This story was updated Tuesday, June 18, 2019, at 7:46 p.m. with more information.
DAYTON, Tenn. — All told, nine state witnesses took the stand Tuesday in the first-degree murder prosecution of Patricia K. Wilkey in the 2017 slaying of her husband, Thomas Richard "Skipper" Wilkey Jr.
But the highlight was a recorded confession detectives elicited from Wilkey, 52, as they questioned her following her husband's death.
Wilkey was arrested the day her 51-year-old husband's body was found at the couple's home on Walkertown Road on Dayton Mountain. She admitted early on that she shot her husband. Her attorney, Marty Lasley, has suggested his client acted in defense of her life and said during opening remarks Monday that she might take the stand.
A forensic pathologist testified about the two gunshot wounds to Skipper Wilkey's head and that one was not incapacitating while the other likely rendered the man dead within seconds. The firearms expert said ballistic examination of the bullets retrieved from Skipper Wilkey's body came from a .38-caliber weapon, very likely to be the one described in other testimony. Other experts testified about blood evidence and fingerprints that matched Patricia Wilkey, but that wasn't really being disputed.
Several times during jury selection, opening arguments and state witness testimony through Tuesday morning, Criminal Court Judge Curtis Smith dismissed the jury from the courtroom for bench conferences between Wilkey's defense attorney, Lasley, and the prosecution team of 12th Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor and Assistant District Attorney David Shinn regarding a police statement given by Patricia Wilkey that Lasley hopes will illustrate law enforcement knowledge of a tumultuous relationship between his client and her husband in support of the claim of self-defense.
Smith ruled that the defense cannot introduce the police statement. Late in the afternoon, however, prosecutors played a taped interview and handed out transcripts of the statement to jurors.
Jurors appeared riveted as they read the transcripts and listened to the taped interview, which was often unclear or garbled over the courtroom speakers.
In the recorded interview played to jurors, Patricia Wilkey at first stuck to her original story that she'd gone to the doctor, then remembered that her appointment was the next day and returned to find her husband dead. She insisted there were no serious problems between them, but Rhea County Detective Mike Bice, who conducted the interview with fellow Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent Keith Herron, began sympathizing with her, telling her that nothing so far was making sense and that he knew she was holding back.
"I know how Skipper was and I don't know how you survived this long," Bice is heard saying. "I don't know how you've done it but you have.
Bice told her, "There's something that's holding you back that you're not telling me. This isn't about Skipper anymore. It's about you."
After several minutes of silence on Patricia Wilkey's part and Bice's continues queries, she changed her story and began crying.
She told Bice her husband had a Glock handgun and "put it between my eyes."
At some point she refers to her husband laying a second gun, a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard revolver, aside.
"The Bodyguard was laying on the other side of him," she told Bice.
Patricia Wilkey was able to grab the revolver and fire it.
"Then he tried to get up and I shot him again," she tells Bice on the recording, starting to sob. "I'm so sorry."
Shinn, in a follow-up question to Bice, asked about the detective's remarks regarding Skipper Wilkey, and Bice described them as an interviewing tactic.
"During an interview you need to build a rapport with people that you're interviewing," he said, noting that he'd been talking with her throughout the day.
"It's a tactic that we try to use to get them to open up," he said. "I knew Patty before, but I also needed to build that rapport with her."
Before Lasley was able to cross examine Bice, Judge Smith stopped the trial for the day to allow jurors to eat and rest up for what is expected to be a long cross examination on Wednesday.
Trial testimony started the day with Rhea County Sheriff's Office Deputy Kile Akins, who testified that he found Patricia Wilkey was across Walkertown Road at her mother's home after a 911 call she made to authorities to report that she found her husband dead and he had been shot in the head. Akins found the body later identified as Skipper Wilkey lying on its side, wrapped in a blanket with black plastic showing from inside it. No portion of the body was visible when he first got there, he testified. From then, he maintained security at the scene while investigators were contacted.
Shinn introduced photo exhibits of the body as it was found and, later, as it was unwrapped.
The next state witness, Rhea County Sheriff's detective Chris Hall, testified about examining the crime scene, noting that wrapped body's head couldn't be seen and the fact that he'd been told Patricia Wilkey told dispatchers that her husband had been shot in the head.
After the body was exposed, Hall testified that he recognized and identified the body himself as Skipper Wilkey from past acquaintance. He also testified about the discovery of some safes in the home's master bedroom. He was unable to open either safe.
Under cross examination by Patricia Wilkey's attorney, Marty Lasley, asked about the safes and locations where they and other evidence was found.
He also queried Hall and Akins about whether they had ever been called to the Wilkey home in the past. Akins said he had, while Hall said he had not.
Both officers testified that they found the washing machine running and a strong smell of bleach throughout the home. Shoes, a towel and clothing were among items found inside the which officers removed and dried on a fence outside. Other items were recovered from a bluff in Bledsoe County where Patricia Wilkey disposed of them, according to testimony.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday with Bice on the stand.