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Convicted murderer up for parole

by Dennis Sharkey

A man convicted in a 1993 Jefferson County murder is again up for parole and local authorities are fighting it.

Michael D. Wilkins

Michael D. Wilkins

Nearly 15 years after Michael D. Wilkins, 39, was convicted for the murder of 25-year-old David Shipley, those who worked on the case are still disturbed by the story behind the killer.

Wilkins will go before the parole board next month. When Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department Captain Randy Carreno heard the news the word disturbed came to mind.

“I would be concerned with him being set free,” Carreno said.

Carreno spent about 18 months putting together facts for the case. Carreno said he can remember filling tables with evidence from the case that filled an entire room.

Carreno said he made several trips to a small town near Springfield, Mo., to interview the first witness that broke the case open. Trips were also made to Galveston, Texas, the Quad Cities area and Chicago interviewing witnesses in the case.

Carreno said the best account of what happened is in a book published in 2007 by author T.A. Kevlin titled “Headless Man in Topless Bar.”

Sometime in 1993, according to the book, Shipley met up with a man named Mike Bittle, who was the leader of a Ku Klux Klan gang that traveled around Iowa, Missouri and Kansas looking for women. However, the book notes the group seemed to be more interested in sex, drugs and crime than “social philosophy.”

Shipley was a male stripper and was used to recruit women to the group for sex and to make pornographic material.

Bittle met Shipley in Iowa when he and another 17-year-old girl moved in with Bittle and his wife. Bittle also ran a marijuana growing operation.

After a falling out with Bittle, Shipley moved to Lawrence and began working construction with Wilkins, who was known as the group’s enforcer.

Bittle and the original girl who broke open the case to authorities met Wilkins in a hotel room in Independence, Mo., where Bittle instructed Wilkins to dispose of Shipley.

Detectives believe that on Sunday, Aug. 1, 1993, Wilkins along with another man took Shipley to a place in southern Jefferson County where Wilkins’ parents lived on a farm with a pond. The men told Shipley they were going to check on a marijuana growing operation that Wilkins’ brother was operating.

The book says that Wilkins shot Shipley in the eye and the two men stuck a rock in Shipley’s underwear and sunk him into the pond.

Weeks later Wilkins told the other man that Shipley’s body had resurfaced and that he spread the body parts around the property.

Current Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig was also a detective working on the case at the time. He said investigators searched about a mile perimeter around the pond and found several bones scattered in pack rat nests.

Herrig said a gigantic pump on the back of a semitrailer was brought in to pump the lake that took about two days.

Herrig said teeth were found that were used to identify Shipley along with his underwear that still had the rock in it.

Herrig has already sent a recommendation to the parole board that Wilkins’ appeal be denied. Herrig said any time a convicted felon is up for parole the local Sheriff is solicited for a recommendation.

Even if Wilkins is granted parole he won’t be released from prison. Wilkins also has an 11-year sentence that is to be served consecutively to his murder conviction.

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Posted by on Feb 23 2011. Filed under County News, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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