Billy Wilkins

Episode 27: Amazing Grace

The season finale of Murder, etc. chronicles Charles Wakefield, Jr.’s 35-year effort to get out of prison and the time afterward as he tries to prove his innocence.

Episode 26: 2020 Hindsight

A new closing argument for 2020

Episode 25: Playing by the Rules

How did prosecutors convict Charles Wakefield Jr.? They played by the rules…just not the rules you know.

Episode 24: Peerless

How would you build a jury of Charles Wakefield’s peers?

Episode 23: The Closer

Biographies | Show notes | Subscribe on Apple Podcasts | Other listening options 

The Closer introduces listeners to Charles Wakefield, Jr.’s nightmare, Wyatt Earp Harper, and explains how Harper’s greatest weapon was his voice. For more, read the show notes or listen to the episode above.

Just discovering Murder, etc.? This story is meant to be heard in the order of episodes. Make sure you start with Episode 1.


the NIGHTMARE

Wyatt Earp Harper served as the most damning witness against Charles Wakefield. Nearly 30 years after his testimony, Harper admitted he had lied on the stand in an effort to improve his chances of getting out of prison.

Below is a timeline of Harper’s life before and after helping send Wakefield to prison.

October 18, 1973: Arrested by Mike Bridges on Mayfield Street at 11pm for housebreaking, grand larceny, possession of unlawful weapon, possession of lottery tickets; turned over to juvenile authorities.

November 28, 1973: Begins sentence at John G. Richards School for Boys

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June 13, 1974: Paroled from John G. Richards School for Boys in Columbia and sent home with his mother

October 17, 1974: Arrested for armed robbery at Snyder’s car lot. Later gives statement to Lt. Jim Christopher. Held man at gunpoint with a .32 caliber pistol and robbed him of $6.

August 29, 1975: Sentenced by Frank Eppes to ten years for robbery at a Buncombe St. car lot the previous October

November 9, 1975: Files for Post Conviction Relief in Judge Eppes’ court

November 19, 1975: Interviewed by Jim Christopher

November 22, 1975: Gives second statement to Bridges and Christopher

December 1, 1975: Indicted for Accessory After the Fact Murder in Looper killings

December 29, 1975: Transferred from Kirkland prison to the Greenville Police Department and put in the abandoned old city jail

February 24, 1976: Takes stand against Charles Wakefield

March 11, 1976: Receives a portion of the reward money in the Looper murders; money goes to attorney Bill Bannister.

April 26, 1976: Pleads guilty to accessory after the fact in the Looper case in front of C. Victor Pyle; receives ten-year sentence to run concurrent to the ten-year sentence he had already received.

May 20, 1976: Transferred out of maximum security prison to Greenville at the request of prosecutor Billy Wilkins

July 2, 1976: Billy Wilkins pens letter to SCDOC Director William D. Leeke asking for Wyatt Earp Harper to be moved to Pickens County Detention Center “for his safe-keeping” for the rest of his term. Wilkins writes Harper “was an extremely important State witness in our conviction of Charles Wakefield.”

July 15, 1976: Transferred to Pickens County Detention Center

December 14, 1976: Transferred to Hillcrest Correctional Center

March 31, 1977: Escapes from the Hillcrest Correctional Center, is tackled by a guard and sent back to Greenville Intake Center

August 31, 1977: Assistant Solicitor under Billy Wilkins Will Lucius writes letter to Jesse Strickland, Director of Regional Operations of the SCDOC regarding Wyatt Earp Harper’s escape and the decision to move him to Kirkland Correctional; Wilkins writes “If Harper changes his ways over the next couple of years, then perhaps something could be done. We greatly appreciate everything you’ve done in attempting to locate Harper and your general cooperation with this office.”

October 10, 1977: Transferred back to Kirkland prison

April 23, 1980: Paroled on all charges

November 12, 1987: Charged with firearm possession

January 8, 1988:  Charged with assault and battery

April 9, 1988: Indicted on two counts of heroin distribution

July 4, 1988: Arrested for burglary

November 30, 1988: Convicted in Greenville’s first reverse drug sting and sentenced to 18 months in prison

August 9, 1995: Arrested for possession of a firearm and firing into a dwelling

October 16, 1995: Charged with possession of crack with intent to distribute; walks away from jail with other inmates.

