Murder suspect solemn in first court appearance

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 31, 2001

WARREN COUNTY DETECTIVEBILLY JOE HEGGINS, left, and Deputy John Roland escort Donald Wilson, center, to the Warren County Jail Monday.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN

[8/21/01] Donald A. Wilson Jr. walked to his first appearance before a judge Monday, seemingly unaware of cameras recording his every move.

The 62-year-old is accused of killing and then trying to burn a friend and co-worker of his ex-wife Sunday afternoon and wounding his ex-wife.

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In the courtroom, Wilson rested his head on a table for several minutes waiting for Warren County Judge Gerald Hosemann. He then stood after Hosemann instructed Sheriff Martin Pace to read the charges of murder, aggravated assault and arson.

“Yes sir,” was all Wilson said when Hosemann asked him to verify his name and whether he understood the charges.

Wilson was charged with the murder of Joe Hartzog, 56, 35 Bellwood Drive, aggravated assault on his ex-wife, Patricia Wilson, 385 Culkin Road, and arson for setting Hartzog’s Ford F-150 truck on fire.

Hosemann then asked Wilson if he had an attorney, to which Wilson said he did not and could not afford one. District Attorney Gil Martin said Wilson will get a court-appointed attorney.

“Can I say something, your honor?” Wilson then asked, but was cut short by Hosemann who explained that anything he said could be used against him.

Wilson was ordered held in the Warren County Jail without bond. Martin said the reason was “the nature of the charges and the danger to his ex-wife,” who was in stable condition at ParkView Regional Medical Center with a gunshot wound in her abdomen.

Monday, Ed Willis, who lives at 440 Culkin Road, said he had known Donald and Patricia Wilson since they moved into the 385 Culkin Road house 11 years ago. Willis said he used to talk with the Wilsons, even as problems developed in their relationship.

“I am not a marriage counselor, but I am a good listener sometimes,” Willis said. The Wilsons had been divorced almost a year after a reported 30-year marriage. She had remained in the house and he had moved to a mobile home not far away, on Riley Road.

Willis said he has seen Wilson, a self-employed mechanic, ride up and down the road in front on the house. Sunday, Willis said he was coming home from church when he saw Hartzog dead in his truck. He believes he heard, but did not see, the shooting that occurred minutes after noon.

It appeared Hartzog had been cleaning the truck interior. There was an electrical cord leading to a vacuum nearby. “He probably never even heard him (Wilson) coming,” Willis said.

Pace said an autopsy showed Hartzog died of gunshot wounds before the vehicle was apparently doused and set on fire.

“He had a gunshot wound to the side and one to the head, either one of which would have been fatal,” Pace said.

Both Patricia Wilson and Hartzog were standing at the truck when Donald Wilson approached them and fired, Pace said.

Hartzog fell over in his truck with his feet still on the ground, he said.

Patricia Wilson was found in a neighbor’s yard and taken to ParkView.

Willis said deputies on the scene were really “on the ball,” with one enticing Donald Wilson from the house and arresting him without incident while the other tried to put the fire out,” Willis said.

Pace said a .38 caliber pistol believed to be the murder weapon was found in the home.

“Patricia was a nice lady. A hard worker as far as I am concerned,” Willis said.

Patricia Wilson and Hartzog both worked for related companies. Wilson was a supervisor of maintenance for 18 years for Waring Oil, and Hartzog was a service technician for 16 years for Neill Gas.

Hartzog was a widower, his wife, Dorothy, having died in 1996. He was born in Geneva County, Ala., and lived in Vicksburg for 25 years.

The charges against Donald Wilson, who could face life in prison, will be presented during the October grand jury term.