FL inmate facing charges in 1986 killing in SW MI

Southwest Michigan
Robert James Waite

A Florida booking photo of Robert James Waite.

BANGOR, Mich. (WOOD) — A man serving time in a Florida prison is now facing charges in a cold case murder out of Van Buren County.

Prosecutors filed charges Thursday against 49-year-old Robert James Waite in the 1986 murder of Wilda Wilkinson of Bangor.

wilda wilkinson
An undated courtesy photo of Wilda Wilkinson.

Wilkinson’s daughter discovered her body in her Alexander Street home in July 1986.

Wilkinson had been strangled. A copy of her death certificate states she died on July 29, 1986.

State police say Wilkinson was killed during a break-in. While investigators identified several persons of interest early on, the case eventually went cold.

MSP say new technology allowed the crime lab to locate a suspect profile on the victim’s clothing. 

Waite lived in Bangor in 1986. Detectives say he knew intimate, specific details about the murder when they visited him in Florida in late April.

Waite is in a Florida prison on unrelated kidnapping and sexual battery charges. He will be extradited back to Michigan.

In March, prosecutors charged another man who had repeatedly falsely confessed to Wilkinson’s murder. Those charges were dismissed a month later when investigators confirmed the DNA match involving Waite.

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