clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

KILLER PLEA BARGAINS FOR HIS LIFE

Billy Joe Wilson has been sentenced to at least 20 years for the torture-slaying of an 84-year-old man.

Wilson, 30, was sentenced Wednesday in the slaying of Lowell Searle at the victim's Salt Lake County home April 18, 1993.Wilson avoided a possible death penalty or life without parole by entering into plea bargains in which he waived his right to ask for a parole hearing for at least 20 years. Prosecutors said they will urge the parole board to keep Wilson locked up for 25 years.

Authorities said Wilson was addicted to cocaine and tried to force Searle to reveal where his money was hidden. They said Wilson tied him hand and foot to his bed, bashed his head with a piece of metal, stabbed him twice in the back and plunged a knife into his heart.

Wilson was arrested while trying to check into a motel by using the victim's credit cards and driver's license.

Two weeks before the murder, Wilson, working for a tele-mar-ket-ing firm, phoned Searle to solicit donations for a kidney-transplant program. Searle agreed to give $22 and asked the defendant to come by his Taylorsville home for the check.

Wilson apparently used the visit to look over Searle's home and plan a robbery.

Defense attorneys say Wilson came from a broken home. His mother was too ill to care for him and the state social system failed to help him. He was effectively abandoned at age 1, said attorney Robert L. Steele.

At age 8, Wilson was placed in foster care under a system that shuttled children from home to home every six weeks to prevent bonding, Steele said.

At 17, Wilson went to prison for burglary, then got additional time for assaulting another inmate. Three days before slaying Searle, Wilson robbed a motel at knife-point to buy drugs, police said.

Wilson says he is remorseful.

"I'd like to say I'm sorry to the victim's family," Wilson told 3rd District Judge Frank G. Noel at Wednesday's sentencing. "I wish I could change what happened. I can't."

Two months ago, Wilson and David Robert Jolivet tried to escape from the Salt Lake County Jail. Wilson, 30, is scheduled for trial March 1 in U.S. District Court on escape charges. Jolivet pleaded guilty to attempted escape and was sentenced last month to 41 months in federal prison.