05/18/2024

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Amanda Gonzales, Shannon Wilkerson

‘A horrific act’: Jury convicts former US Army member of strangling 19-year-old soldier he believed was ‘pregnant with his child’

Pictured left: Amanda Gonzales (image via FBI); Pictured right: Shannon Wilkerson, in an Escambia County Jail mug shot.

A former member of the U.S. Army was convicted by a jury of his peers on Monday in the strangulation murder of Pfc. Amanda Gonzales, a 19-year-old pregnant soldier and battalion cook from Texas stationed in Hanau, Germany, on her first assignment just two months after 9/11.

The case against 43-year-old Shannon Wilkerson was brought just over one year ago, which at the time was more than 21 years after the Nov. 3, 2001 murder in the barracks of a now former U.S. Army base. The defendant was 21 at the time of the crime.

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    Prosecutors in the Northern District of Florida said, and jurors were persuaded, that Wilkerson is the person who “violently beat and murdered” Gonzales by asphyxiation in her room at Fliegerhorst Kaserne, under the apparent belief that she was four months “pregnant with his child.” The jury verdict sheet obtained by Law&Crime shows that Wilkerson was neither convicted of first-degree murder nor voluntary manslaughter, but he was found guilty of second-degree murder.

    Shannon Wilkerson verdict sheet.

    Shannon Wilkerson verdict sheet.

    In response to the verdict, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Jason Coody called the “murder of Amanda Gonzales and her unborn child […] a horrific act of violence.”

    “This decades-long investigation and resulting prosecution demonstrate the unwavering resolve of our law enforcement partners and their commitment to use every tool available to protect Americans, especially those serving our country,” Coody added.

    The top lawyer in the DOJ’s criminal division also weighed in.

    “The defendant violently beat and murdered Amanda Gonzales—a fellow soldier who was pregnant at the time—at a U.S. Army base in Germany in 2001,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri said in a statement. “His conviction yesterday, more than two decades later, is a testament to the Justice Department’s unrelenting pursuit of justice. Many dedicated law enforcement officers and prosecutors persisted for years, pursuing every available lead and never wavering in their search for evidence to hold the victim’s killer to account for his heinous crime.”

    When the feds charged Wilkerson, they cited the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act and said the law permitted the government to prosecute the defendant because he was working as a U.S. solider at the time of the murder overseas.

    Wilkerson was discharged from the U.S. Army on July 31, 2004, years after the murder, and went on to be discharged from the U.S. Army Reserve on June 12, 2007.

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    In July 2020, Gonzales’ surviving family members were interviewed about their reaction to the case of Vanessa Guillen, a former private in the U.S. Army who, like Gonzales, was murdered by a fellow member of the armed forces.

    Vanessa Guillen, Army Criminal Investigative Command

    Gonzales’ mother reportedly told KBTX she thought “oh my God, this is my daughter all over again,” when learning about Guillen’s murder. One of Gonzales’ cousins also expressed hope that Guillen’s death would shine a light once again on her loved one’s then unsolved case.

    Years later, a jury has concluded the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Wilkerson is responsible for the decades-old slaying. And as a result, it’s possible he may never see the outside of a federal prison.

    A federal second-degree murder conviction can be punished by up to life in prison. As of Wednesday, the docket shows, sentencing is expected to take place on the morning of Aug. 8 in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell, II.

    The post ‘A horrific act’: Jury convicts former US Army member of strangling 19-year-old soldier he believed was ‘pregnant with his child’ first appeared on Law & Crime.