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Judy Wicker breaks silence after 27 years
Sun Apr 26, 2009 5:51pm
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Judy Wicker breaks silence after 27 years

By Dennis Sherer
Staff Writer


Published: Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 3:30 a.m.

Jon Killen/TimesDaily file
An unidentified man walks with Judy Wicker during her 1982 trial for the murder-for-hire killing of her husband, Troy Wicker, of Muscle Shoals. Tommy Arthur was convicted of capital murder for the killing and is on death row at Holman Prison. Judy Wicker now shuns any photos or publicity about the killing.

More than 27 years after the shooting death of her husband, Judy Wicker is on a crusade to keep the man convicted of killing him in prison.

"I will die before I see him walk out of prison," she said of Thomas Douglas Arthur's latest attempts to be released from death row.

Meanwhile, Arthur's daughter, Sherrie Stone, is on a crusade of her own aimed at seeing the conviction overturned.

These opposing efforts met face to face when Wicker and Stone visited each other in an emotional discussion of the case.

Stone, who lives in Florida, maintains a Web page, thomasarthurfightforlife.com, that seeks support for helping win Arthur's release from prison. She contends Arthur was sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit.

Arthur, 66, has been convicted three times in the Feb. 1, 1982, shooting death of Troy Wicker Jr. in Muscle Shoals. He has twice come within hours of being executed but it was postponed each time.

Judy Wicker has testified against Arthur in two trials, saying she agreed to pay him $10,000 and had sex with him in exchange for killing her husband.

Arthur has maintained his innocence.

Judy Wicker was released in 1992 after serving 10 years of a life sentence. Arthur remains in Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, fighting for his life through the appeals process.

In July, Bobby Ray Gilbert claimed Wicker paid him $2,000 to kill her husband.

Earlier this month, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Teresa Pulliam ordered the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences to test evidence collected after Troy Wicker's death to determine if Gilbert's or Arthur's DNA is present. Pulliam said the testing would help her determine the credibility of Gilbert's claims.

The judge has told the state to have DNA testing completed within 45 days.

Wicker: I don't know him

Wicker said Gilbert's DNA will not be found.

"I don't know the Gilbert man," she said during an interview with the TimesDaily last week. "I have never heard of him. I had never seen him until (Assistant Attorney General) Clay Crenshaw showed me a picture after Gilbert made his confession."

In the confession, Gilbert, 43, said he had an affair with Wicker when he was 17 years old. She asked him to kill her husband, he contends.

A witness at the hearing in Jefferson County court earlier this month said he passed notes between Arthur and Gilbert when all three were in Holman prison.

Wicker said she was shocked to learn of Gilbert's confession, which came three days before Arthur was scheduled to be executed. Then she got angry.

"This is just Tommy's way of bringing me back into this," she said. "I wish he would just leave me and my family out of this. But now that he has brought me back into it, I am going to do everything in my power to see that Tommy dies in prison.

"He's laughing at the prosecutors, he's laughing at the judges, he's laughing at me and he's wasting the taxpayers' money."

Living in fear


Wicker said she lives in fear that if Arthur is released from prison, she or her family will be killed.

"He is a dangerous man," she said. "A lot of people might say they are going to kill you but not mean it. If Tommy Arthur says he is going to kill someone, he means it. He told me before either of us were arrested that if I ever told anyone what he did, he would kill me. He even threatened to blow up the police station with me inside if he ever heard I had gone to the police to tell them what he did."

She refuses to say where she lives and did not confirm that she uses a different last name. She continues to introduce herself as Judy Wicker at Arthur's court proceedings. She shuns photographs as part of her effort to keep a low profile.

She admits complicity in her husband's death, but is adamant that a relative and Arthur forced her to go along with the plan in order to collect a $100,000 life insurance policy on Troy Wicker.

"Once Tommy gets his claws in you, he doesn't let go," she said. "Tommy doesn't ask you to do something; he demands it."

Wicker said she begged Arthur not to go through with the plan to kill her husband, but he was unrelenting.

"If I could have stopped it, I would have stopped it," she said. "Even the day of the shooting, I begged Tommy not to do it. I told him I would get him some money if he didn't kill Troy, but Tommy wouldn't listen. When he gets something in his mind, you don't stop him."

Wicker said she lived with the shame and humiliation of playing a role in her husband's homicide for years, only talking about it with her family and closest friends. Now angered by being pulled back into the fray, she is speaking out.

"I just decided I'm so sick of this," she said. "I'm tired, I've battled this for 27 years and the truth is the truth. I believe in our justice system and I believe in the end, Tommy will die in prison. And I want to see this thing through. If I die seeing it through, I will die seeing it through. I'm doing this for my kids and for my grandkids. They deserve this."

Wicker said she has made amends with her children and grandchildren. She said Troy Wicker's family continues to harbor ill feelings for the role she played in his death.

Son convinced Wicker to testify

Wicker said it was a visit from her son at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women near Montgomery that convinced her to talk to investigators about her role in the homicide.

"He was 8 or 9 when he came to prison one Sunday on visitation day," Wicker said. He said, 'Mama, just tell them what they need to know so you can come home and be with us.' The next morning I called the district attorney and told them that any way I could help him, I would."

Wicker did not testify against Arthur in his first trial because her conviction was being appealed. She testified in Arthur's second trial in 1987 and at his third trial in 1991. His first trial was overturned because jurors were allowed to hear details of Arthur's 1977 murder conviction. His second trial was overturned in part because Arthur was not allowed to have an attorney present when he was initially questioned about the killing.

Wicker said if the judge orders yet another new trial for Arthur, she is willing to testify again.

