Kennewick’s grandfather was found guilty of murder and arson

Kennewick’s grandfather was found guilty of murder and arson

Brian Wilcox will appear in 2022 in Benton County Superior Court.  He testified this week that he accidentally shot and killed his wife.

Brian Wilcox will appear in 2022 in Benton County Superior Court. He testified this week that he accidentally shot and killed his wife.

bbrawdy@tricityherald.com

A 69-year-old Kennewick grandfather told jurors this week that he accidentally killed his wife while reloading his gun.

Brian Wilcox took the stand in his own defense to refute prosecutors’ claims that he “photographed” and shot her during an argument, then set fire to their home and fled to Oklahoma.

“I shot and killed my wife, who was my best friend,” he said. “When I did that, the whole world collapsed around me.”

But a Benton County jury didn’t believe it was an accident, and after an hour of deliberation, Wilcox was found guilty Wednesday of second-degree murder and first-degree arson. Sentencing is scheduled for November 29.

On Tuesday, Wilcox was on the stand for nearly five hours on the fifth day of testimony about the April 2022 death of Kathy Wilcox, 66, in their kitchen.

He said he stopped from time to time to wipe away his tears, and said he was severely shaken after seeing his 47-year-old wife collapse in front of the sink in their Elm Street home.

That shock led to a series of responses, one Wilcox said he can only attribute to deep grief at the loss of the woman he called his best friend and “baby.”

Defense attorneys Shelly Ajax and Branden Landon told the jury during closing arguments Wednesday that Wilcox was not guilty of murder and, at worst, only guilty of negligence while reloading his gun.

Prosecutor Eric Eisinger and Deputy Prosecutor Josh Lilly said Wilcox’s version of events did not fit the facts.

Brian Wilcox talks with his attorney Shelley Ajax after a hearing in 2022 in Benton County Superior Court.
Brian Wilcox talks with his attorney Shelley Ajax after a hearing in 2022 in Benton County Superior Court. Bob Braody bbrawdy@tricityherald.com

They noted that there were only about six minutes between the time Wilcox believed he shot his wife and when he was seen on camera fleeing the house, going to the bank to withdraw $5,000 and then driving 1,700 miles to Del City, Okla., where he was shot. He was arrested in a Walmart parking lot.

Eisinger also showed security video of when Wilcox went to the bank. He noted that there was no blood on Wilcox’s clothes or arms, even though he had never showered or changed his clothes.

“In order to believe that this was really an accident, that he didn’t really mean to kill his wife, you have to believe him and you have to ignore all the other evidence,” Lily said. “The preparations he made to leave. The things he did immediately after shooting his wife. Burning down his house himself. Withdrawing money from the bank.”

Quiet marriage

Brian Wilcox met his wife after moving from Dixie, Washington, to Walla Walla in the early 1970s when he was in his early 20s. She already had one child and they had two more together.

Wilcox testified that although they would sometimes disagree, they only had two serious arguments — and neither of them involved violence.

He learned to hunt as a child, loved shooting paintballs as a hobby, and in 2019 he started using handguns and shooting targets. He had a membership at the Tri-Cities Indoor Shooting Range and participated in competitions there.

Brian L. Wilcox was found guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree arson.
Brian L. Wilcox was found guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree arson. Benton County Sheriff’s Office

One of his first purchases was the Glock pistol that killed his wife. He said he bought it for self-defense and stored it in his closet.

Usually, he would go shooting with his grandson on weekends and with his son Jerry at other times.

Brian Wilcox described living a quiet life with his wife in recent years. The couple spent almost all of their time together after he retired from his position at Lourdes Medical Center earlier that year.

He said he would wake up, eat a late breakfast, and spend most of the day with his wife playing a game called “Farm City.” His grandson usually spends the weekend with them.

On the morning of Monday, April 25, he was planning to go to the shooting range with his son. His ammunition and rifles were loaded into the car.

Shooting and escaping

Brian Wilcox testified that he had eaten breakfast and was cleaning his Glock while sitting in front of a folding table in the living room when his wife said two cats were fighting outside.

She said: Dear, come and watch. “The cats are already fighting,” he said.

While they were watching the cats, he said he put the loaded magazine back in his gun. The way he described it, he had the gun drawn, inadvertently pointing it at his wife, when he fired.

The only shot he fired hit his wife in the head, killing her instantly.

“It scared me at first, I couldn’t understand what was happening. Then I realized my gun had accidentally gone off,” Brian Wilcox said. “I saw my child slide forward and then fall back. And I realized that I shot her. “So I checked her pulse and there was no pulse, there was blood coming out of her nose.”

Brian Wilcox testified that after he couldn’t find a pulse, he shook violently and thought about killing himself. But when he put the gun to his head, he couldn’t pull the trigger, he told the jury.

He said he couldn’t call 911 either. Instead, she brought a gas can from the balcony, doused the wall and set it on fire.

“I wanted to die. I wanted to kill myself, and I thought that if the bullet didn’t kill me, the fire would.” “I didn’t want to live anymore.”

But his plan changed again. He grabbed a blanket, got into the Mitsubishi Outlander and left.

He thought he would ask police officers to shoot him at some point.

Brian Wilcox will appear in 2022 in Benton County Superior Court.  He testified this week that he accidentally shot and killed his wife.
Brian Wilcox will appear in 2022 in Benton County Superior Court. He testified this week that he accidentally shot and killed his wife. Bob Braody bbrawdy@tricityherald.com

Driving to Oklahoma

Wilcox testified that he had no plan when he left the burning house behind, stopped at a Bank of America branch and withdrew $5,000.

He drove south, stopping in Hermiston to get directions to Oklahoma. He spent the next few days driving and sleeping in Walmart parking lots.

He said that while he was drinking water he did not eat any food. He hoped to die after 22 days.

He made brief notes in a notebook mourning his wife’s death and was disappointed that he did not die.

In Del City, he spent a few days at a Walmart before deciding he needed to talk to his son, Jerry.

“I just wanted to talk to him and find out what was going on,” he said.

He bought a phone, got his son’s number and left a message. His son called again, leading to an 18-minute conversation between the two.

Jerry Wilcox, who also testified this week, asked his father to come home. Brian Wilcox promised he would be back.

After learning that his son did not hate him, Brian Wilcox testified that he ended his hunger strike and was reading in his car when Del City police showed up and he surrendered.

It is unclear how long he will spend in prison.

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Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, trying to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.

    (Tags for translation) Kennewick 

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