From mysterious deaths to multi-million dollar oil wells, a lot is going on in Leon County, Texas. One family seeking justice has been blocked at every turn, leaving us all to wonder…Who is safe?
WARNING, this article contains graphic images.
In December 2010, Leon County 911 dispatcher received a call from Gerald Wilhelm in Centerville, Texas. He told the dispatcher that he thought his wife, Janice Wilhelm, just shot herself. The dispatcher asked if Wilhelm if his wife had been distressed, he responded, “Yes, she’s had bad trouble and been on morphine for years.” Wilhelm then said the medication was so expensive that they couldn’t afford it, and she had been out of medicine. As the 911 call went on, Wilhelm told the dispatcher that he didn’t touch his wife, and she kept a gun near her because of a rapist in the area.
Less than six minutes after Gerald Wilhelm placed the 911 call, the fire department was knocking on Wilhelm’s door.
A suicide? That’s what the Leon County Justice of the Peace said.
But there’s a lot more to this story.
A few weeks ago, the Texas Observer published an article about how rural Texas Justices of the Peace typically also have a dual role as a medical examiner. They specifically used Janice Wilhelm’s case as an example. The Justice of the Peace in Leon County, Jack Keeling, only had a high school diploma and no medical training. With the circumstances of Janice Wilhelm’s case, did Jack Keeling label it as a suicide because he lacked the medical and forensic expertise needed?
What were the circumstances of Janice Wilhelm’s case?
According to official police records, Wilhelm placed the 911 call at 2:42 pm. The first police officer on the scene, Officer Jerry Grimes, made it to the Wilhelm house at 3:04 pm. He reported that when he arrived, Allen Brown with the Centerville Volunteer Fire Department, Ron Mason with the Texas Medical Response EMS, and Judge Jack Keeling was already on the scene.
From the 911 call, we know that five and a half minutes after the 911 call began, Wilhelm said the fire department was at the door.
It was reported that Keeling and Brown arrived simultaneously.
From Wilhelm’s house to the fire station and the courthouse where Judge Keeling offices out of, it’s 7.7 miles. To travel 7.7 miles in five and a half minutes, they would have had to drove 84 mph the entire way.
FM 1119 in Centerville, Texas, is a small two-lane country road with several sharp turns marked with 45 mph speed limit signs. Driving 84 mph down the road is unlikely.
How did they get there so fast?
What did they find when they arrived at Janice Wilhelm’s house?
They found Janice Wilhelm slumped over in a recliner chair, a bullet wound to the left side of her neck, and her hands in her lap. A .45 caliber pistol lay on the ground, over 5 feet away from her chair, and one round casing was found behind the sofa.
The .45 caliber bullet traveled into the neck at a downward trajectory, passing through the lungs and immediately severing the spinal cord through the 7th vertebrae causing instant paralysis.
The crime scene photos show Janice Wilhelm’s hands neatly tucked under the blanket on her lap.
If Janice Wilhelm had shot herself, causing instant paralysis, it would have been impossible for her to have tucked her hands back under the blanket. More so, in the months before the shooting, Janice Wilhelm had a large tumor removed from her left arm. When the tumor was removed, it greatly limited the use of her left arm. So much so that she was barely able to lift her arm.
Just weeks prior, she wrote a note to her mail carrier asking them to place the mail in the front of the mailbox because it was too difficult for her to reach the back of the mailbox.
How could Janice Wilhelm, who couldn’t lift her left arm, pick up a gun, shoot herself in a downward trajectory, instantly causing paralysis, and then tuck her arms back under the blanket?
Sounds awfully fishy, right?
Centerville, Texas, is a small little town in the smack middle of Leon County and the 2010 census listed a population of 892 people. Could this have been a murder with a botched investigation by inexperienced investigators?
Or is there something much more sinister at play?
The map you see to your left is the area that Janice Wilhelm lived in Centerville. You can see her house is circled next to her name and the year she died.
All of the other red circles with names next to them are homes of people who allegedly committed suicide. All of these homes are within 1/4 mile away from Janice Wilhelm’s house.
