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Murder Case Still Unsolved

Murder Case Still Unsolved Murder Case Still Unsolved

It’s been seven years since Dale Wiggins lost her son in a shooting at a Toombs County convenience store. Her son’s murderers have never been identified and brought to justice, but every year on the anniversary of the tragedy, Dale focuses attention on the case in the hope that new evidence will emerge and that answers will be found. The surreal details of what happened the night of June 8, 2014, at first washed over Dale like a wave; but in the next few hours, she faced the reality that her oldest child, Chris Wiggins, had been fatally wounded in a robbery at the store. Dale knew that her son had been on duty at his convenience store in Santa Claus on U.S. Highway 1 just outside of Lyons and that he had a young man assisting him in the store at the time. His young assistant, only 16 at the time, was badly shaken but had escaped injury.

It was around midnight when Toombs County Sheriff Alvie “Junior” Kight knocked on the door of the Wiggins home to impart news no parent ever wants to hear. For the next several days the sheriff’s department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) probed the shooting scene and conducted interviews and Chris’s body was carried to the crime lab in Atlanta for an autopsy.

Pieces of the puzzle involving Chris’ death started to come together, but information was sketchy and socalled eyewitness accounts conflicted. There were no security cameras in the store. Initially promising leads collapsed. No arrests were ever made.

Every year on the anniversary of the shooting, Dale contacts the media and conducts radio and newspaper interviews. She reiterates that there is a reward of several thousand dollars for credible information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

Chris was only a few days shy of his 50th birthday when the shooting occurred. The unfortunate proximity of Chris’s birth and death dates is an irony that compounds his family’s grief. As Chris’s mother brings the events of June 8, 2014, to the forefront each year, she feels she is doing her part not just to keep his memory alive but to refocus attention on solving the case.

Kight said Dale’s efforts are not in vain. Each year about this time his office is provided with more leads in the case and methodically checks each one, even rechecking leads that have been pursued previously.

“He was a down-toearth homebody, just a good person who would give you the shirt off of his back,” Dale said of her son. “I don’t think he will ever be forgotten. He had too many friends. Even now, people still call me and ask if I have heard anything in the case,” Dale said.

The 2014 incident still haunts Sheriff Kight. He was well acquainted with the Wiggins family and often visited the convenience store in Santa Claus to purchase fishing supplies. His son owned a farm nearby.

Kight said the night of Chris’s death he traveled the distance from his home to the murder scene in about seven minutes. What he was confronted with was harrowing. The only known witness to the crime, the teenage store assistant, was terrified and hysterical. “There were a lot of shots fired in the store. It scared him to death and it took me a little while to settle him down so we could talk to him,” Kight said.

What the sheriff and the GBI determined was that two males wearing masks and brandishing guns entered the store and confronted Chris, who was behind the counter. Chris drew his pistol and was able to fire several rounds before being fatally wounded where he stood. The young assistant, who had been in the kitchen of the store, emerged when he heard a commotion and the suspects fired at him but missed. The suspects then ordered the boy to hand over bags of cash that were on the premises and afterward fled the scene, sparing the teen’s life.

Kight said the suspects were fully clothed and wearing long-sleeved shirts and masks. It was impossible to determine ethnicity and physical characteristics beyond one being tall and the other short, Kight said. “We had no cameras at the scene and one eyewitness who was a young kid who was scared to death.” No fingerprints were obtained because the suspects touched nothing. Authorities determined that one suspect stood at the door of the store, never entering, and acted as a lookout. The other suspect entered the store but never came further than the counter.

“We don’t have a lot from the scene. We recovered shell casings but no weapon was ever found,” Kight recalled. The GBI’s crime scene technician combed the scene and even returned later to recover additional rounds that had lodged in different areas of the store, but without a weapon, the rounds were not helpful in solving the case.

“We have followed a hundred or more leads. Every time we get a call that gives us information, we run that lead out. We have leads than come in but they fall back to a lead we have checked several times,” Kight allowed, noting, “We have additional clues, but we don’t want to put them out there because it might jeopardize the investigation.”

Kight noted, “This case is like a puzzle. You get little bits and pieces and start putting them all together. Every year, we review this case. We are working on it now.” Kight added that the GBI has been very cooperative in helping local law enforcement continue the investigation. The sheriff shared, “We are pretty close to having enough probable cause to get a warrant, but we want to be sure that our information is solid. We want to know we have the right person when we ask the judge to sign a warrant. I really feel like that is going to happen soon.” He doesn’t plan to stop his pursuit of justice. “We will never close the case until we find the person or persons who killed Chris. We have a puzzle and we pretty much have it put together. We just need a few more pieces and we will make arrests.”

Catching and punishing the culprits won’t bring her son back, but just knowing who they are will help Dale find some closure. “I won’t always be wondering who did it.” When asked what, if anything, can bring her peace, Dale considered for a moment then offered, “There are people out there who know who did it but they are too scared to come forth. I want them to do the right thing. I want this solved before I die. I am not letting this go.”

UNSOLVED — Dale Wiggins displays a graduation photo of her son, Chris, who was killed in his convenience store in Santa Claus on June 8, 2014. Chris was just a few days shy of his 50th birthday when he died. The case remains unsolved.Photo by Deborah Clark

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