June 19, 2014

Husband, son of missing West Columbia woman accused of killing her

The West Columbia Police Department has charged Marion Wilkes, 73, and his son Joseph Cody Wilkes, 23, with the murder of Susan Wilkes, the West Columbia woman who was reported missing last Thursday.

The husband and son of a missing Midlands woman stabbed her to death, wrapped her body in a tarp, put it in the family’s garage, then waited a week before reporting her missing, police said.

The case finally unraveled Wednesday, when the men told investigators that 59-year-old Susan Wilkes was dead and led them to a place about 30 miles from the family home where they eventually buried the body, in a wooded area behind a Little Mountain home, West Columbia Police Chief Dennis Tyndall said Thursday.

Money or some kind of family conflict are being considered as motives, but Tyndall said they have been told many different stories about what happened by Marion Wilkes, 73, and his son Joseph, 23, in the three-bedroom ranch-style home on Linett Drive where the family lived for more than 20 years.

“They’ve both been lying so much we don’t know when they are telling the truth,” Tyndall said.

The two have been charged with murder in connection with Susan Wilkes’ death. Neither has an attorney. Both were denied bond at a hearing Thursday, where Marion Wilkes told the judge he didn’t want an attorney.

“I don’t want any trial. I’m pleading guilty,” he said.

The judge told him he couldn’t do that during this proceeding and told him to talk to his lawyer when he gets one.

Tyndall thinks Susan Wilkes was killed around June 5. Marion Wilkes called police to report his wife missing a week later, saying she disappeared after going on a walk. Over the weekend, Wilkes gave a television interview where he thanked police for their hard work looking for his missing wife and talked about the support he had from people at his church.

He also gave inconsistent statements about when he last saw her, Tyndall said.

“First night, we went out, we were out at 11 o’clock at night with flashlights checking all the ditches and all the roadsides – maybe a shoe came off or something. Just anything we could find. Couldn’t find a thing,” Marion Wilkes said in the television interview.

Lt. Scott Wilson of the West Columbia Police Department said father and son were arrested in separate incidents for simple possession of marijuana and were then connected with the killing.

Marion Wilkes was a controlling husband who ruled over a reclusive family, Tyndall said, which may explain why no one reported Susan Wilkes missing for a week. The victim had only four contacts in her cellphone, the chief said.

“This case is just bizarre,” Tyndall said. “I don’t think in 30 years I’ve had someone report someone missing when they killed them.”

Tyndall said detectives are investigating the circumstances around how Susan Wilkes’ body ended up buried at a home in Little Mountain, and more people may face charges. Joseph Wilkes knows the person who lives at the home where his mother's body was found, Tyndall said.

An autopsy determined Susan Wilkes bled to death after being stabbed in the chest.

Contributing: Staff writer Harrison Cahill, The Associated Press

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