Why would Centerville, Texas, population 892, have a string of suicides in the same area?
Let’s look at the ones specific to this area.
- Melissa Pierce allegedly shot and killed herself in 1998. Just before her death, Melissa made allegations that her father sexually abused her as a child. Consequently, her father at the time was an elected county judge and is also the one who reportedly found her body. Her father has also since passed. There are no records of any police reports or investigations done by Leon County in Melissa Pierce’s death.
- Morris Robeson, who lived directly across the street, was Janice Wilhelm’s father. In fact, the 7 acres were deeded to Janice Wilhelm after his death. Allegedly, in 2000 Morris Robeson shot himself in the back of the head with a long-barrel .38 caliber revolver with a six-inch barrel. The first officer on the scene was also a neighbor and a highway patrolman, Joe Weaver. At Morris Robeson’s funeral, Joe Weaver quizzed the family on Gerald Wilhelm’s whereabouts and then told them in his opinion that the scene was not a suicide scene but a homicide scene. There are no records of any police reports or investigations done by Leon County in Morris Roberson’s death.
- Only months later, the same neighbor, Patrolman Joe Weaver, allegedly committed suicide in 2001. It would so happen that the county sheriff at the time, Mike Price was at Joe Weaver’s house and allegedly witnessed Weaver shoot himself in the back of the head. There are no records of any police reports or investigations done by Leon County in Joe Weaver’s death.
Each one of these cases had ties to law enforcement officials and local government.
There was one more suspicious suicide in this immediate area. Joshua Farris allegedly hung himself in his workshop behind Janice Wilhelm’s property in 2013. There was a police report regarding Joshua Farris’s death.
In the police report, Josh’s brother, Bryan, was the one who found him. That day, Bryan Farris told law enforcement officials that his father, also named Bryan, committed suicide in that same location years earlier. Bryan Farris SR died in November 1999. However, there are no records of any police reports or investigations done by Leon County in Bryan Farris SR’s death.
Aside from these suicides, there are dozens of other suicides which have taken place in Leon County, population 892, over the last several decades.
Does it seem odd to you that in a town of only 892 people, there would be so many suicides?
Did Janice Wilhelm actually commit suicide?
According to the Leon County Sheriff and Medical Examiner/Justice of the Peace, Janice Wilhelm was suffering in pain from her medical ailments and shot herself in the neck. Then, there was an alleged suicide note. Police took the note into evidence and labeled it as a suicide note.
Except it wasn’t a suicide note at all.
Janice Wilhelm was the head ICU nurse at Parkland Hospital in Dallas during the 80s and worked as a nurse throughout the 90s. The “note” law enforcement officials entered into evidence as a suicide note was actually her nurse’s notes from the mid-90s.
There was no suicide note.
There were red flags left and right in the Janice Wilhelm case.
At first, Janice’s adult children, Wayne Robeson and Jennifer Davis, didn’t question the Medical Examiner’s ruling. However, as they learned more details of their mother’s death, they had more questions.
Remember on the 911 call Gerald Wilhelm told the dispatcher that his wife had been out of medication for a while?
The crime scene photos showed her bottles of medication on the table next to the recliner she died in.
Gerald Wilhelm also told the dispatcher he didn’t touch his wife’s body, but in Officer Grimes’s report, he noted that Wilhelm placed a towel over his wife’s wound.
Then, there was the will.
In Janice Wilhelm’s will, she left everything to her husband of 11 years, Gerald Wilhelm. The 7 acres in Centerville, which she inherited, weren’t left to her children or grandchildren.
In the months leading up to Janice Wilhelm’s death, oil companies were hassling her to put an oil well on her property. They even offered her a ton of cash. She turned them down.
When her family asked why she didn’t take the money, she told them because of her health; she didn’t want to spend her last days with all of those people and trucks right outside her front window.
Within months of her death, Gerald Wilhelm allowed the oil well on the property.
And, wouldn’t you know? They hit gold.
Yep, that was a multi-million dollar producing well.
In January, 2012 alone, the royalty payout was $126,957.
