Serial Suicides or Land Grab for Oil Rights?

Victim #1: Janice Wilhelm

One suspicious suicide in a small town may not be unusual, but five deaths within a square mile of each other? Within a year, an oil boom hits Centerville, Texas, and the deaths are all swept under the rug. While a hand full of people get rich, the family members of the murder victims are left with nothing but questions. 

Usually, when someone writes a story, they start at the beginning of the tale. This bloody tale begins in the middle and expands exponentially in every direction. This case will take a few weeks to tell, so hold on for this Texas-sized tale of murder, forged wills, and oil wells.

December 8, 2010:

911 dispatch receives a call from Gerald Willhelm of Centerville, Texas. A strangely calm husband reports that he believes his wife has shot herself and that blood is pouring from her neck. One article states a distraught husband calls 911. I have listened to the call, and he does not sound upset at all. He says they were asleep in their recliners, and at some point, she woke up and shot herself in the neck. The authorities arrive and quickly rule the death as a suicide. Case closed. Investigation complete. Not really.

The .45 caliber bullet traveled into the neck at a downward trajectory, passing through the lungs and immediately severing the spinal cord through the 7th vertebrae causing instant paralysis. So, why do the crime scene photos show Mrs. Wilhelm’s hands neatly tucked under her lap blanket? Where did the gun land? Six feet away, the gun was lying on the floor, pointing away from her chair. The spent casing landed behind the sofa.

If Janice were a physically capable woman, she would have to hold the gun upside down, press it to her neck with her elbow wrenched out above her head. It might be possible IF you omit one crucial fact. Janice Willhelm had a tumor on her left arm the size of an orange removed a few years earlier. This surgery took much of her muscle tissue and damaged the nerves in her arm. It was physically impossible for her to hold her arm above her chest, much less over her head. This fact is more than mere conjecture on the part of grieving family members. It was corroborated by medical documentation. Janice could not have held that gun. Her daughter claims that Janice had a life-long fear of firearms and wouldn’t be holding one at all.

Gerald Willhelm claimed his wife was out of pain medication and killed herself because they couldn’t afford to get more. Crime scene photos show her medications are clearly sitting within arms reach of the recliner. To further dispel this accusation, U.P.S. had recently billed the couple for their prescription delivery service. She was on disability, and this covered most of her medications, and she had worked out a co-pay deal with the drug companies for the remainder of the fees. Janice Willhelm was not out of pain medication, and if anyone doubts this, they can refer to the toxicology reports that clearly showed the medications were in her system at the time of death.

Black Gold:

Almost immediately after his wife’s murder, Gerald Willhelm quickly pushed his wife’s Will through probate and quickly leased his wife’s land to a large oil company for drilling. Reports state the royalties of this well accounted for nearly half a million dollars within the first eight months. 

Strange, but not necessarily a crime, right? Wrong!

Janice had left behind two children, and both were suddenly written out of their mother’s will several months before her death. After fighting to get a copy of this Will, the kids were surprised to see their mother’s name. It was nothing like her signature. A child could see the differences. They send this document and several handwriting samples to two different specialists. Both adamantly claim this Will to be a forgery. Not only do they claim Janice did not sign this document, but they also say the handwriting looked more like Gerald’s.

Part 2:

Victim #2: Morris Robeson

Morris A. Robeson was a strong, strapping Texan, and a WWII Air Force veteran. Morris returned from war and started a lumber business in Centerville, Texas. He was involved in the entire process, from bidding on the trees to cutting them down, hauling the logs, and creating rough lumber in his sawmill. He would later own R.W.R. Lumber Company. This business would be the biggest employer in Leon County, Texas, during the 1950s.

After selling the company in the 1970’s, Morris and his wife Mable liked to travel in their motorhome. Morris fished the Gulf of Mexico and improved the family’s orchards. He was the epitome of a good ol’ boy with a lovely homemaker wife and two kids; Sam and Janice.

Life wouldn’t be the same for this Texas lumberman after the late 1990’s. Morris began to suffer when the vertebrae in his lower neck and upper back started to deteriorate. Then, he suffered a stroke in 1998. After this point, the once-powerful man was now unable even to lift a trimmer to clip his own stray hairs.

