November 1 (2:45pm): According to Greenville Police Department spokesman Donald Porter, the city police now have custody of the weapon shown to Murder, etc. last week. This afternoon, Porter confirmed that police took possession of the gun at some point yesterday.
The confirmation came as part of Porter’s response to a list of questions submitted to the police last Friday.
Saying he could not discuss details about a case currently under review, Porter apologized for not offering any answers to the Murder, etc. queries, but said he could confirm the gun is now in police custody.
In an email to Murder, etc. producer Brad Willis, Porter wrote, “We can, however, confirm that a firearm was provided to a Greenville Police Department detective on October 31, 2019 that may be related to the Looper case. We are currently investigating this potential evidence and are coordinating any appropriate testing of the firearm.”
November 1 (10:15am): A follow up to this story is coming later today. Murder, etc. producer Brad Willis is currently finishing production on Episode 22 in which he reveals the identity of the man with the gun and the rest of the story he and Andy Ethridge heard last week.
Meanwhile, Murder, etc. has reached out to Greenville Police to determine what, if anything, the department has done to secure the gun Willis and Ethridge saw last week. As of this morning, the GPD has not responded.
October 31 (1:45pm): A spokesman for the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) said this afternoon that SLED is not currently involved in an investigation of the Looper murders or any suspect gun related to those killings.
SLED Public Information Officer Tommy Crosby said, “SLED is not currently investigating nor provided recent assistance to the Greenville Police Department in any matter regarding the case you described. SLED is prepared to provide any support needed upon request.”
As Murder, etc. reported two days ago, the man who has a gun matching the make, model, and caliber of the suspected Looper murder weapon initially said he was going to turn the gun over to SLED, but later said he did not do that.
Crosby said today, “The gentleman who has the gun can call SLED’s headquarters phone number at (803) 737-9000 and the operator will assist in connecting the individual with a Special Agent who can look to help.”
October 30 (10:30pm): Wednesday evening, the man who showed Murder, etc.’s Brad Willis and Andy Ethridge a gun that matched the description of the suspected Looper murder weapon, told Murder, etc. he still had possession of the weapon, and when asked where it was, he said via text message, “Back in the box where I found it.”
The man who spoke to Willis and Ethridge on-the-record for more than an hour last week, said tonight he is no longer interested in speaking publicly. “I don’t know why I even bother in this after 40 years of minding my own business,” the man wrote.
The man is related to a person who played a key role in Charles Wakefield, Jr.’s death penalty conviction. The man told Murder, etc. he found the gun in a shoebox among that person’s possessions.
Murder, etc. will debut Episode 22 later this week. That episode is dedicated entirely to the man’s family and its role in the Wakefield trial.
October 29, 2019 (11pm): Despite telling Murder, etc. on Monday that SLED had possession of the gun in question, the man mentioned in the report below now says he has not yet turned the gun over to authorities.
October 29, 2019 (8pm): A man who discovered a suspicious gun among his family’s belongings tells Murder, etc. the gun is now in the hands of South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) agents.
The man, who is related to a person instrumental in Charles Wakefield, Jr.’s death penalty conviction, revealed to Murder, etc.‘s Brad Willis and Andy Ethridge last week that he had found the .32 caliber Rossi revolver in a shoe box and later told the Greenville Police Department about it.
In 1975, a SLED ballistics report said a .32 Rossi revolver was the most likely weapon responsible for the Looper murders.
The man said SLED agents took custody of the gun on the morning of Monday, October 28.
A spokesman for SLED acknowledged a list of questions from Murder, etc. but has not yet confirmed the agency has received the gun.
Murder, etc. will reveal the man’s identity and his family’s connection to the case in the next full podcast episode.
Responding to an inquiry to the Greenville City Manager, Angie Prosser, the City’s Director of Public Information, said the Greenville Police Department is reviewing a number of old cases, and the Looper murder case is now among those cases under review. It’s still unclear when that review officially began.
The Greenville Police Department has not responded to requests for comment.
Clarification: In the bonus episode released on October 27, Murder, etc. reported that sources said new Looper murder evidence had been found in an evidence locker at the Law Enforcement Center (LEC). On Monday, a source clarified that statement, saying the new evidence was, in fact, found in a personal locker at the LEC. Although multiple sources have confirmed the existence of the evidence, Murder, etc. has not yet been able to independently verify the sources’ claims.
A man related to a person instrumental in Charles Wakefield Jr.’s conviction in the Frank and Rufus Looper murders has revealed to Murder, etc. he is in possession of a gun that is the same caliber, make, and model as the gun suspected to be the murder weapon. Murder, etc. producer Brad Willis and Andy Ethridge have interviewed the man, taken photos of the gun, and told Greenville Police about their findings. Murder, etc. will eventually reveal the man’s identity, but not until such point the gun has been turned over to the authorities, which is expected to happen Monday, October 28.
