Friday, December 10, 2004

Willie Junior Found Dead

Willie Junior was found dead Friday, December 10. The body of the former county commissioner reportedly was discovered beneath a house in the neighborhood of 11th and Strong street in Pensacola.

According to well informed sources close to the medical examiner, Junior was believed to be in the habit of using the house as a mail pick-up. The sources say physical signs are that the body was in an advanced state of decomposition.

An early afternoon report on the web site of the Pensacola News Journal, says "the Escambia County medical examiner has performed an autopsy" but a cause of death was not announced. Bill Kaczor of the Associated Press reported mid-afternoon, however, that "results of the autopsy revealed that there were no obvious signs of foul play," according to Pensacola Police Chief John Mathis.
A sheet, an empty pill bottle without a label, three empty beer bottles and one that was unopened were found with the body at the center of the house near a heater, Mathis said. Junior had $60.76 in his pockets.
Toxicology tests will have to be conducted before the medical examiner assigns an official cause of death, Kaczor reports.

Junior, age 62, had been missing since November 9, the day before he was scheduled to be sentenced on felony charges stemming from the bribery and extortion scandal that resulted in convictions of three other commissioners and their removal from office. Early in the scandal, Junior was removed from office, pled guilty to felony charges, and became a witness for the prosecution in criminal proceedings against his former colleagues, including W.D. Childers.

Childers, an acknowledged power on the county commission before his own indictment and removal, returned to jail December 3 to resume serving a 60-day jail sentence for violation of the Sunshine Law, a misdemeanor growing out of the bribery scandal. Childers also was convicted by a jury on felony bribery charges, but he has appealed that verdict. If the appeals court were to order a retrial, Junior likely would have been the prosecution's key witness.

After missing his sentencing date, state and federal warrants were issued for his arrest. In loose talk that frequently circulated among county deputy sheriffs after his disappearance, it was often remarked that Willie Junior was very unlikely to commit suicide.

"That's not Willie's style," a deputy once told me while several of his fellow deputies nodded vigorously in agreement. "If I had to bet, I'd say he's having a drink right now on some Caribbean beach."

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