Arthur contends Wicker agreed to provide tainted testimony in exchange for an early prison release.

Wicker said she asked to be moved from Tutwiler Prison after agreeing to help the prosecution because she feared for her safety.

"I was scared. Tommy knows a lot of people and I was afraid he would have me killed," she said.

Wicker spent the final five years of her sentence in protective custody at a county jail. The exact facility has been kept secret. She said her early release was not a trade-off for her testimony.

A weight lifted


Former Colbert County District Attorney Gary Alverson said the state made no promises to help Wicker secure an early release in exchange for her helping convict Arthur.

Wicker said she cried when she made the decision to help prosecutors.

"It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders," she said. "I knew someone besides me finally knew the truth. I cried harder that day than I had ever cried before."

Robert Hall, former chief of detectives for the Muscle Shoals Police Department, said Wicker's testimony was helpful in convicting Arthur in his second and third trials. He said he is convinced she is telling the truth.

Stone, however, questions Wicker's truthfulness.

"I do not know beyond a shadow of a doubt if the testimony from Judy Wicker is the truth or a lie," Stone wrote in an e-mail response to the TimesDaily. "What I do know for a fact is that she lied. It was either the first seven sworn testimonies or the second testimony that she was given a release from prison for."

Wicker initially told police an unknown black man broke into their home on Highland Avenue, killed Troy Wicker and then beat and raped her.

Alverson, the prosecutor for Arthur's second and third trials, said the convictions were not a product of Wicker's testimony.

"There was circumstantial evidence and physical evidence that backed up what she said. Everything she said was corroborated by the evidence," Alverson said.

Former Colbert County District Attorney James A. "Jap" Patton said he got a conviction in Arthur's first trial without Wicker's testimony.

"We had enough evidence to get a conviction without her," he said.

Crenshaw said Wicker told the truth on the witness stand. "Her credibility was obviously impaired by her having been involved in the murder, but both juries found her testimony to be credible."

Stone: Evidence ignored


In addition to questioning Wicker's testimony, Stone contends prosecutors ignored evidence in all three trials that would have proved her father's innocence.

She wrote in the e-mail that jurors were not allowed to hear from a witness that placed Arthur 60 miles from the crime scene at the time of the murder.

Stone added in the e-mail that "fingerprints and hair that was found at the crime scene did not match (Arthur's), (and) might have led juries to a different verdict."

She also pointed out that her father was represented by attorneys who were limited to being paid $1,000 to defend him in all three trials.

At one point during the process, Arthur tried to represent himself.

Wicker said she is remorseful over her husband's death and regrets not alerting police of the plan to kill her husband.

"Tommy had threatened to kill me if I told anyone," she said. "But if I had known Robert Hall, (retired Sheffield Police Chief) Doug Aycock, Jap Patton, Gary Alverson and Clay Crenshaw back then, Troy would not have been killed. I would have known people I trusted who could have stopped the killing."

Bad memories still present

She said she cannot erase the memories.

"He held the gun on me and drug me into the bedroom where Troy was sleeping and tried to make me watch him kill Troy," she said. "I struggled to get away, but he wouldn't let me go. Then the gun jammed and he took his hand off of me. I started running. I remember running down the hall and into the laundry room. That's when I heard the shot.

"How I got out of the laundry room, I don't know. I was in shock I guess. The next thing I remember, Tommy grabbed me and he had something nickel plated in his hand drawing back to hit me. I don't know if it was knuckles or a gun or what. I was beaten badly and had to go to the hospital. They let me out of the hospital for Troy's funeral and then I had to go back."

Wicker said she initially attempted to mislead police about the crime because Arthur told her to lie. "He coached me on what to say," she said.

Hall said investigators quickly dismissed her account as unbelievable. He said as informants began sharing information, investigators pieced together the story of Wicker and Arthur conspiring in the murder-for-hire scheme.

Wicker said Arthur pressured her for his money after the killing and threatened to kill her if she didn't pay up. She said she used money from her relative and a friend to make a partial payment to Arthur.

Arrest brought relief


Wicker said being arrested provided a sense of relief. "The day I was arrested, I slept better than I had since before Troy was killed," she said.

She has not spoken to Arthur since her trial.

Wicker said she has talked to Stone, who came to her home in 2007 and asked her to recant her testimony so Arthur could be released.

"Sherrie came to me and tried to get me to say someone else had committed this murder, and I wouldn't do it," Wicker said.

She said Stone told her if Arthur was released, he was likely to receive millions of dollars by suing the state for wrongful prosecution and imprisonment.

"I told her, 'Sherrie, I don't want your money. You know your daddy did this,' " Wicker said. "Then she started to cry and left."

Stone confirmed meeting with Wicker, but denies asking her to fabricate her testimony so Arthur's conviction could be overturned.

Seeking the truth


"I had talked to Judy, a year and half, maybe two years ago, before (my father's) first scheduled execution," Stone said. "I went to her house and met with her, then I sent her a letter. I never asked her to lie, just to tell the truth because what I heard was that she was pressured by the state into changing her statement to get out of prison."

She said the meeting with Wicker was emotional "because we had been through so much."

"I did tell her if any money came out of it this, we would be willing to help her family, but I never offered her any money to lie for us."

Stone said she has not spoken to Wicker since that meeting at her house. "And I promised her that day I would not bother her. We hugged when I left."

Wicker contends she is telling the truth.

"I know Tommy Arthur killed Troy because I was with him," Wicker said.

Dennis Sherer can be reached at 740-5746 or dennis.sherer@TimesDaily.com.
http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090426/ARTICLES/904265019/1011/NEWS?Title=Judy-Wicker-breaks-silence-after-27-years

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