COLUMBIA — The husband and son of a missing South Carolina woman killed her, wrapped her body in a tarp, put it in the family’s garage, then waited a week before reporting her missing, police said.
The case finally unraveled Wednesday when the men told investigators that 59-year-old Susan Wilkes was dead and led them to where they eventually buried the body 30 miles from the family’s home, West Columbia Police Chief Dennis Tyndall said.
Money or some kind of family conflict are being considered as motives, but Tyndall said they have been told many different stories about what happened by Marion Wilkes and his son Joseph in the three-bedroom ranch-style home where the family lived for more than 20 years.
“They’ve both been lying so much we don’t know when they are telling the truth.” Tyndall said.
Neither suspect has an attorney. Both were denied bond at a hearing Thursday where Marion Wilkes told the judge he didn’t want an attorney.
“I don’t want any trial. I’m pleading guilty,” he said.
The judge told him he couldn’t do that during this proceeding and told him to talk to his lawyer when he gets one.
Tyndall thinks Susan Wilkes was killed around June 5. Marion Wilkes called police to report his wife missing a week later, saying she disappeared after going on a walk. Over the weekend, Wilkes gave an interview to WIS-TV where he thanked police for their hard work looking for his missing wife and gave inconsistent statements about when he last saw her.
“First night, we went out, we were out at 11 o’clock at night with flashlights checking all the ditches and all the roadsides — maybe a shoe came off or something. Just anything we could find. Couldn’t find a thing,” Marion Wilkes said.
Marion Wilkes was a controlling husband who controlled a reclusive family, which may explain why no one reported Susan Wilkes missing for a week, Tyndall said. The victim had only four contacts in her cellphone, the chief said.
“This case is just bizarre,” Tyndall said. “I don’t think in 30 years I’ve had someone report someone missing when they killed them.”
Tyndall said detectives are investigating the circumstances around how Susan Wilkes’ body ended up buried at a home in Lexington County and more people may face charges.
An autopsy has been ordered to determine how Susan Wilkes was killed.