BANGOR, Mich. (WOOD) — An alleged cold case killer confessed four times in the late 1980s to the murder of a nurse’s aide in southwest Michigan, but it took nearly 33 years to charge him with the crime.
“A lot of people didn’t believe (his confession) at the time,” Tim Wydick, the original detective on the case, said when reached at his home Thursday afternoon.
“People thought he was trying to get attention,” recalled Wydick, who’s now retired from the Bangor Police Department.
Regardless, he said he turned the case over to the prosecutor back then hoping charges would be filed. The warrant was never issued, apparently because the district attorney did not think there was enough evidence to corroborate the confession. Attempts to reach that prosecutor were not successful Thursday.
But the Michigan State Police cold case detective who recently obtained a murder warrant for Michael Leon Curry told the judge Curry “provided detailed information of the crime” during a 1987 interview with Wydick.
Curry was officially charged Monday in a South Haven courtroom with breaking into Wilda Wilkinson’s home on Alexander Avenue in Bangor in July 1986 and strangling her.
“Curry stated that he had went to the residence to commit a breaking and entering upon knocking on the door of the residence,” MSP Sgt. Kyle Gorham testified in a probable cause hearing held on March 8 before Judge Arthur Clarke in South Haven.
24 Hour News 8 obtained a transcript of his testimony (PDF) Thursday afternoon.
“No one answered the door immediately and then he was startled when a female surprised him by answering the door,” Gorham continued. “Upon her answering the door, he pushed the female victim of the scene, Wilda Wilkinson, inside the residence and then once inside the residence pushed her into a reclining chair. Michael advised he strangled the victim with his hands and the victim ended up on the floor of the residence.”
Wilkinson’s daughter found her mother dead on July 29, 1986, after the 59-year-old nurse’s aide failed to show up for work at South Haven Hospital.
Gorham testified that Curry, who lived near Wilkinson, was interviewed early on, along with another man, and both were arrested at the time on unrelated charges.
Gorham went on to tell the judge that on Jan. 5, 1987, the second man contacted Wydick and told him Curry had confessed to killing Wilkinson and that he had a handwritten confession to prove it. Curry allegedly admitted to Wydick that he had written the confession letter, which was dated Dec. 28, 1986.
Then in an interview with Wydick, Gorham testified that “Michael Curry confessed twice verbally to Lt. Tim Wydick about killing Wilda Wilkinson,” and that Curry “provided detailed information about the crime.”
On Dec. 12, 1989, in an unrelated case, Michael Curry beat his roommate in Bangor nearly to death, a crime for which he did more than 20 years in a Michigan prison.
The day after the beating, Dec. 13, 1989, Wydick received an anonymous letter addressed to him, according to Gorham’s testimony.
“This letter start(ed) by advising ‘almost 41 months have passed, 1,233 days since that fatal hot and humid July night,’” Gorham testified in the probable cause hearing.
“1,233 days is the exact number of days from the date on the letter to the date of Wilda Wilkinson’s death, almost 41 months. And July was the month that Wilda Wilkinson was killed. The letter dated 12-12 of ’89 also referenced Wilda Wilkinson not having any panties on to make the crime look like it was a rape. Wilda Wilkinson was located with no underwear on at the scene of the crime,” Gorham said.
The MSP forensic lab in Grand Rapids found fingerprints on the letter and identified them as Michael Curry’s.
The MSP Cold Case Team assigned a full-time detective the Wilkinson murder in 2018 and obtained search warrants to monitor Curry’s Facebook page.
According to Gorham’s testimony at the probable cause hearing, Curry posted in June 2018, “I am no angel. If I get pissed I kill,” … “I don’t like witnesses,” and “I have never killed anyone who did not – who didn’t deserve it.”
On Oc. 1, 2018, MSP detectives exhumed Wilkinson’s body. An autopsy performed Oc. 2 concluded the cause of death was asphyxia.
Curry was released from prison in 2017 after serving his sentence for nearly killing his roommate. He had apparently been living in California, which is where MSP cold case detectives arrested him last week.
Wilkinson’s family refused to comment Thursday when asked if they were frustrated the case wasn’t pursued sooner.
An MSP detective pointed to the lack of physical evidence in 1986 to corroborate Curry’s confession decades ago. It’s not clear what, if any, additional evidence detectives have uncovered beyond Facebook posts.
Retired Detective Wydick said it was his understanding that Curry had recently provided a considerably more detailed confession.