Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Who Murdered Little Miss Sunbeam's Killer? - Part III

Family members found the body of Wilburn May Jr. lying in his hospital bed on the morning of February 26, 2001; a single gunshot wound to the chest was circled in dried blood. May, 45 years old and a known drug dealer, had many enemies--some of them due to his role in the death of the former Little Miss Sunbeam Marie Burns, but after a four month investigation, the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department had found every lead to be a dead end. By the end of June 2001, the reward in the case totalled $16,000.00; but the first real break came from a Madison County law enforcement officer.

Donald Wayne Darling II (pictured) was seventeen years old and lived less than a mile from Wilburn May Jr. on County Road 15 in the Central community. Now Darling was an inmate at Three Springs School, a Madison alternative correctional facility for juveniles where he had been held since May 1. According to authorities, Darling told a roommate he had killed May. When Lauderdale Investigator Jr. Witt visited with Darling at the school in mid-July, the teenager denied the charges, but admitted he had bought drugs from May twice in the past. Witt was convinced that Donald Wayne Darling had killed Junior May and secured a search warrant for his Central Heights home. Investigators were secretive concerning their finds, but immediately requested a warrant for Darling's arrest.

Taking Darling into custody the next day, Lauderdale County assigned Doug Evans to prosecute the teenager. The Assistant District Attorney immediately requested an upgrade in Darling's charges--now Donald Wayne Darling was accused of capital murder in the killing of Wilburn May Jr. Evans based the new charges on accusations that Darling had also stolen drugs at the time of the killing, a killing the prosecution believed to be the result of a gang initiation. Darling defense attorneys offered a different scenario, but District Judge Deborah Bell Paseur now ordered Donald Wayne Darling held without bail.

Darling spent almost two years in the Lauderdale County Detention Center awaiting trial, while defense attorneys Jenny Behel and Chris Connolly filed various motions and maintained that Jr. Witt had illegally questioned Darling, setting the stage for what was to become a lengthy battle of words--not the least of which were prosecutorial misconduct. In the mean time, was the real killer still out there?

What's up with this: The Decatur Daily has reported that Florence teacher Jason Lyn Gasque has pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual harassment of a student. The TimesDaily? Well, they have so many more important issues to cover...