More than five years after a 68-year-old woman was shot dead in her North Richland Hills home, the police department and Oak Farms Dairy have renewed a $10,000 reward for information that helps secure an indictment in the case.
On Dec. 9, 2007, Marianne Wilkinson answered her door and was fatally shot by an unknown assailant. Investigators said she was watching television with her husband that evening. They weren't expecting company. Investigator Keith Bauman said the murder appears to be a tragic case of mistaken identity.
"All the tips that we've had since the very beginning have pointed to one possible scenario," Bauman said. "The shooter simply went to the wrong house."
The suspect fled in a car that was waiting outside the home. Three months after the murder, police found a gun believed to be the murder weapon stashed about eight miles from the crime scene. It was wiped clean.
A break came in 2009: Dr. John Bond, an honorary research fellow at a British university, pulled a print from a spent casing despite the suspect's attempt to make them disappear. Bond's forensic technology was an exciting proposition for the family and for investigators –– doing it his way, scientists could "visualize fingerprints" despite the evidence having been wiped away.
"Any fingerprint deposits that has corroded the shell casings, our technique will find it," Dr. Bond said in a telephone interview with a reporter in 2009. "What we have is a technique that enables us to visualize after you've wiped the sweat away. We can find a print where conventional techniques have failed."
However exciting, Bauman said nothing ever came from that. To this day, investigators have never been able to match the print found on the casing to anyone's finger. There could be any number of reasons for that, Bauman said. Maybe the individual doesn't have a criminal record and the print isn't on file. Maybe the print Bond pulled wasn't big enough, or the portion of the finger captured wasn't on record.
Whatever the reason, North Richland Hills investigators still don't have a good comparison with any fingerprint.
"It was worth trying," he said. "Know that we sent an officer off to England to have it done."
The Texas Rangers categorize Wilkinson’s murder as one of the state’s 12 most high-profile cold cases. Bauman, while grateful for the help the Rangers have provided in the investigation, says his department isn’t treating Wilkinson’s murder like a cold case; it’s an active criminal investigation.
Two men, Dennis Michael Taylor and Vincent Lane, have long been persons of interest, which means police believe they have information directly related to Wilkinson’s murder. Another man, Willie Bolley, has recently been named a person of interest in the case.
Bolley, Bauman said, has ties to the Palestine area in East Texas. Part of the push to announce the renewed $10,000 reward is to get that information out to that part of the state, he said.
Bauman declined to comment about specifics of the investigation. However, time may end up being the department’s side.
“We just feel that somebody involved has had to have spoken to somebody,” Bauman said. “We believe we know what happened, but being able to know it and to prove it are two different things. There has to be an individual out there to assist us to bring closure to this case.”
Anyone with information regarding Wilkinson's murder is asked to call the department at 817.427.7000 or Crime Stoppers at 817.469.8477. This website also accepts anonymous tips. Crime Stoppers of Tarrant County is also offering $1,000 for information leading to an indictment.