There were red flags all over the place. Janice’s children started asking questions in the city and county, asking them to reevaluate the manner of death. They weren’t getting anywhere. Leon County was calling it a closed case.
Robeson and Davis started seeking outside help.
A handwriting expert examined the signatures on Janice Wilhelm’s will and determined that it was not her signature. It was also determined that Gerald Wilhelm signed his wife’s name.
Robeson and Davis contested the will.
In Texas, a will is first probated in the County Court of the County of death. If the will is contested, then the County Court must transfer the contest to another Court. Specifically, the contestant can ask that a Statutory Probate Court Judge be appointed (from one of the few counties with statutory probate courts). The case can be transferred to the County Court at Law (if there is one in the County) or the District Court. In this case, the contest was transferred to the District Court.
Robeson and Davis hired a private investigator and took Gerald Wilhelm to civil court over the forged will.
During his deposition for the civil case, Wilhelm claimed it was his wife’s signature. However, one of the witnesses who signed the will, Diedre Kyle, admitted that she didn’t remember Janice Wilhelm signing the will during her deposition.
Janice Wilhelm’s children hired a crime scene consultant who performed a ballistics test. The crime scene consultant recreated the shooting three separate times and concluded that Janice Wilhelm died from a criminal act. He suggested that the case be investigated as a homicide, not a suicide.
Dr. Vincent DiMaio, a renowned forensic pathologist, also looked at Janice Wilhelm’s case, and he reported a strong suggestion of homicide.
All arrows point to murder.
According to multiple experts, the crime scene indicated homicide, not suicide. There were multiple alleged suicides in the area, including Janice Wilhelm’s own father. What was the motive for murder? Money from the multi-million dollar oil well placed on Janice Wilhelm’s property. Further evidence of this was the forged will.
The Wilhelm children, not getting anywhere with law enforcement officials in Leon County, went to the FBI. The FBI referred them to the Texas Rangers, who opened an investigation on Janice Wilhelm’s death.
The Texas Rangers investigated the case. The Ranger who was assigned to the caser was a Leon County native. After they closed the case, the investigator was appointed a seat on the school board.
The Ragers did not release the outcome or decision from the case to the family. When the Wilhelm children contacted the Attorney General for help, Robeson and Davis told them that the Rangers were under no obligation to release those records because one of the men who committed suicide was also under investigation for sexual abuse of a child to protect the identity and details of the child.
In 2017, NBC DFW aired a cold case story about Janice Wilhelm’s death.
You can find that clip here. The day after that story was aired, Gerald Wilhelm died under mysterious circumstances. The death certificate listed heart disease as the cause of death, but he was cremated immediately, and a second autopsy was never done. Gerald Wilhelm did have a will, and his unrelated heirs had it in probate within 48 hours of his death.
Janice Wilhelm’s family has hit a brick wall. They want justice for their mother’s murder and prosecution of any parties involved.
Here is how you can help.
One of the problems is the Dallas Medical Examiner. Since Leon County is so small, they contract with the Dallas Medical Examiner’s office for crime investigation. When Judge Jack Keeling, the Justice of the Peace in 2010, ruled Janice Wilhelm’s death a suicide in 2010, the Dallas Medical Examiner also ruled it as the official cause of death under his recommendation.
Janice Wilhelm’s fingers were tested for gun residue, but the sample was allegedly lost while being passed through the chain of custody.
If the Dallas Medical Examiner reopened this investigation, they would find all of the evidence we have laid before you. The recommendations of multiple third-party experts all point to murder. If they found that the manner of death was a homicide, then the family can get the FBI and the DOJ Civil Rights Division involved.
The Wilhelm children and their attorney has been asking the Dallas Medical Examiner to reopen this case for years, they have been ignored. Please help this family find justice for their mother. please
Call the Dallas ME’s office at (214) 920-5900 and tell them, “Please reopen the Janice Wilhelm case.” Reference case number: JP4003-10-3006JU
Corruption in Centerville.
The story of Janice Wilhelm’s death is only a small little pin in a giant stack of hay. The good ol’ boy’s network is thriving in Leon County. Suicides, law enforcement, oil, this isn’t the end of this story. Stay tuned,
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