VDT Keller Wilcox

Keller Wilcox

The family of murder victim Hellen Hanks recently discovered that a letter written to the state Parole Board in 2006 by E. Keller Wilcox contains a statement of confession for the death of Hanks on August 31, 1972.

Wilcox has been serving a life sentence for the murder since his conviction, and has been repeatedly denied parole during his incarceration. Friends and relatives of Hellen Hanks were surprised to receive notification of Wilcox’s upcoming parole hearing years ahead of schedule. Confused family members began to contact the Office of Victim Services in search of answers. A conversation about Wilcox being up for parole although he had never admitted guilt or shown remorse led to further speculation by one family member.

Last week, a relative of Hanks requested information from the Office of Victim Services under the Open Records Act that involved any correspondence Wilcox may have sent to the Parole Board regarding “any admission to his original crime, any acceptance of responsibility for his crime, or any expression of remorse.” The office attached the following letter in its response to the relative:

“Dear Members of the Board:

I want to acknowledge and accept responsibility for the death of Helen (Hellen) Hanks on August 31, 1972. Ms. Hanks was my father’s secretary. We got into an argument and I lost my temper. I did not mean to hurt her. There was never a sexual assault or anything like that. I was scared and told my dad what happened. I was working for my dad at that time.”

“I was not present when Mrs. Hanks’ body was buried in the field.”

“I am deeply regretful for the pain and suffering we have caused Mrs. Hanks’ family as a result of my actions on that afternoon. All the many years since that fateful afternoon I have tried to avoid bringing shame and embarrassment to my family by not admitting my responsibility. I am now 55 years old. It has been 34 years since Mrs. Hanks’ death. Now all my family members are deceased. Had I accepted the prosecutor’s offer and admitted my guilt I would have been released from confinement many, many years ago.”

“I have been a model prisoner during my 23 plus years of confinement. I have been a trustee/firefighter for the last 12 years. I want to be a productive citizen, possibly a firefighter if I am released from confinement.”

“Thank you for your time considering this matter.”

“E. Keller Wilcox”

Relatives were appalled and even more confused than before when the letter surfaced last week.

“The Parole Board has always kept us up-to-date on any changes in the case, but this is the first I have ever heard about Wilcox admitting he did it,” said Hank’s brother, Steve Griffin.

Griffin learned about the letter after it was forwarded by e-mail to former District Attorney H. Lamar Cole, who prosecuted the case against Wilcox in 1982. Although Griffin and Cole acknowledge that the letter includes Wilcox’s admission of involvement in Hanks’ death, they contend that the letter also contains lies and excludes several very important details about the incident.

“In his first paragraph, he mentioned that he did not mean to hurt her,” Cole said. “How can you cause bodily harm to someone after losing your temper if you don’t mean to hurt them?”

Cole added that during the trial, he recalls experts testifying in court that Hanks’ dress and bra had been cut off of her with scissors or shears; therefore, he strongly doubts that there was never a sexual assault. Additionally, the testimony of Ed Wrentz, one of two elderly men said to have worked for the Wilcox family, includes the two men assisting in the disposal of Hanks’ body. Because Wrentz testified that Wilcox was present when Hanks’ remains were buried, Cole believes that the second paragraph in Wilcox’s letter is not true.

“Just because he has admitted his involvement, it does not mean that he has taken responsibility for what happened and owned up to all of his actions,” Cole said. “Otherwise, his letter would not include so many false statements. Admission says you did it, but confession tells it all.”

Griffin added that the false statements throughout Wilcox’s letter only proves that he has not been rehabilitated during his incarceration.

“I hope that the Parole Board will once again choose not to release Wilcox because this letter doesn’t show much reformation,” Griffin said.

The case involving Wilcox and Hanks began Aug. 31, 1972, when Hanks went to work at Wilcox Advertising Agency, owned by E. Keller Wilcox Jr., and never returned home to her husband and three children. After a long period of investigation by authorities, Hanks was ruled 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 company box of Wilcox Advertising Agency.

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 is being represented by former Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers and former Dekalb County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan. Repeated attempts to reach Attorney Bowers in regard to the letter or the parole hearing have been unsuccessful.

The suspense-filled story of Wilcox and Hanks has become the plot of a novel, “The Disappearance,” which was written by Hanks’ son, David A. Hanks. The book gives an account of what he and his family went through after his mother’s disappearance, as well as the chaos that began when her remains were discovered. Hanks released a statement to The Times last week that asserted his desire to see Wilcox remain in prison. He referred to Wilcox as “a menace to our society” who “should remain behind bars.”

In the weeks to come, all parties involved in this case await the parole hearing. It is not clear whether Wilcox’s letter to the Parole Board influenced the board’s decision to hold a hearing so soon after his last denial just 3 years ago.

However, the board recently informed relatives that the deadline to submit objections to Wilcox’s release has been extended to Dec. 17.

The Board can be reached at (800) 593-9474 or http://www.pap.state.ga.us

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