County man admits 2001 killing

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 20, 2003

BROOKHAVEN Testimony was continuing today in a Warren County case in which a Vicksburg man is charged with killing his ex-wife’s boyfriend and shooting his ex-wife in 2001.

Jurors Wednesday watched a videotape of a tearful confession by Donald Wilson, 64, 1074 Riley Road, who is accused of killing Joseph Hartzog, who was 56; shooting Patricia Wilson, 54; 385 Culkin Road, and setting on fire Hartzog’s truck with Hartzog’s body inside.

“I know that was something I shouldn’t have done, but my mind was all messed up,” Donald Wilson said in a 30-minute statement played by district attorney John Bullard on the first day of testimony.

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Judge Frank Vollor of Vicksburg is hearing the case, which was moved to Brookhaven from Warren County. The jury was selected Monday, and testimony was postponed Tuesday for Veterans Day.

Wilson has been in Warren County custody on charges of murder, aggravated assault and arson since the day of the shootings and fire, Aug. 19, 2001. His attorneys are Pat McNamara and Jennifer Fortner.

Seven witnesses testified Wednesday. Though Wilson was not among them, his statement was played during testimony from Warren County Sheriff’s Department chief of detectives, Jay McKenzie, who said Wilson volunteered it the day after he was arrested.

On the tape, Wilson spoke of loneliness, frustration and depression following his divorce from Patricia Wilson the previous year. He said he turned his .38-caliber pistol on himself after shooting the two.

Wilson was noticeably crying in the taped statement, and he sobbed again Wednesday from the defense table.

“I was wanting to shoot me too when I got through,” he said. “I just wanted to end it all right there.”

Patricia Wilson testified that the two had been married for 27 years, since 1974.

Wilson “could not give up, I guess, a type of ownership over his ex-wife,” Bullard said.

Patricia Wilson and Hartzog had known each other through work since the 1980s, she testified. They both worked in Vicksburg for related companies in the fuel-distribution industry.

Patricia and Donald Wilson separated in 1998, she testified. She continued living in the home at 385 Culkin Road, while he moved into a mobile home 300 yards away, she said. Their divorce became final on Sept. 15, 2000, Patricia Wilson said.

While Patricia Wilson and Hartzog were not romantically involved with each other before the Wilsons’ separation, they became so in early 2000, she said.

The shootings happened about 12:11 p.m., minutes after Hartzog arrived from the church he attended, Lighthouse Baptist Church, Patricia Wilson testified.

The two were vacuuming the interiors of their vehicles with a hand-held vacuum that was plugged into a carport outlet, she said. By then, Donald Wilson had moved to a separate space on Riley Road, about two miles away, she said.

She said that, when Donald Wilson drove up in his truck and got out, she thought he was coming to discuss something about the dog that had lived with them while they were married.

He concealed a pistol as he walked up, pulling it from his back before firing.

“He had the look of a demon, a devil,” she said. “He had a frown on his face that he normally didn’t wear.”

She was shot through the abdomen from about five feet away, she said.

“I looked at him and thought he had used a blank pistol,” she said. “All I felt was just an impact.”

Testimony also showed a shot was fired near her head, knocking off and denting an earring, which was later found.

The earring was one of about 25 exhibits, including photographs and physical evidence, introduced by Bullard Wednesday.

Also testifying were two neighbors who lived across the street from the Culkin Road home, Jeanie and Chris Melton. They both said they saw Donald Wilson throwing flaming cloth into a black truck.

Assistant state fire marshal Carl Rayfield said gasoline was found in Hartzog’s truck, a black Ford F-150. Donald Wilson’s truck, a white Chevrolet was also burned, but sustained much less damage than Hartzog’s, Rayfield said.

A plastic gasoline can and matches were recovered from the driveway around the two trucks, Heggins said.

The state medical examiner, Dr. Stephen Hayne, said Hartzog was shot twice, once in the head and once through the upper chest and left arm.

“Both would have produced death,” he said.

She said she loved Hartzog, and that he had asked her to marry him.

“Whenever I would talk, he would listen to me,” she said. “A lot of people you tell things to, they just don’t listen, don’t care.”

In his recorded statement, Donald Wilson spoke of his ex-wife’s relationship with Hartzog, saying his wife “didn’t care for me no more and she was wishing after somebody else, but we were still married.”

“It just kept eating on me and eating on me and eating on me,” he said. “I just couldn’t deal with it. I’m 62 years old and I didn’t have anything until I was 50. I had a shop. I had built that house. I don’t know what she done with her money.”

Donald and Patricia Wilson had one child together, a daughter who had finished high school and was no longer living at the Culkin Road address when the shootings happened, Patricia Wilson testified. His marriage to her was his third, she added.

Donald Wilson was a self-employed mechanic who worked mainly from his home for cash, she testified. She had worked for the same company for 20 years, she added.

The two had built the home on Culkin Road, she testified.