The Commercial Appeal

Ma­te­rial mur­der

Craigslist shoot­ing vic­tim de­scribed as de­voted dad, ‘one of the good ones’

- By Beth War­ren war­renb@com­mer­cialap­peal.com 901-529-2383 Crime · Nichole Marie Blackwell · FedEx Corporation · Memphis · Facebook · Bean Burrito Especial- Taco Bell · Chevrolet · San Francisco · San Francisco 49ers · Dallas Cowboys · Dallas · Texas · Chevrolet Camaro

Mike Kin­caid, a lo­cal Cap­tain D’s gen­eral man­ager, says he is haunted by his de­ci­sion to give his best friend his old Mus­tang to re­fur­bish and sell, a gift that ul­ti­mately led to his friend’s mur­der.

Two teens and their 21-year-old ac­com­plice liked the car, ad­ver­tised on Craigslist, but couldn’t af­ford it. So, po­lice said, the trio de­cided to steal it from Larry Wilkins Jr., 37, a fa­ther of six. Each of the as­sailants had a role. The old­est, Bran­don Vance, 21, told po­lice he con­tacted the vic­tim to ar­range a March 9 meet­ing at about 11 p.m. in the park­ing lot of the vic­tim’s apart­ment com­plex south of Bartlett. Wilkins was ac­cus­tomed to late hours since he worked nights as a pack­age han­dler for FedEx.

Wal­ter Collins, 17, sup­plied the gun and agreed to drive the vic­tim’s car from the crime scene, Mem­phis po­lice homi­cide Sgt. Eric Kelly tes­ti­fied Wed­nes­day dur­ing a hear­ing in Ju­ve­nile Court. The car had a man­ual trans­mis­sion and Collins was the only one who could drive a stick shift, Kelly said.

Marti­ness Hen­der­son, 17, was sup­posed to hide in the bushes and pounce once the oth­ers re­turned to the Sy­camore Lake Apart­ments from a test drive, homi­cide Sgt. Kevin Lundy tes­ti­fied.

All three sus­pects in­sist they plot­ted a rob­bery — not a mur­der. When Hen­der­son de­manded the car keys, Wilkins — mus­cu­lar and over 6 feet tall — turned to face him and took a step to­ward him, so the teen fired off sev­eral shots, Kelly said.

The vic­tim’s fi­ancée, Dionne Lee, was jolted awake by the sound of gun­fire and the cou­ple’s pan­icked dogs. She rushed out­side to find Wilkins on the pave­ment in a park­ing space. His eyes were open, but he was mo­tion­less and soon died at an area hospi­tal.

“I screamed and neigh­bors came out,” Lee tes­ti­fied through tears.

One of those neigh­bors, Samantha Tol­bert, said the vic­tim had helped her carry gro­ceries or take out trash when

she was preg­nant. He was of­ten seen walk­ing his pit bull and of­fered to give her a puppy if he bred the dog.

She and her hus­band, Jeremy Tol­bert, later placed a cross and yel­low roses on the spot where Wilkins fell.

Five days be­fore he was shot, the vic­tim posted smil­ing slit-screen pho­tos on Face­book of him­self in a tie and pink shirt and his young son in co­or­di­nat­ing spring col­ors. Friends de­scribe him as a proud fa­ther who en­joyed fam­ily out­ings to the park and zoo and re­cently hosted a birth­day party for his lit­tle girl, whom he dubbed “lit­tle princess.”

Kin­caid, friends with the vic­tim for nearly two decades, said the worst day of his life was March 10 — when he learned of his best friend’s death.

He said he has vis­ited Wilkins’ grave al­most daily in the six weeks since the mur­der.

“I wish I could say things have got­ten bet­ter, but re­ally, you just learn to hide it,” he said.

The two met when Kin­caid man­aged a lo­cal Taco Bell and Wilkins took a job as a cook. Wilkins hus­tled at the job but had fun do­ing it and cheered up those around him, Kin­caid said.

