Investigation Discovery’s ‘A Time to Kill: Highway to Hell’ chronicles how Joseph Wilder died a tragic death while returning home in Douglas County, Georgia, in August 1998. While the authorities questioned several suspects, the case eventually went cold for more than 17 years. However, the police caught a breakthrough in 2015 when a witness came forward with the killer’s identity. If you wish to know more about the case, including the perpetrator’s identity and current whereabouts, here’s what we know.
How Did Joseph Wilder Die?
As per Douglas County Sheriff’s Office’s Lieutenant Ken Aycock, “Douglas County, Georgia, was a community of working-class people in 1998 who went to work every day, just living their lives. Being outside of Atlanta, we had a lot of people who worked in the big city but settled here for country life.” Hence, it was shocking for this serene and quaint county when the authorities received an urgent distressing 911 call at around 10 pm on August 7, 1998 — a commuter told the operator they had seen a shootout on I-20 near a Lithia Springs weigh station.
When the emergency responders arrived at the scene, they found a maroon Ford Explorer in a side lane with the driver’s side window shattered with bullet holes. The driver was slumped behind the wheel with considerable blood inside the car. The victim had multiple gunshot wounds, and the officers found his identification inside his wallet. The deceased individual was identified as Joseph “Jody” Henry Wilder, a local building contractor working in the area for more than three decades.
According to the episode, Jody Wilder was a general contractor who renovated homes and did handyman work. He was described as an honest and hard-working person with a happy-go-lucky side and was fun to spend time with. He had a son from his first marriage and two children from his second one. He was separated from his second wife at the time of his death. Jody’s autopsy report stated he had been shot seven times — multiple times in the side abdomen and once in the arm and chest. The officers found six .45-caliber shell casings near his car.
Who Killed Joseph Wilder?
The investigators surveyed the crime scene and noticed nothing seemed to be taken or rifled through inside the vehicle. They saw a single bullet hole in the windshield while other bullets went through the driver’s window. The police also found a flat piece of plastic on the shoulder of the highway that did not belong to Jody’s Ford Explorer. The detectives hypothesized it might have come from the perpetrator’s vehicle. They also interviewed NAIJAONPOINT es of the shootout to learn they saw a truck pull up in front of Jody’s vehicle.
According to witness statements, an individual got down from the truck and fired at Jody through his driver’s window. After shooting multiple times, the killer returned to his vehicle before stopping and firing a bullet through the windshield. Based on the initial evidence, it seemed two drivers speeding on the highway resulted in road rage that escalated into homicide. The investigators had a composite sketch of the perpetrator using the generic description offered by multiple witnesses.
To solve the crime, the officers decided to reconstruct Jody’s activities leading up to the shootout. They asked around to learn he had been spending time at his usual haunt — a local karaoke bar where he spent most of the evening singing and drinking. According to the bar owner, Jody was a regular customer since he loved singing and had sung a few songs on the evening of August 7. While singing his last song, he received a pager and hurriedly left the bar around 9:15 pm.
The investigators calculated it took about 12-15 min to reach the crime scene from the bar, thus leaving around 30-35 minutes unaccounted for. It was later found he was talking with his ex-wife. The police went through the victim’s temporary residence, where he was living with his roommate and friend, Mark. Jody’s roommate told the officers he had offered Jody a place to stay after his second wife threw him out. In exchange for the living arrangement, Jody was supposed to do some renovation work for Mark.
However, Mark claimed Jody was too heartbroken to work, and his company was in financial trouble. They argued in early August about Jody owning him some money. But the police removed him as a suspect after Mark provided a verifiable alibi. The officers also questioned a local drug dealer acquainted with Jody, the victim’s son, Nolan, and other people in connection with the murder. While most of them were ruled out, the detectives took an interest in Nolan after they learned about his rocky relationship with his biological father.
Though Nolan’s face had a striking resemblance with the composite sketch, the police also ruled him out as a suspect. The case eventually went cold for more than 17 years till it was reopened on August 26, 2015. According to police sources, a Texan woman involved in a substance abuse recovery program called the local police with something she needed to get off her conscience. She claimed she was dating Jeff Kilpatrick in 1998 and lived near the crime scene at the time of the murder.
The woman alleged an upset Jeff came home one night with a gun and commented about his brother shooting somebody on the side of I-20. According to reports, Charles Richard Kilpatrick was driving the dark blue truck with Marcuss Herndon in the passenger seat. The police tracked down the car, and the missing bumper cover piece on Charles’ former truck matched the portion recovered in 1998. The current owner confirmed he had bought the vehicle without the bumper cover.
Where is Charles Kilpatrick Now?
Reports stated Charles was noted to possess a .45-caliber handgun during a regular traffic stop some months before Joseph’s murder. As the investigators zeroed in on their suspect, they set up a wire trap for the Kilpatrick brothers to determine who the killer was. The brothers took the bait and talked about the crime over the phone, giving the police enough incriminating statements to arrest Charles on September 30, 2016. He was charged with felony murder and aggravated assault.
Charles’ trial began in November 2017, and his defense unconvincingly argued that he shot Joseph in self-defense. He and Marcuss claimed Joseph brandished a weapon that night, though no gun linked to him was ever found at the scene. The jury found Charles guilty on all counts, and he was sentenced to life with a possibility of parole on December 6, 2017. According to official court records, the 53-year-old is serving his sentence at the Washington State Prison in Davisboro, Georgia.
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