Despite his health problems, the family was shocked when they heard of Morris’ death on November 10, 2000. Somehow this man who could no longer lift a little plastic trimmer picked up a Colt .38 revolver with a six-inch barrel, twisted his arm up, and shot himself in the back of the head. 

Surely no one would believe such a thing, right? Wrong.

The neighbor was an off-duty Highway Patrol Officer named Joe Weaver. Weaver came over when he heard the news, and later told the family that he was suspicious of the investigation at the crime scene. While everyone immediately ruled Morris’ death as a suicide, Joe disagreed. Joe had one question for the family. Where was Gerald Wilhelm at the time of Morris Robeson’s death?

While the police department closed the case, the concerned neighbor would continue his own investigation into the suspicious death. If anyone could find Justice for Morris, it was Joe Weaver. He could if he wasn’t shot in the head ten months later. Guess what folks!? Joe’s death was ruled suicide too.

Part 3:

Victim #3: Joe Weaver

Morris’ neighbor is a highway patrol officer who stopped by the crime scene. Joe Weaver was off-duty and told the family the other officers were surprised to see him. He immediately noticed the crime scene wasn’t being handled as a homicide, but rather a suicide. Weaver was suspicious and began his own separate investigation.

Morris and his wife Mable had raised their grandson, Wayne Robeson, as their own and would treat him as their third child. Weaver spoke with Wayne and wanted to know the whereabouts of one Gerald Willhelm. Gerald has a strange story to tell, but his story will be coming later.

Morris Robeson was a veteran of WWII and had been struggling with neck and upper back pain associated with degenerative disks in his spine. This disability had reached the point where he was no longer able to trim his hair with an ear/nose trimmer.

The trimmer in question was weighed recently to give the reader a reference point. The trimmer weighed less than 2 ounces. Yet, despite the V.A. records to prove Morris Robeson’s disability, the authorities continue to label this case a suicide. The gun used to kill Morris Robeson was a .38 Colt revolver with a 6-inch barrel. This weapon was weighed as well. Its weight was just under 1lb.

If a man cannot lift 2 ounces, how can he lift a 1lb-object, twist it up behind his head, and pull the trigger?

After the death of his neighbor, Joe Weaver continued his investigation for several months, but his truth-seeking venture was cut short late in September 2001. If the Morris Robeson case wasn’t strange enough, here are the facts of the alleged suicide of Joseph Weaver.

On the day before his death, Joe’s wife picked up her daughter and their son from school. Joe’s step-daughter reported to her guidance counselor that Joe had molested her. (There has never been any proof of this claim, and it seems to just come out of the blue.) The wife tells her son to call Joe and ask him to leave the barn and go into the house. Yes, this is what it states in the report. Why was he in the barn? Why were these allegations brought up just now? Why was Joe’s young son the one who had to call his dad and tell him to leave the barn? Could Joe not decide to walk to the house on his own?

Why was he “holed-up” in his barn in the first place?

If that wasn’t unusual enough, the wife then calls Sherriff Price to go to the house and check on Joe. Price stated he arrived on-site just in time to see Joe Weaver walk slowly out of his barn and toward the house. He supposedly stopped before getting to the house, pulled out his service revolver, and killed himself. To this day, the authorities have denied all FOIA requests stating there wasn’t a police report written. No crime scene photos were taken.

This statement was proven false; however, when an anonymous witness sent a picture of the first page of the police report on Joe Weaver’s death to the family.

Snapshot of Joe Weaver Police Report sent to family anonymously

Why did Joe Weaver want to talk to Gerald Wilhelm? Why would all of this occur just a few years before the big oil boom in Centerville, Texas? Who has the farm now? How would Wilhelm con his way into the Robeson family? Why would his father-in-law be killed less than a year later? Hold on, guys. Chaos has settled down upon the Robeson farm like a tornado.


Part 4:

Part four of this saga leads us back to the beginning of this tragic tale; the strange death of disabled, Janice Robeson Wilhelm. Just to recap, Janice was found dead from a gunshot wound to her neck. She was sitting up in her recliner with her hands tucked neatly under her lap blanket.

The .45 caliber bullet entered the back left-hand side of her neck and traveled downward, passing into her lungs and severing her spinal cord, causing instant paralysis. Despite this, the authorities would have you believe that she threw the gun six feet away from her chair and tucked her hands back under her blanket.