The t wo be­came friends, went on trips and shared a love of foot­ball and cars. Wilkins, a self- taught me­chanic, was al­ways fix­ing Kin­caid’s 2006 Mus­tang. So when Kin­caid bought an­other car, he gave the Mus­tang to his friend, who gave it a fresh coat of black paint with snazzy white stripes. Wilkins al­ready had a mo­tor for a Chevro­let Ca­maro and planned to use the money from the Mus­tang sale to buy an old frame to fix up, his friend said.

An advertisem­ent for the Mus­tang at­tracted the two teens and 21-year-old. They later told po­lice that the $5,000 ask­ing price was more than they could af­ford so they had de­cided to take it.

On Wed­nes­day, Kin­caid sat with the vic­tim’s rel­a­tives and other friends as the two teens ap­peared in Ju­ve­nile Court.

Spe­cial Judge Dan Michael trans­ferred both to adult court with­out bond on charges of first-de­gree mur­der in the per­pe­tra­tion of a rob­bery, the same charge the adult ac­com­plice faces. The judge told them, “If you put a gun in the hands of some­one who takes a life, you’re just as re­spon­si­ble as they are.”

The youths’ moth­ers stood be­hind them alone. Collins’ fa­ther is in a cor­rec­tional fa­cil­ity, his mother said. And Hen­der­son’s fa­ther didn’t show up for the hear­ing though he has vis­ited him at the ju­ve­nile jail.

“It was kind of a numb­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” Kin­caid said in a cor­ri­dor out­side the court­room. “It was my first time see­ing them,” he said, re­fer­ring to the teens. “I stared at them the en­tire time. I couldn’t re­ally see any emo­tion from them.”

The vic­tim’s f iancée and rel­a­tives and Kin­caid hugged. Some sobbed.

“I do kind of blame my­self for giv­ing him the car that set it in mo­tion,” Kin­caid said. “It’s dif­fi­cult to deal with. It’s even more dif­fi­cult that there are people out there like those two in the court­room who are will­ing to take some­one’s life for ma­te­rial things.”

On Thurs­day, Kin­caid stuck a small San Fran­cisco’s 49ers flag in the hard earth at his friend’s grave, next to red roses and pink car­na­tions. The two en­joyed a ri­valry, with Kin­caid an avid Dal­las Cow­boys fan. They had plans to go to Texas in Septem­ber to see their teams face off.

Weeks ear­lier at an area fu­neral home, Kin­caid had leaned down to touch his friend’s hand, notic­ing that Wilkins was wear­ing a 49ers watch Kin­caid once gave him.

He said he had grown numb to Mem­phis’ vi­o­lent crime, rea­son­ing that he and those he loved “were in a bub­ble” — safe since they worked for what they had and didn’t live risky life­styles.

“You re­al­ize you aren’t im­mune to it,” Kin­caid said. “Of all the people this could hap­pen to, it was ac­tu­ally one of the good ones.”

 ?? BRAN­DON DILL/SPE­CIAL TO THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL ?? Mike Kin­caid kneels at the grave of his best friend, Larry Wilkins Jr., af­ter plac­ing a San Fran­cisco 49ers flag at the site in­side New Park Memo­rial Gar­dens. Wilkins was shot and killed dur­ing a rob­bery af­ter he posted a Ford Mus­tang for sale on­line,...
BRAN­DON DILL/SPE­CIAL TO THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL Mike Kin­caid kneels at the grave of his best friend, Larry Wilkins Jr., af­ter plac­ing a San Fran­cisco 49ers flag at the site in­side New Park Memo­rial Gar­dens. Wilkins was shot and killed dur­ing a rob­bery af­ter he posted a Ford Mus­tang for sale on­line,...
 ??  ?? COUR­TESY MIKE KIN­CAID Mur­der vic­tim Larry Wilkins Jr., 37, at a Notre Dame foot­ball game, was known for cheer­ing up those around him.
COUR­TESY MIKE KIN­CAID Mur­der vic­tim Larry Wilkins Jr., 37, at a Notre Dame foot­ball game, was known for cheer­ing up those around him.
 ??  ?? Wal­ter Collins
Wal­ter Collins
 ??  ?? Marti­ness Hen­der­son
Marti­ness Hen­der­son

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