WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The Wichita Falls Police Department is applauding the work of its re-organized cold case division after a detective broke a four-decades-old cold case.
But it would take Barham’s simple discovery, multiple detectives and a missing report to find out who killed Richard Michael Willoughby.
A well-known figure in Wichita Falls played a role in this investigation before Glenn Barham was Mayor of Wichita Falls, he served the police department and was among the officers on the scene when a body was found at Lake Wichita.
“Once I finished taking the photographs and walked away from the scene my job was done,” former Wichita Falls Police Officer Glenn Barham said.
More than three decades later, Detective John Laughlin contacted Barham about what he knew about the cold case of Willoughby.
“He and I had a discussion one afternoon here in the office and we went from there,” Barham said.
His body was found on November 9, 1980, at Lake Wichita by the dam.
“That time, officer Glenn Barham responded to the scene and collected photographs and he recognized the deceased clothing was matching that of the missing person report that was taken the day before, the white shirt, khaki pants, patchwork cowboy boots, and eyeglasses,” Laughlin said.
Nearly 39 years after that November day, still no justice for Willoughby.
There were, however, several leads including in 1993 when a Kansas inmate Daniel Adolf Edwards admitted to killing a man in Wichita Falls.
“He told them enough information that they knew to contact our agency and a crude sketch of where this crime occurred was then faxed to us, he said he killed a person next to a lake that was near a state hospital,” Laughlin said.
But the lack of physical evidence in the case kept detectives from making an arrest.
That was until the Wichita Falls Police Department re-organized its cold case division allowing Laughlin to focus full-time on decades-old homicides and missing persons cases.
“An archive search to the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed that the item of interest was a human hair found in the victim’s hand at the time of autopsy that had been analyzed and was discovered to not be consistent with the victim’s,” Laughlin said.
And that led Laughlin to a nursing home in Georgia where he issued an evidentiary search warrant to collect hair from Edwards.
But Laughlin got more than that from the man now about 69-years-old.
“That he had met the victim in a bar in downtown Wichita Falls, that he had taken him to a lake, which would be Lake Wichita, and that he had beaten the victim over the back of the head with a club that he brought with him, which is a wooden stick with lead,” Laughlin said.
“[I’m] glad to see that he got it solved, cold cases are always one of those things you hope can get solved at some point in the future and fortunately this one has been,” Barham said.
And Laughlin hopes to unlock more mysteries behind some of the oldest unsolved cases in Wichita Falls, finding answers and justice for the victims’ families.
When Edwards is extradited to Wichita County Edwards will be charged with murder.