Below are two pictures of the crime scene. The only changes that were made to these photos are the addition of the blacked-out portions hiding the graphic details of the deceased’s wounds.


Notice the following:

  • The gun is laying 6 – 8 feet away from the deceased. If this had been a suicide, then the weapon would have fallen directly beside the chair, not six feet away in front of the couch.
  • The shell casing is found several feet away behind the couch. Again, this wouldn’t be the case in a suicide. The shell casing would have landed in the chair or amongst the blankets.
  • It has been reported that the blood under the recliner was already coagulated. Why? If this happened as Gerald claimed, then the police arrived 12 – 15 minutes later, then there is no way that blood would be in such a state.
  • A gunshot residue test was done on Janice Wilhelm’s hands but was somehow lost in transit between the Dallas Medical Examiner’s office and the Leon County Sherriff’s office.

Blatant Lies:

Gerald claimed in the 911 call that Jan killed herself because she was out of pain medication, and they couldn’t afford more. This statement was proven false. The crime scene photos clearly showed Janice’s medication sitting on the table beside her chair, and the toxicology reports state she had pain meds in her system at the time of her death. Also, the children were able to prove that not only were Janice’s medicines mostly covered by Medicare, and the small remainder only amounted to a $5/month co-payment.

The report states that Janice left a suicide note. It was later determined that the so-called note was nothing more than a diary of her symptoms and the medications she had taken. These standard nursing notes were what they claimed to be a suicide note.

Final Proof of Homicide:

July 2001:

Janice Wilhelm was admitted to the Baylor Richardson Medical Center surgery. A large tumor measuring 4″ x 4 3/4″ x 3″ was removed from the upper portion of her left arm, leaving the muscular tissue and tendons severely damaged. This surgery saved her life but left her dominant arm nearly useless. Janice would no longer be able to lift her arm above her chest.

June 2015:

Vincent J.M. Di Maio, M.D., a forensic pathologist out of Dallas, reviewed Janice Wilhelm’s medical records and determined that it would be impossible for her to have committed suicide in such a manner. 

Aftermath & Motives Revealed:

The family waited for word of a will but were repeatedly told that Janice didn’t leave one. Then, suddenly within a couple of months of her death, Janice’s Will was quietly pushed through probate court.

After fighting to get a copy of her mother’s Will, Janice’s daughter was surprised at the supposed signature of her mother. It wasn’t even close to her mother’s signature, and yet there it was, and two people had witnessed it.

Finally, it was determined that both so-called witnesses had not seen Janice sign the documents at all. They were pre-signed before being presented for a witness signature. 

Why would anyone want seven acres of farmland in this area? Oil

Despite the Will being a blatant forgery and the lawsuits pending, Gerald Wilhelm signed off, and the oil companies came in. An oil well and a gas well were fully functioning within a year of Janice Wilhelm’s death. The Clayton #1H well generated $400,000 worth of royalties within the first eight months of its existence. Can we say motive?

Cold Case did a segment on this case in 2010, and Gerald Wilhelm actually agreed to an interview but refused to let it be recorded because of the pending lawsuits. Strangely, he was dead within a week after the show aired. He supposedly died of a heart attack, but there was no autopsy, and he was cremated before anyone could request one.

I wish I could say that was the end, but there are a few more twists in this homicidal tale. I will leave you with one question.

Who owns that land and oil wells now?

I will give you a hint. It’s a toss-up between a blond banker, a ranch hand, and a false witness. Mix that with an extramarital affair, a vindictive family member, and big oil, and you will have this Texas-Sized Tale.

Finale:

Last week we left wondering who in the world owns Janice Willhelm’s 7-acre farm just outside of Centerville, Texas. Her husband, Gerald Willhelm, had died mysteriously less than a week after he gave an interview to the media. While there is no one left to contest his sudden heart attack and cremation, Janice’s family still fights for justice in this greedy land grab.

Although the lawsuits were still pending, Gerald’s Will was quickly probated and pushed through the system. He left his wife’s farm to a blond banker from town and one of the witnesses that signed off on Janice’s forged Will. While the banker’s mother swears her daughter just had a “Father/Daughter” type relationship with Gerald Wilhelm, Janice’s family refused to believe such a thing. 

