The murders of Becky Wiley and two of her sons apparently went smoothly, police say, but 10-year-old Willy fled. He was dragged back into the house and shot in the head.
His bloody tasks accomplished, 15-year-old Jamie Wiley set his family’s mobile home ablaze, according to authorities.
Jamie Wiley was known to friends and neighbors as a lifeguard, honor student and student council leader, a clean-cut teen-ager with “a million-dollar smile,” a churchgoer, baritone horn player in the high school band, a talented wrestler.
“A good kid,” high school secretary Bobbi Miller said of him. “The side I saw was happy, not moody. He was always nice, had a cute smile. You just think you’re going to know something like that--but not with this kid.”
Ellie Creek, sister of the boy’s slain stepmother, insists that “how kids act at school is different than how they act at home.
“He is a bully. I thought he was selfish, spoiled. The community attitude is ‘he’s such a good kid, it’s impossible he could do this.’ When the general public finds out more, they’ll be able to grip the situation better.”
This month, Jamie Wiley pleaded innocent and innocent by reason of mental disease and deficiency. The trial was set for Sept. 9.
The public record on the case is scant.
At first, police announced that they were holding a juvenile suspect in the killings of Becky Wiley, 34, Jesse Lee Wiley, 13, and Jamie’s stepbrother Willy Lee Brady and half brother Tyrone Wiley, 5.
It was not until March, when a judge decided to try Jamie as an adult, that his name was revealed and a criminal complaint was made public.
The complaint gives details of Jamie’s activities from last Nov. 23, the day before the shootings. It alleges that he and three friends broke into a pool where he worked as a lifeguard, went swimming and stole some cash and candy bars.
Jim Mecca, who owns the swimming complex, says he saw Wiley leaving late that night. They exchanged a quick hello and, when Mecca went to the front counter, he noticed that $160 was missing from the petty cash box.
The teen-ager somehow had a key to a room at the nearby Holiday Inn, and the three spent the night there, according to the complaint.
The next morning his friends drove him to wrestling practice. The coach, LeRoy Hayes, said the 135-pound athlete was in good spirits and fine shape.
“He said he felt good. He ran two miles in 13 or 14 minutes. He talked about an upcoming wrestling match in Powell,” the coach said. “He was a real hard-working wrestler. He had set goals to be state champion. He probably would have been a state champion before he graduated.”
After practice, Jamie’s friends dropped him off at his house and left, according to the complaint. There he allegedly argued with his stepmother, picked up a shotgun and fired it--first at his stepmother, then the two brothers.
He ran out of ammunition when he got to Willy, the document said.
“He reloaded the weapon and went to look for . . . Willy,” according to the complaint. “He caught the 10-year-old in the front yard and dragged him back into the home. . . . He then shot him in the head with the shotgun.”
His first attempt to start a fire in the living room was unsuccessful. Then he found an aerosol can and used it as an accelerant, the complaint says.
With the house aflame, Jamie bypassed nearby neighbors and drove more than a mile to telephone firefighters from a friend’s house, authorities have said.
The complaint does not suggest a motive for the slayings. It offers no background that might explain how the boy came to take up the shotgun.
Relatives say the family was in turmoil. When the Wileys were married eight years ago, she brought one son from a previous marriage and he brought two. Three years later, Becky Wiley bore another son.
Jamie was unable to get along with his stepmother. He left home last summer to live with his mother in Florida. He returned to live with his father and the rest of the family a few weeks before the killings took place.
Lisa Klingelhoets, Willy’s aunt, says Jamie was jealous of the younger boys. “He never accepted Becky. It seems as though he could never get enough of his father’s attention. Becky’s family says he had pulled a gun on them before.”
Others say that Becky Wiley couldn’t control Jamie or earn his respect.
“She said, ‘If I just keep showing him love, he’ll come around’. . . . He came around all right--with a gun,” said Creek, Becky’s 27-year-old sister.
The father, a fishing and hunting guide, would say nothing. “This is my son’s future we’re talking about. I have no comment at all,” Mike Wiley said.
The murders and the arrest of Jamie Wiley have shaken Thermopolis, a central Wyoming town of 3,800 best known for the mineral hot springs that bubble up alongside the Big Horn River.
“I feel something flipped in him. I never thought he had a violent bone in his body,” said Mecca, the pool owner.
“He was pretty much a wonderful kid,” said Margaret Stansill, Jamie’s guidance counselor at Hot Springs County High School. “There were no identifying red flags. Nothing to lead you to believe he had problems.”
“This kind of thing just doesn’t happen in Thermopolis, Wyoming,” said Miller, the high school secretary.