A Las Vegas man was found guilty Friday of fatally shooting his friend and robbing him of his toys earlier this year.
After at two-week trial and three hours of deliberation, a jury found Patrick Wilcock, 43, guilty of first-degree murder, robbery and two counts each of burglary and possession of stolen property.
Sentencing was set for Feb. 21 before Judge Doug Herndon.
Wilcock faces up to life in prison without parole on the murder count and dozens of years in prison on the other charges.
The prosecution’s case revolved around circumstantial evidence.
But pieced together, prosecutors said, the evidence showed Wilcock shot James Lacella in the head and days later, on Feb. 25, set fire to his condo at 1309 Del Mar St., near Tropicana and Eastern avenues, to cover up the crime. He littered bullet cartridges in the condo and aimed them at the body, hoping the projectiles would ignite in the fire, strike the body and confuse police, prosecutors said.
Wilcock also took toys from the condo, including remote-controlled cars, toy trains and video games. He then pawned some of the items, including a Sony PlayStation 3 console, two controllers and 23 games, which were later traced to Lacella.
A big break in the case came when investigators searched Wilcock’s home and found a key to Lacella’s Ford Ranger stuck to the bottom of a trash can.
The unanswered question was why Wilcock killed his friend. The pair often spent time together racing remote-controlled cars in the desert.
Defense attorneys argued Wilcock was innocent and Lacella, a drug addict who was high on methamphetamine when he died, was shot by a drug dealer.
“People don’t get killed over toys. People get killed over drugs every day,” said Wilcock’s lawyer, Deputy Special Public Defender Clark Patrick.
Prosecutor Shanon Clowers countered that Wilcock might have killed Lacella so he could repay a $176 debt to his mother. Or maybe Wilcock was jealous of Lacella’s toy collection, she said.
But prosecutors didn’t have to prove motive, Clowers said, just that Wilcock did it.
Wilcock cried after hearing the verdict. So did his mother, who testified during the trial that her son had pawned items from her home before. Earlier testimony showed that Wilcock, during a jailhouse phone call, coached his mother to say that he had “borrowed” not “taken” items from her home.
After the verdict Patrick said that the case will be appealed and that the jury trusted the testimony of a jailhouse snitch.
“The jury took the word of a five-time felon,” he added.
Prison inmate Todd House, who has several auto theft convictions, testified that while jailed with Wilcock, Wilcock talked about specific details of the crime, including why the bullets were on the floor.
The clinching evidence may have come from Wilcock himself, who during a March 2 interview with Las Vegas police told them he knew nothing about the fire or that Lacella was dead. Later in the interrogation Wilcock described a shelf where an item might be found in the apartment and said, “not the shelf above him.”
Prosecutors also pointed to phone records that showed Wilcock called Lacella almost daily until Feb. 22. Then the calls stopped.
Wilcock remained at the Clark County Detention Center without bail.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at email@example.com or 702-380-1039.