It will be proven in court one way or another, but in the meantime, Janice’s children are still fighting.

Janice Willhelm’s Will was a blatant forgery, and two different handwriting experts have verified this. The Will was pushed through without the children’s knowledge. This forged Will case is one battle for the Robeson family, but sadly, there is more.

Morris and his wife Mable raised their grandson as their own child and treated him accordingly. Unfortunately, this seems to have driven a wedge between their eldest son and their unofficially adopted one. Before Morris’ murder, the uncle began to wage war on the grandson, and it continues to this day. After the death, Mable sold her grandson a part of the property on the contingency that she could live out her days in the home. Of course, he agreed. This situation, unfortunately, drove the wedge deeper, causing the uncle to file lawsuit after lawsuit trying to pry the property from his nephew’s hands. 

The vindictive man even used his own mother’s name to file a lawsuit. When contacted, however, Mable was shocked by it and demanded that it be dropped. If I went into every detail of this family feud, this blog series would last for another year. After reviewing all the evidence, I am left with one question that I will relate to you.

Was this series of deaths a series of unfortunate events, or a series of homicides? 

Everyone that dives into this case too deep seems to end up in endless litigation or six feet under the Texas dirt.

The family continues to fight for justice, appealing their case up to the Texas Rangers only to hit a brick wall there as well. The only hope at this point may be the F.B.I. and the media. 


ALL INFORMATION USED TO CREATE THIS CONTENT IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD AND CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE OR CAN BE VERIFIED BY THE GUEST BLOGGER. ANY PARTICIPATION OR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT OF ANY PARTY MENTIONED WITHIN THIS SITE IS PURELY SPECULATION. AS THE LAW STATES, AN INDIVIDUAL IS INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. I DO NOT OWN THE PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST. ALL PHOTOS ARE USED UNDER THE FAIR USE ACT. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. ANY AND ALL OPINIONS ARE THAT OF THE GUEST BLOGGER AND DON’T NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF SYNOVA INK©2017-2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


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Suicide or Dixie Mafia Hit? – Death of Norman Ladner

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Photo courtesy of Unsolved Mysteries

A seventeen-year-old boy spends his days exploring his family’s 122-acre property. Even at a tender age, Norman Ladner was an experienced outdoorsman. He loved hunting, fishing, and exploring the nature around him. Why then was he shot in the head and left in the woods to die? Did he witness one of the Dixie Mafia’s narcotics planes? Was the radio device found hanging in a nearby tree used to signal a drop? Thirty years later, these questions are still unanswered.


On August 21, 1989, Norman Ladner spent the day exploring his family land like he had done almost every day. Ladner was the oldest child and was very responsible. Everyone that remembers him tells of his dependability and his kindness. The Ladner family also owned the local country store. When Norman finished his day of exploring the outdoors, he would usually show up at the store to help his parents close up shop and prepare for the next day. You could set your watch by him. Norman always strolled in around 7 pm. On occasion, he would be closer to 7:30, but never later. On this night, his father began to worry when his son never showed up at the store. Norman Ladner Sr. hurried home to see if his son was in his woodworking shop in the barn. The teenager was nowhere to be found.
Worried, but not frightened, the father gathered a few friends and together they formed a search party. Everyone thought the boy had gotten lost, or maybe injured. No one expected what they would find in those woods on that fateful night. Sr. stumbled upon his son laying beneath a tree. When he reached down and touched his boy, the chill of death shot through him. The distraught father sat with his son in the dark woods until his search party to could return to the house to call the police.
Pearl County Sheriff Lorance Lumpkin arrived on the scene around 10 pm. There he found Norman laying on his back with his legs curled up underneath him. He was rolled partially to the side a gunshot wound in his temple. From the outset, the authorities began speculating the death was a horrible accident. Perhaps the teenager had jumped down from the tree and fell. Maybe the impact caused his rifle to go off.
A few days later, the coroner came into the family store with two deputies to speak to the family about his results. He told the family that he was 90% sure it was a terrible accident. Strangely, when the official ruling came out a few days later, it was classed as suicide. The family was shocked. They couldn’t believe it. Nothing about it made sense. Norman was a happy child. If it were suicide, why did he have a large gash on the top of his head?
The family went to the sheriff and tried to speak about the case, but the sheriff flat out said they were wrong. It was a suicide, and they were just grieving parents who refused to see the truth.
Evidence Against The Suicide Theory:

