A Michigan man was arrested in the decades-old cold case of a nurse’s aide found dead in her home after allegedly confessing four different times to the killing over the last 30 years, officials said.
When Wilda Wilkinson, 59, didn’t show up for her shift at the South Haven Hospital on July 29, 1986, her daughter Rhonda knew something was wrong.
Rhonda headed to her mother’s Bangor home, where she found the house locked and quiet with her mother’s car in the driveway. So Rhonda went around back and pried a screen off a window to shimmy inside. It was then that she found her mother’s body.
“Rhonda Wilkinson left the residence, ran out to find help,” Michigan State Police Sgt. Kyle Gorham testified, according to a transcript of a March 8 probable cause hearing obtained by WOOD-TV.
A neighbor stopped her and returned with her to the home, saw the grisly scene for herself and called the police.
Wilda had been strangled. Her nightgown was pushed below her breasts and above her waist line. She was wearing no underwear, her legs had been spread open and her arms were at her sides, Gorham said.
Michael Leon Curry, who lived near Wilda, and another man were interviewed early in the investigation, and both were arrested at the time, but on unrelated charges.
Months later, Gorham said, that second man contacted Lt. Tim Wydick, the original detective on the case, and told him Curry confessed both verbally and in writing to killing Wilda.
Curry again allegedly admitted two more times to being behind the murder during an interview with Wydick and “provided detailed information about the crime,” Gorham testified.
Gorham said Curry told police he had planned to break into the house, but first he knocked on the door. No one immediately answered, but eventually a woman came to the door, which Curry allegedly said startled him.
Police said he told them he pushed Wilda inside the home and onto a recliner, where he strangled her with his hands.
Wilda ultimately ended up on the floor, and Curry allegedly said he took some of her clothes to make the crime look like it was a rape. Police said he told them he locked the doors behind him and left.
Then on Dec. 12, 1989, Curry was arrested for beating his roommate nearly to death. He was convicted of intent to commit murder and served more than 20 years in a Michigan prison for the crime.
The day after the incident, Wydick received an anonymous letter addressed to him regarding Wilda’s murder, Gorham said.
“Almost 41 months have passed, 1,233 days since that fatal hot and humid July night,” the letter reportedly said.
Gorham testified that “1,233 days is the exact number of days from the date on the letter to the date of Wilda Wilkinson’s death, almost 41 months. And July was the month that Wilda Wilkinson was killed.
“The letter dated 12-12 of ’89 also referenced Wilda Wilkinson not having any panties on to make the crime look like it was a rape,” Gorham continued. “Wilda Wilkinson was located with no underwear on at the scene of the crime.”
Fingerprints found on the letter were identified to belong to Curry, the MSP forensic lab found.
However, police told WOOD-TV there wasn't any physical evidence in 1986 to corroborate Curry’s confession at the time it was made. And Wydick told the television station he turned the case over to the prosecutor at the time, but a warrant for Curry's arrest was never issued, as the district attorney apparently did not think there was enough evidence to corroborate the confessions.
In 2018, the MSP Cold Case Team assigned a detective to work full-time on Wilda’s case, and they obtained search warrants to monitor Curry’s Facebook page. There, Curry allegedly posted in June 2018: “I am no angel. If I get pissed I kill,” “I don’t like witnesses,” and “I have never killed anyone who did not – who didn’t deserve it.”
MSP detectives exhumed Wilda’s body Oct. 1, 2018, and an autopsy performed the following day determined the cause of her death was asphyxia and the manner was homicide.
Curry, now 51, was arrested last week and charged Monday with felony murder in Wilda’s killing. It's unclear what, if any, additional evidence detectives uncovered in addition to the Facebook posts.
Curry was denied bond and online records show he is currently in custody in the Van Buren County Sheriff’s office.
“A lot of people didn’t believe (his confession) at the time,” Wydick, the original detective on the case, told WOOD-TV. “People thought he was trying to get attention.”
Curry was released from prison in 2017 for nearly killing his roommate. He had reportedly been living in California when he was arrested last week.