vdt wilcox

E. Keller Wilcox Jr.

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VALDOSTA — After months of reviewing his case, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles announced Friday that the decision has been made to parole E. Keller Wilcox Jr., who has served more than 25 years in prison for the 1972 murder of Hellen Griffin Hanks.

As part of his parole, Wilcox is banished from Lowndes County for life, is prohibited from ever contacting Hanks’ family and will be required to wear an electronic-monitoring device, according to Scheree Lipscomb, director of public affairs with the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The rules governing how long Wilcox will be electronically monitored and in which county his parole office will be located, will be decided at a later date by the Board, according to Lipscomb.

Wilcox continually denied his involvement in the murder even after his conviction.

However, a letter written to the State Board in 2006 by Wilcox, containing a statement of confession to the murder, was discovered late last year, drawing speculation that the letter was a tactic used by Wilcox to speed up his parole.

In response to the Parole Board’s decision, Hanks’ brother, Steve Griffin, said, “This comes as a surprise to all who knew and loved Hellen, especially with the amount of material sent to the board in opposition of his release. I am highly disappointed, but I guess it’s just something I have to live with.”

In Griffin’s opinion, his sister’s murder has not been vindicated, even though Wilcox has spent more than 25 years in prison.

“When he was sentenced to life in prison, it meant he should serve life. In my opinion his confession was purely nothing ... it just didn’t mean anything. He took my sister’s life and he should give his life,” Griffin said.

The Parole Board did not specify whether the 2006 letter of confession helped influence the decision to release Wilcox, who is expected to be released sometime in May.

The case of Wilcox and Hanks began Aug. 31, 1972, when Hanks went to work at Wilcox Advertising Agency, owned by E. “Foxy” Keller Wilcox Sr., and never returned home to her husband and three children. After a long period of investigation, authorities ruled Hanks a missing person.

In November 1980, eight years after her disappearance, Hanks’ body was discovered by a man who was clearing land off Indian Creek Road in Lowndes County. Her remains were found in a Wilcox Advertising Agency company box.

In July 1981, Wilcox was arrested and charged with murder and concealing a death. His father was also charged with concealing a death and hindering the apprehension of a criminal. Less than a year later, Wilcox was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment and 12 months consecutive for concealing a death.

Although his conviction was overturned in 1985, a 1987 appeal resulted in Wilcox going back to prison. Since 1990, Wilcox has continuously been denied parole. He is incarcerated at Georgia State Prison, located outside of Reidsville. Wilcox has been described as a model prisoner and works as a prison firefighter.

The tragic, suspense-filled story of Wilcox and Hanks has become the plot of a recently published novel, “The Disappearance,” which was written by Hanks’ son, David Hanks. The book gives an account of what David and his family went through after his mother’s disappearance, as well as the chaos that began when her remains were discovered.

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