Eight months later, family still searching for killer of North Richland Hills woman

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by By DEBRA DENNIS / The Dallas Morning News

wfaa.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:44 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 2:56 PM

Marianne Wilkinson's life ended eight months ago in violence and chaos, just the opposite of the way she lived it.

A master gardener, she reveled at transforming weed-choked lawns into beautiful landscapes. And when her son, Mike Wilkinson, and his wife, Terri, bought a foreclosed home in Rowlett last October, his mother was delighted that the yard was in neglect.

"She thought 'Oh, boy, a clean slate. We can start from scratch' " Mr. Wilkinson said of his 68-year-old mother.

But she didn't live to see her new project completed. On Dec. 9, a gunman fatally shot Mrs. Wilkinson when she answered the door of her home in the 8400 block of Spence Court in North Richland Hills.

Authorities have pursued several leads - including locating the murder weapon - and have named two men as persons of interest. But thus far, police have made no arrests.

"We need the public's help," said Larry Irving, spokesman for the North Richland Hills Police Department. "We are following up on every lead."

Mrs. Wilkinson's family, though frustrated that the case remains unsolved, has vowed to maintain her memory. In tribute to her, Mr. Wilkinson and his wife proudly carried out Marianne Wilkinson's wishes on their property, planting begonias, hollies, and zinnias.

"It was important to Mom so we were able to do that," Mr. Wilkinson said. "She was a godly woman, a woman of great faith in Christ, and his joy was always clearly evident in her demeanor.

"Her life counted for something and she lived it well," he added. She was a "great mother, and a great wife. She and Dad had a great marriage, and they had fun together."

Mr. Wilkinson said the new landscaping helps give him some peace as he waits, hopefully, for news of an arrest.

"There are emotions that come and go - anger at what happened," Mr. Wilkinson said. "I don't know who to be angry at, so you have to hold that in. Mostly, I just miss Mom."

His father, Don Wilkinson, who was at home a few feet away when Mrs. Wilkinson was killed, is trying to maintain a sense of normalcy. He is taking the vacations he and his late wife had already planned for this year.

"Dad felt he needed to go ahead," Mike Wilkinson said. "He said he had to face things and he might as well face it now. He obviously misses Mom very, very much. He's doing well in the sense that among family he's open to talk about things.

Don Wilkinson married Marianne Bourland, the daughter of a Highland Park doctor, in 1961 after they met as students at Southern Methodist University.

He was traveling last week and could not be reached for comment.

Terri Wilkinson said she hopes someone will come forward soon with news about who took the life of her mother-in-law, who was an active member of First Baptist Church Keller.

"They have no idea of who she was," Terri Wilkinson said. "She was a very busy woman. She went to the gym every other day. She was disciplined. She was a designer. Everything she touched was filled with beauty. It's amazing she's not here."

Last month, the family got good news when a billboard donated by Clear Channel advertised a $25,000 reward for information about the slaying.

Clear Channel plans to use the billboard in locations in and near North Richland Hills.

"We implore whoever knows something to come forward," Terri Wilkinson said. "Someone knows what happened."

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