Willis and Ethridge conducted the interview with the man on October 24 after contacting him as part of their ongoing research. The man had ignored or refused several prior requests by Wakefield’s attorneys and Willis, but he consented to a meeting and interview after speaking with Ethridge. During conversations with Ethridge and the eventual interview, the man surprised Willis and Ethridge by revealing he had consented to an interview with a Greenville Police Cold Case investigator during the summer months of 2019, and during that meeting he had told the detective about the gun.
The man said he found the gun while organizing and cataloging his relative’s belongings. When he questioned the relative about the weapon, the man says he was told it belonged to someone else in his family, a claim that later proved to be impossible. After that point, the man said he had engaged in discussions about whether the gun might have been used in the Looper murders.
In 1975, Greenville Police sent three lead slugs to the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). Doctors had removed one slug from each of the Looper’s heads. Police found the other outside the Looper garage.
Longtime SLED forensics agent M.N. Cate examined the bullets over the course of 1975, during which time he and his team test-fired and compared more than 100 suspect weapons in hopes of finding the gun that killed the Loopers. Those efforts proved to be futile.
Less than a day after the shootings, a SLED agent reported the lead slugs more than likely came from a Taurus or Charter Arms .32 caliber revolver. Cate’s further examination revealed the most likely murder weapon was a .32 caliber Rossi long revolver. Forjas Taurus owns the rights to produce Rossi guns.
The Rossi .32 could fire two different styles of .32 caliber bullets, known as short and long. Cate’s report indicated the bullets that killed the Loopers were .32 caliber shorts. The slug police found outside the Looper garage, Cate said, could have been either a .32 caliber short or .32 caliber long, but the bullet had been too badly damaged to be certain. Nevertheless, Cate said the two bullets that killed the Loopers were fired from the same weapon.
Rossi produced the Brazilian-made .32 from the late 1960s to the early 1970s as a cheaper alternative to a nearly identical Smith & Wesson .32 revolver. Murder, etc. was unable to determine how many of the the .32 revolvers Rossi produced in that time period.
Investigators said they never found the weapon that killed the Loopers.
The man Willis and Ethridge interviewed told them he had told a Greenville PD Cold Case detective about the gun during the interview. The detective, the man said, initially asked for the serial number on the gun but ultimately didn’t follow up about it.
As Murder, etc. producer and host Brad Willis worked to determine why the GPD Cold Case Unit had not followed up on the Rossi weapon, sources began to tell him the Unit and GPD Chief Ken Miller were aware of more potential evidence.
The sources said a GPD officer had found previously unlogged evidence related to the Looper murders in a locker at the Greenville County Law Enforcement Center and that the evidence was the basis for a new police investigation. The sources spoke to Willis on the condition he would not reveal their identities or any information that might lead to them. The sources said Chief Ken Miller was aware of the new information and was actively working to use it as part of a fresh look at the Looper murders.
Willis made several attempts to contact the now-retired detective one source said had found the new evidence, but that detective did not respond to Willis’ inquiries. Willis also contacted another retired detective who would have been in a position to see the new evidence. That one-time GPD detective claimed no personal involvement in a review of the Looper case.
Murder, etc. has not independently verified the existence of the evidence the sources claim exists, but Willis has filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act that the sources say will prove Chief Miller was aware of new evidence and was hoping to use it to dig deeper into the Looper murders investigation.
Willis informed Chief Miller of the allegations on Friday, October 25 and submitted several related questions, including whether Miller was aware of the .32 Rossi. A GPD spokesman told Willis the Chief would not answer the inquiry any earlier than Monday, October 28.
Greenville hired Miller in 2014. He had previously served as the Chief of Police in Greensboro, NC between 2010 and 2014.
Prior to his time in Greensboro, Miller worked for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for 21 years.
While Miller was Chief in Greensboro, his department helped free a wrongfully-convicted man who had been accused in a 17-year-old murder.
Since Miller arrived in Greenville, the GPD Cold Case Unit has reportedly solved several high-profile cold cases, including the murder of Greenville Mayor Knox White‘s aunt Alice Ryan. The unit also closed out the murder of Genevieve Zitricki, the victim of an alleged serial killer, and the 1990 death of an infant known in Greenville as Julie Valentine.
In December 2018, Willis interviewed interim Greenville County Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown. At that time, Brown said he believed Miller’s department had undertaken a review of the Looper murders investigation. “I know that it has been looked at by the present administration,” Brown said. “I don’t know what they found or what they came up with.”
In January 2019, a police department spokesman told Willis the police department had no ongoing investigation into the Looper case.
According to multiple reports, the Greenville Police Department is currently under investigation by SLED for a misconduct allegation unrelated to the Looper case, but that investigation has yet to reach a conclusion.
Wakefield, who has been on parole since 2010, did not offer any comment on the recent developments. He has maintained his innocence since 1975 and has been seeking a pardon for the last several years.
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October Surprise is a special report filed to update listeners on some unexpected developments in the Looper murders investigation.
Andy Ethridge and Brad Willis finally come face-to-face with a source they’d been trying to talk to for years, and when they finally do, he tells them something they never expected him to say.
When Brad Willis attempts to learn more, he ends up running into a whole different story. A group of sources leads the Murder, etc. story down a whole different road that never appeared on the investigation’s map.