  • Why did the boy have a gash on TOP of his head, and how does that relate to suicide? I wasn’t doing a handstand while trying to hold a rifle and shoot himself in the temple.
  • I was unable to verify this, but it was once reported that the head wound had live maggots while the temple wound held larva. This would lead one to believe that the head wound came first, and the temple wound was secondary.
  • The police never processed the scene as a crime scene. They didn’t find a bullet. The father would find one on his own later.
  • Norman’s gun was never tested or fingerprinted.
  • No one determined what type of weapon that killed him. They never checked because they believed it was his own gun from the beginning.
  • Norman’s wallet with $140 was missing. I’m sure he just stole his own money, threw away his wallet, and marched into the woods to shoot himself, right? I don’t think so!


The family repeatedly tried to get the sheriff to reopen the case, but he flat out refused. The father, desperate for answers went out into the woods to begin his own investigation. There in the dirt under where his son’s head would have been, they found a bullet with human blood and hair. It seemed to the father that his son was slumped on the ground rolled to the side and someone standing above him shot the boy through the temple. The bullet then traveled through the hair and skull and buried into the dirt. It makes sense. If the boy had somehow pulled the trigger on his own rifle, then the gun would have flown through the air and landed at another location.
I should also mention that in some reports the boy was carrying a shotgun and other stories call it a rifle, so I cannot say what type of gun the boy had. I can tell you that it was most likely a shotgun. Either way, it isn’t easy to shoot oneself in the temple with a shotgun or a rifle.
Still desperate for answers, the poor father took the bullet to the sheriff and was immediately dismissed. The police claimed that since they didn’t find the bullet, then they couldn’t prove it was the one who killed Norman. The father argued that they didn’t look for a bullet, but it was no use. Since he was getting nowhere with the local sheriff, Norman Sr. took the bullet to the state ballistics lab. He explained how the bullet was too long to fit in his son’s gun and asked the examiner to look over the bullet. The results came back inconclusive siting the same lines as the sheriff almost verbatim. To make matters worse, when the bullet was returned to the family, it was a different one than the bullet they had sent in.
During their frequent trips to the coroner’s office, Norman’s mother was approached by a stranger. He asked if he could discuss her son’s case with her, so of course, the mother agreed to step away and speak with him. When the pair were out of earshot of her husband, the stranger turned and uttered a chilling threat to the poor mother. He told her that she had other children and she should just drop this investigation and raise them because they’d never find Norman’s killer. Frightened, she hurried back to Norman Sr. and told him about the threat. The man was gone before anyone could find him.
Determined to find the truth, the now somewhat paranoid father makes another trip into the woods to find clues. Three hundred yards from his son’s position, he saw a strange object hanging in a tree. It was a homemade radio device of sorts covered in tape and wires with a small antenna protruding from the top. Of course, the father took it to the sheriff and was dismissed. Norman then turned to a neighbor and told him about the device. The neighbor put him in contact with a retired DEA agent who lived in the area.
The DEA agent knew what the strange object was immediately and explained these devices transmit signals. The narcotics plans would fly over an area, and when the signal was picked up on their devices, then they would drop their load of drugs. Was this the answer the family had been looking for? Did their poor boy run up on a drug trafficker and a narcotics drop?
To make matters worse, the sheriff would later be charged with dogfighting and other illegal activities. Although some believe he had ties to the local group of Dixie Mafia drug cartel, nothing has been proven. Norman Ladner, Sr. died in 2003, and the sheriff died in 2007. Thirty years have passed, and most of the witnesses are long gone. What evidence the family found is no longer available. Still, questions remain. What happened to Norman Ladner? Was it suicide or murder?


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Further Reading:

Unsolved

Only In Your State

Trace Evidence Podcast Video

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This week’s Recommended Reading:

The Boys on the Tracks

The Life and Times of Frank Balistrieri: The Last, Most Powerful Godfather of Milwaukee


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