A man in Florida pleaded guilty Monday to murder after faking his girlfriend’s death in November. Brian Wilson, 48, strangled Jennifer Copeland, 43, before putting her into a noose he had hung in the rafters of the garage where she lived.
Three of Wilson’s friends later came forward to investigators and said that Copeland’s killer had admitted what he’d done. He told at least one friend he needed gasoline that night to burn the garage down. He also called to get a ride, telling his potential drivers that he’d murdered his girlfriend.
He was later pulled over and arrested in a stolen car after telling his friends that he was heading to Atlanta to “disappear.”
“The defendant did not confess to law enforcement, but he did confess to many of his friends and acquaintances,” Elizabeth Loeffler, the assistant state attorney in Florida, told the Sarasota Herald Tribune in a statement. “Defense attorney Wyndel Darville worked diligently and deposed all of them, and it was clear that as difficult as it would be for them, they would all come to court and testify against him. I'm sure that this is the primary motivation for the defendant to finally accept responsibility for his crime, and abandon the implausible story that this was a suicide."
Wilson was sentenced this week to 25 years in prison after accepting a plea deal.
The night of the murder, Copeland’s mother called the police just after 2 a.m. concerned that she had found a tear in a screen near the house door and that a glass slate had been removed from the door. The police found no intruders in the home but later found Copeland’s body hanging in the garage.
Before the friends came forward, investigator were initially skeptical that it was a suicide because of “peculiar characteristics” including the “efficiently tied noose.” Karen Copeland said that her daughter’s boyfriend had showed her the noose the day before and that she had asked him to take it down.