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GBI Makes Arrest in 2002 Triple Homicide in Turner County

The case is cold case from 18 years ago which left 51-year-old Tommy Joe Wideman, his wife Deborah Wheeler Wideman, and their daughter Melissa Wideman – who was 8½ months pregnant at the time – dead.

On Wednesday, December 2, 2020, Jason Michael Walker, 47, of Pulaski County, GA, was arrested and charged with Murder for the deaths of Thomas Wideman, Deborah Wideman, and Melissa Wideman. Walker is also charged with Feticide for causing the death of Melissa Wideman’s unborn child, determined to be Walker’s biological child, Aggravated Assault, and Arson in the First Degree. Walker was booked into the Turner County Jail.

On Friday, March 22, 2002, the GBI Region 13 Perry Office was requested by the Turner County Sheriff’s Office to assist in the death investigations of Thomas Joseph (Tommy Joe) Wideman, 51, his wife Deborah Wheeler Wideman, 48, and their daughter Melissa Wideman, 20. Melissa Wideman was 8½ months pregnant at the time of her death. In the early morning hours of March 22, the Turner County Fire Department and Sheriff’s Office responded to a house fire at 13875 GA Hwy 112 East, Rebecca, Turner County, Georgia. The fire was reported by a truck driver passing by the residence. Inside the residence, fire personnel discovered the three bodies, as well as the body of Melissa Wideman’s unborn child. The GBI Medical Examiner’s Office performed autopsies on the bodies and revealed that the three adults had been shot and died prior to the fire.

During the initial investigation, numerous investigative acts were conducted, evidence collected and processed, evidence analyzed at the crime lab, and numerous interviews were conducted until all leads were exhausted. This initial investigation developed possible suspects in the murders; however, no persons were charged at that time.

On December 9, 2014, the case was reassigned. The new GBI case agent and a Turner County investigator reviewed the original evidence and reinterviewed numerous witnesses. While the case was actively being investigated, a new witness contacted law enforcement. The witness identified a white male leaving the scene of the Wideman residence during the time frame in which the murders occurred. This new information corroborated the evidence obtained during the initial investigation and the follow-up investigation conducted by the GBI and Turner County Sheriff’s Office.

This new information was presented to Tifton Judicial Circuit District Attorney Paul Bowden. Upon review of the case, DA Bowden determined the case should be presented to a Turner County Grand Jury. The Turner County Grand Jury met on December 1, 2020. The GBI appeared before the Grand Jury and presented the evidence in this case, which was developed since the murders were discovered. The Grand Jury returned a True Bill on the Indictment, charging Jason Michael Walker.

  • 3 counts of felony murder
  • 3 counts of malice murder
  • 5 counts of aggravated assault
  • 2 counts of aggravated assault – FV
  • 1 count feticide
  • 2 counts of arson

This case has been turned over to the Tifton Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. Anyone with information related to the charges against Walker are encouraged to contact the GBI Region 13 Office at 478-987-4545, the Turner County Sheriff’s Office at 229-567-2401, or the Tifton Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office at 229-386-7900.

This is a press release from the GBI.

Jessica Szilagyi is a Statewide Contributor for AllOnGeorgia.com. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers."

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