. Additionally, prosecutors probably will attempt to introduce evidence that Mrs. Hanks may once have hit Keller Wilcox in an attempt to fend off an alleged sexual advance. At the time of Mrs. Hanks' disappearance, Keller Wilcox had been married for less than six weeks. (That marriage ended in divorce, and Keller recently married for the second time. His second wife, Sonia, is a high school guidance counselor. He has had no children by either marriage). "(Keller and Foxy) are just as damn innocent as driven snow," insists Wilby C. Coleman, who not only is their attorney but is related to the Wilcox family by marriage. "The state has no evidence." LT. BILLY SELPH, a detective in the Lowndes County Sheriffs Department and one of the principal in- ERNtST KEILER WILCOX . ir - P.0.6ok887 Valdottt, Gtq Rfk 9t4 , , Erviiyo Company i , Scond AthWiKi ,,, intrmwfii Football, Softball, St-kttbal! Act.,!, ... Coi.l!on Club. Yawbook.. Siaff, QM 2, QM-3, QftH, PCVJ. fO2, K3 Idol ., Hugh Hatntr VtWoiH Siaia Collaga St. Patarsburg Tinwi ERIC MENCHER Ernest Keller Wilcox as he appeared in 1 969 edition of the Admiral Farragut Academy yearbook. vestigators assigned to the Wilcox case, counters Coleman, saying, "We've got a very good case, and that's all I'm going to say." Foxy remains optimistic. "The possibility (of conviction) is there, but, in all probability, the jury is going to look at the evidence, and, in my opinion, we have evidence that will vouch for our whereabouts and actions that day." Like much of the Deep South, Valdosta, located 15 miles north of the Florida state line along 1-75, is changing rapidly and shedding some of its small-town charm in the process. There will always be the monument to "Our Confederate Dead," of course, but the downtown area is feeling the pinch of the shopping centers outside of town, and light-to-medium industry is becoming the economic mainstay. Farmers still grow tobacco, corn and peanuts, but agriculture is no longer the wave of the future. In southern towns like Valdosta, it is not unusual for men of substance and standing to be known by nicknames such as Foxy. E. K. "Foxy" Wilcox received his nickname when he was a Boy Scout. He says he's not quite sure why he was given the nickname but that his Scout Master also was called "Foxy." Foxy's father studied law under a judge, and in 1898, ' at the age of 18, he was admitted to the Georgia Bar. As one local historian has noted, Foxy's father "was one of the most outstanding lawyers in South Georgia." Foxy's wife is a member of the Plowden family, which is another of Valdosta's most exclusive families. "THE WILCOX STANDING in the community's social structure doesn't depend on money," the Valdosta Daily Times has observed. "Membership," as one member of the invisible but clearly defined class said, is based on "family, background, grace and such things, not on money." A graduate of the University of Alabama, Foxy practiced law with his father and brother Francis, who was known as "Blink," before settling on the outdoor advertising business as a lifetime career. Law was all right, Foxy says, but he got tired of sitting in musty rooms with law books. He wanted to get out and meet people and go places. At 73, Foxy is a large, pear-shaped man, with hair as bristly as a wet squirrel's fur. His face is long and accentuated by Lyndon Johnson-like ears, and while he walks with a shuffle that is not uncommon for men of his years, his mind seems sharp and clear. Keller was born when Foxy was 43 and he is an only child. Keller has always been something special in Foxy's eyes. "Keller was kind of a strange kid," remarks a longtime Valdosta resident who is at home in the same social circles as the Wilcoxes. "You have to remember that Foxy was 43 and this was the only son he was going to have." This resident declines to elaborate on his assessment. . JOHN B. LASTINGER, a local Chamber of Commerce official, coached Keller in Little League baseball and remains friends with him to this day. "To me, he is just a normal, American, red-blooded guy," Lastinger says. "I'm probably in a minority, but I don't think they did it, and I won't believe they did it unless they tell me they did." Lastinger adds that he met with Keller shortly after his arrest and that Keller staunchly maintained his innocence. "If they did it," Lastinger continues, "they've got to be the two best actors in the world." "Keller Wilcox? He was Jack Armstrong, the ail-American boy," recalls Capt. Orie Banks, dean of students at St. Petersburg's Admiral Farragut Academy. "There was no mark against him here. He graduated with honors." Keller attended Farragut for five years, graduating in -1969. He was active in intramural sports and worked on the yearbook staff. When Farragut's 1969 seniors were asked to name their idols, Keller listed Hugh Hefner, the 'Regardless of the outcome (of the trials), there are going to be some people who will always believe the worst. It's like Humpty Dumpty; you just can 't put it back as it was. ' Randall Adams, Valdosta bankar publisher of Playboy magazine. 