Convicted murderer granted return to Lowndes, Brooks

E. Keller Wilcox

VALDOSTA, Ga. — Hellen Hanks, a wife and mother, was murdered in 1972 at the age of 35. The man convicted of killing her was just given permission to return to Lowndes County, where the crime took place, and to Brooks County, the place her family calls home.

E. Keller Wilcox was initially sentenced to life in prison for Hanks’ murder. In 2006, he confessed to the murder in a letter. In 2008, he was granted parole, despite strong protest from Hanks’ family and others in the community.

Wilcox’s parole requirements, which last for life, originally stipulated that he could never set foot in Lowndes or Brooks again.

Recently, Wilcox requested the State Board of Pardons and Paroles lift his banishment from the two counties. The board granted his request June 16, said Steve Hayes, communications director for the board.

When the board is considering a petition such as Wilcox’s, it “looks at the entirety of the case,” Hayes said. “That includes previous reviews of the criminal conduct.

“There haven’t been any issues with his compliance while on parole since 2008,” Hayes said regarding the board’s decision.

Beyond the change to his travel restrictions, all of Wilcox’s other parole requirements remain in place. He still can have no contact whatsoever with Hanks’ family.

He still cannot own a weapon or leave the state. He still has to be monitored electronically.

David Hanks, who was 13 when his mother was killed, said Wilcox’s good behavior does not warrant him having access to the counties where much of Hellen’s immediate and extended family still reside.

“It’s not up to his behavior as to whether it allows us to have peace in our life,” David, 58, said. “We want to have peace in our life, and that peace does not include he living near us.

“I just can’t imagine my older sister walking into Walmart and there’s the killer of our mother standing there at the counter.”

Hellen’s murder was originally a missing persons case. One day in 1972, she never came home from her job as a secretary at Wilcox Advertising Agency, where Wilcox was her boss.

For eight years, her case went cold. In 1980, a man clearing land in Lowndes County came across a buried box. Inside was a skeleton, later confirmed as Hanks’.

The box, which came from Wilcox Advertising Agency, and other items found at the scene were used to link Wilcox to Hanks’ murder.

In 1981, he was arrested and charged with the killing. His father and two of their employees were also arrested and charged with concealing a death.

The same day he was arrested, Wilcox was released on a $100,000 bond. A jury found him guilty, and in 1982 he was sentenced to life in prison.

Throughout his years in confinement, Wilcox was repeatedly denied parole until 2008.

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