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    Voice, bad time line tipped off deputies

    By CHRIS TISCH

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 22, 2001


    CLEARWATER -- When Eric Wilkes dialed 911 Friday night, his voice was so high and pierced with emotion that the call-taker believed he was a woman.

    Investigators thought that may have been remorse in his voice. And they noted a few inconsistencies in his story.

    Wilkes, 31, told detectives in an interview that he had returned home from work about 9:30 p.m. Friday to find his wife, Deborah Wilkes, 44, dead in her bed. She had been stabbed and strangled in her bedclothes at the couple's Clearwater-area home, 3050 Glen Oak Ave. N.

    Drawers had been pulled out throughout the home, jewelry was missing and a back sliding-glass door was ajar. At first glance, it looked like a possible burglary.

    But some things just weren't adding up, said Pinellas Sheriff's Detective Lt. Steve Shipman.

    So detectives decided on Saturday evening to interview Eric Wilkes again.

    Up until then, Wilkes had told detectives that his wife had dropped him off at work at Allied Surveying in Clearwater on Friday morning. He got off work about 4 p.m., but he said she wasn't there to pick him up. So he walked home. The business is about 3 miles from home, Shipman said, so why the five-hour delay?

    As detectives prodded, Wilkes unraveled, Shipman said, and admitted to murdering his wife.

    Wilkes told investigators it was because his wife had a obsessive-compulsive disorder that prompted her to wash her hands repeatedly, sheriff's spokesman Cal Dennie said.

    "He said it was his frustration, I guess, or his getting tired of her obsessive-compulsive disorder," Shipman said. "And that manifested itself in that everything had to be spic-and-span and cleaned up."

    Sheriff's officials said they found no evidence that Deborah Wilkes was on any medication for the disorder, nor would they confirm whether she actually had the disorder. Her family members have not commented.

    Wilkes told investigators he planned the homicide on Thursday, then woke up extra early Friday morning to commit it, Shipman said.

    With a kitchen knife in his hand, Wilkes attacked his wife as she slept, stabbing her in the torso and arm, then strangling her with his hands, Shipman said.

    He then set up the house to look like a break-in, pulled out drawers and took some jewelry, Shipman said.

    The jewelry that was taken from the house has not been recovered, nor has the knife. Shipman said Wilkes accompanied detectives in a search for the knife, but nothing was found.

    Detectives charged Wilkes with first-degree murder and booked him into the Pinellas County Jail just after 11 p.m. Saturday.

    "He sounded very remorseful when he made the phone call to 911," Shipman said. "He probably felt some remorse for what he had done."

    Earlier coverage

    Husband admits he killed wife, officials say (May 21, 2001)

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