October 17, 1995: Arrested for possession of crack with intent to distribute

October 25, 1995: After walking away from jail nine days earlier, walks back to the Greenville County Detention Center and surrenders

May 15, 2000: Fredrick Lamont Lewis is shot in Sterling community after an argument. His dying words were allegedly “Wyatt Earp Harper.” Harper was later found, chased, and arrested on the murder charge.

October 2001: Eric Gottlieb and former college roommate travel to South Carolina to talk with Wakefield; find Harper and tape his first recantation.

December 4, 2002: Arrested for armed robbery

September 28, 2004: Recants Wakefield testimony on the stand in Greenville County court

November 10, 2004: Two months after testifying on Wakefield’s behalf, arrested for multiple counts of break-ins and larcenies.

October 31, 2009: Named as suspect in shooting death of Lonnie Oglesby

September 7, 2010: Sentenced to 15 years for voluntary manslaughter of Lonnie Oglesby. Prosecutors said Harper, a heroin dealer, was fed up with Oglesby and shot him in the back after Oglesby begged for $30 worth of drugs when he only had $15 on him.

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Show notes:

The Closer digs into how a man named Wyatt Earp Harper became part of the Looper murders investigation and subsequently testified against Charles Wakefield, Jr.

Wakefield discusses how he became aware of Harper and the destructive force Harper became to the Wakefield family.

The episode then reveals that Harper went on to become a killer all his own.

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Featured interviews in The Closer

Episode 22: Miss Mae

A family secret, a hidden gun, and some of the most dramatic developments in the Murder, etc. story to date

Episode 21: Greenville’s Summer Sons

“It was somebody who was supposed to be his friend.”

Episode 20: Dead End Country Road

The Looper Murders investigators never considered one man a suspect…even if generations of cops still do.

Episode 19: True Believer

Biographies | Show notes | Subscribe on Apple Podcasts | Other listening options 

True Believer introduces Danny Jones, Frank Looper’s protege, and lets him explain what was happening behind the scenes with Frank Looper in the months before his death. For more, read the show notes or listen to the episode above.

Just discovering Murder, etc.? This story is meant to be heard in the order of episodes. Make sure you start with Episode 1.


Clint Eastwood’s Protege

When rookie Greenville City Police Officer Danny Jones met Lt. Frank Looper, he thought he’d found Greenville County’s version of Clint Eastwood. Jones spent the next 40 years doing what he could to live as Looper would have, both in an effort to help his community and preserve Looper’s legacy.

Below are photos of Danny Jones today and some of his favorite memories from his career in law enforcement.

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BEFORE AND AFTER TABLE ROCK

Before 1971, Table Rock Laboratories had eight locations in Greenville County. The 45,000-square-foot facility just south of I-85 consolidated all of Table Rock’s operations into one very vulnerable building. The City of Greenville greased the skids to make the project happen and annexed the property.

To see a bird’s-eye view of the property before and after Table Rock, use the slider on the image below.

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Support Murder, etc.

If you believe Murder, etc. is doing important work, please consider supporting its efforts with a donation to help cover the costs of research and production.

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Show notes:

True Believer is an epic episode that explains the beginnings of the American War on Drugs that turned Lt. Frank Looper into one of its first soldiers. The episode then introduces Frank Looper’s protege, Danny Jones, who takes listeners behind the scenes to what was happening with Frank Looper in the last months of his life.

The episode also explores Looper’s other fellow narcs, their relationship with future Greenville County Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown, and Brown’s relationship with corrupt cop Carl “Bub” Skelton.

Fast Eddie Williamson returns with another phone call from prison and delves deeper into who he says shot up the Looper home not long before the murders.

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Featured interviews in True Believer

Episode 18: The Road to Six Mile

Fast Eddie Williamson opens up about the Dawson Gang, and more.

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