1 "HE WAS A MODEL student," Banks adds, "good deportment." For his part, Keller also speaks of his days at Farragut " with fondness, although he says that local boys used to beat up the Farragut students when they ventured off r campus. "I don't know why they did that," he says with a shrug, ' " "maybe they were jealous." Following Farragut, Keller attended Valdosta State College but did not receive a degree. Before joining his father's business, he worked as a hospital orderly and at a funeral home. . During a discussion of how the case has affected his life, Keller yawns, thumbs absently through a dictionary, cleans his fingernails and opens his mail. His generally expressionless features come to life somewhat when the conversation drifts to the football fortunes of the University of Georgia and Valdosta High School. At 30, he retains the clean-cut good looks that those who knew him at Admiral Farragut recall. Dressed in a blue blazer with gold buttons, striped shirt and tie, tan slacks and highly polished loafers, he looks like any number of young men from well-to-do families who return to small towns to help run their daddies' businesses. KELLER SAYS that he has received numerous expressions of concern and support since his arrest And both Foxy and Keller say that they have not been os- ; tracized by Valdosta society. But Foxy also points out that being in such a prominent position may not always generate the most sympathetic responses. , "Isn't it human nature with the public to envy people who have been able to enjoy some of the fine things of life?" he says. Even their lawyer, Wilby Coleman, says that there are those people who enjoy watching the "mighty " fall. Whether the mighty will fall remains to be seen, but as Randall Adams, a well-respected Valdosta banker and Wilcox family friend, says: "Regardless of the outcome (of the trials), there are going to be some people who will always believe the worst. It's like Humpty Dumpty; you just can't put it back as it was." Adams adds, "(The Wilcoxes) are my friends, and they will continue to be my friends, but it may be that my friends made a helluva mistake." FOXY SAYS that other than the emotional and physical wear and tear on the family, the greatest hardship has been that they had to cancel a Canadian fishing trip that had been. planned for last July. In fact, when Foxy was arrested, he had two airline tickets, one for Keller, one for himself, in his pocket a circumstance that he did not publicize. - "What if the newspapers had known I had two tickets to Canada in my pocket, wouldn't that have made a good story?" he asks with a hearty cackle. Across the room, Keller sits at his desk, reading a letter. He looks up as Foxy laughs, but he doesn't smile at all. : :. ' Could it be that the good times for Foxy and Keller are ; nearing an end? ; 4 Burdines Butte Knit two Burdines offers optometric Services in Burdines St. Petersburg optometrist Craig J. Bratter, OD, pa and Associate Jeff ery S. Perl, od are located on the second floor in the customer service area next to Burdines Optical Regular Eye Examination $25 Regular soft Lens Examination and Fitting Fee $50. Office Hours by Appointment Weekdays-Evenings-Saturdays. St. Petersburg 381-8510 Burdines optometric Services honors all eye care benefits programs. You earn) wear contacts save $60 Revlon's hydrocurve il Extended wear contacts were $229 NOW ... $169 through September 30 save $20 Bausch & Lomb Astigmatic soft lenses were$i69NOW...$149 through September 30 Bausch & Lomb regular soft contacts $69 Burdines optical offers a free 30 day trial wearing plan on all contacts. Burdines optical Is located on the second floor in the customer service area and Is equipped to handle your complete eyewear needs. Prices do not include examination or fitting fees. St. Petersburg 384-7185 Burdines Optical honors all eye care benefits programs, Ruones OPTICAL & CONTACT LENS CENTER WE WELCOME BURDINES, MASTERCARD, VISA AND DINER'S CLUB CARDS. Shop Burdines everyday 10 A.M. to 9:00 P m Sunday 12:30 P.M. to 5:30 P.M., St. Petersburg: at the Crossroads Shopping Center Clearwater Mall: U.S. 19 and State Road 60Tampa Bay Center at the Stadium and Buffalo Ave Sarasota South Gate: Tamiami Trail and Bee Ridge Road ? - !'" :Iiiiiflfllillil jJiV "'"'" :lllllll!li!iillf J yy 1 1 " IBIllllijS & ' 3 somes for night or day make beautiful fashion sense! $58 each Meet the dependables. Knit dresses you can reach for again and again, and not tire of their flattering good looks. Butte does them In styles so versatile you can wear them t6 business or evening out Two shown In acrilyc polyester nylon: seated; diamond-patterned top over pleated polyester skirt, standing; Glitter knit flecked with Lurex. Sizes 6 to 16 in group; all In fashion . colors. Clubhouse Dresses (Dept. 381). neca cfacc at ines

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