Brent Conklin / Bradenton Herald
Published Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010 | 4:53 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010 | 11:50 a.m.
Metro Police expect to make more arrests in connection with the 1981 murder of 19-year-old Jamey Walker, who police say was kidnapped and sexually assaulted before being thrown off a bridge.
Authorities arrested Willie Lee Shannon in Manatee County, Fla., on Tuesday and charged him with Walker's murder, according to a criminal complaint filed Nov. 30.
DNA evidence led authorities to arrest Shannon after forensic scientists working on the case discovered Nov. 3 that semen found on Walker's underwear contained Shannon's DNA, authorities said.
Sgt. Jon Scott of Metro's cold case detail said police believe there are two additional suspects involved based on evidence, including fingerprints found in Walker's bedroom that don't match Shannon's.
According to the complaint, Walker's father, James Walker, received a call May 9, 1981, while he was at his business called "People's Choice Lounge." The male caller allegedly told James Walker "I got your daughter" and demanded $75,000 for her return, according to the warrant.
Before the call ended, Jamey Walker allegedly got on the line and said, "Daddy, they are not kidding." The caller instructed her father not to call the police because the family was being watched, according to the warrant.
Family members went to the house where Jamey Walker lived with her mother, Eleanor, who was separated from James Walker, and found a back door ajar. Items also were knocked over in Jamey Walker's room, the arrest warrant alleges.
When detectives interviewed Eleanor Walker, she identified Shannon as someone who might want to kidnap her daughter because he lived in the neighborhood and stare at their, according to the arrest report. Eleanor Walker also told detectives about another man who had recently been fired at the People's Choice Lounge.
James Walker received two more calls on May 9, 1981: one from a male caller who asked whether he had gathered the money and another from Jamey Walker, who said she was OK. The kidnappers then got on the phone and told him they would release his daughter the next morning because they had intended to kidnap Eleanor Walker's boyfriend, not Jamey, the warrant states.
The next day — May 10, 1981 — U.S. Marine Corps sergeants reported to the National Park Service that while conducting military exercises they found a woman's body under a bridge in the Lake Mead National Recreation area. The person believed to be about 20 years old was identified as Jamey Walker, who appeared to have been thrown from the 47-foot bridge, according to the warrant.
Shannon was questioned by police days after Jamey Walker's body was discovered. He denied being involved in her kidnapping, saying he had been training for boxing at the time she disappeared, according to the warrant. Fingerprints found at the scene allegedly didn't match Shannon's prints on file with Metro Police at the time.
Shannon told detectives he heard that Eleanor Walker's boyfriend had "burned" someone on a drug deal, but the Walker family denied being involved with narcotics, according to the warrant.
In 1990, a former inmate claimed that Shannon admitted to the murder of Jamey Walker while in prison. The former inmate said Shannon allegedly had never received payment from the Walkers for a heroin sale, according to the warrant.
Detectives believe Shannon's statement to police in 1981 about Eleanor Walker's boyfriend burning someone on a drug deal indicates he was the person burned, the warrant alleges.
In Ellenton, Fla., where Shannon was living, neighbors were surprised to hear of the arrest, describing Shannon as hard-working, friendly and helpful.
"Willie’s a great guy, hard-working,” one neighbor, who wished not to be identified, told the Bradenton Herald. "He’s been a good neighbor, better than most.
"I’d loan him my lawnmower and he’d bring it back filled with gas."
Tammy Daley has lived in the neighborhood for five years, just a few doors down from Shannon’s house.
"That’s shocking," she said of the arrest. "I’ve never really met him, but he’s always waved when I saw him and I would wave back."
Shannon has a lengthy criminal history in Nevada and Florida, including time spent in a Nevada prison for a 1983 case similar to the Walker situation, except the victim was not killed, Scott said.
Scott said police have kept their eye on Shannon throughout the years and even contacted him in 2006, but it took technology advances to ultimately solve the case.
"It took this long to prove it was his DNA," Scott said.
This marks the ninth cold case solved this year by Metro Police, thanks in part to a $500,000 grant awarded to the department by the National Institute of Justice to perform DNA analysis on cold cases.
Detectives currently are working on about 150 other cold cases in hopes of finding answers for the victims and victims' families, Scott said.
"Keep hope," he said, speaking to the other families waiting for answers. "Have a little faith."
Shannon remains in custody in Florida pending extradition. Scott said it's unclear whether Shannon will fight extradition.
Police ask anyone with information about the case or additional suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (702) 385-5555 or visit www.crimestoppersofnv.com.
The Bradenton Herald contributed to this report.