A 60-year-old man was arrested Tuesday in the 1981 kidnapping and slaying of a young woman from a prominent family in Las Vegas’ black community.
Las Vegas police allege Willie Lee Shannon was responsible for 18-year-old Jamey Walker’s death. Shannon was being held Tuesday on a murder charge in the Manatee County jail in Palmetto, Fla. He faces extradition to Las Vegas.
Walker died of a massive skull fracture after falling almost 50 feet. Her body was discovered Mother’s Day, May 10, 1981, under a bridge at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
At the time, police speculated she died while trying to escape from attackers, according to Review-Journal coverage of the case.
The day before the woman’s body was found, her father, James Walker, received an early morning telephone call demanding $75,000 for his daughter’s safe return.
"She said, ‘Daddy, they’re not kidding,’ " then the phone hung up, a police report said.
The report said the Walkers were having trouble obtaining money for her release because banks were not open on the weekend. Jamey Walker was the daughter of Eleanor Walker, a past president of the local chapter of the NAACP. Her grandmother was Sarann Knight Preddy, who ran unsuccessfully for Las Vegas City Commission in 1979.
Shannon’s arrest report says Walker might have been an unintended target in the kidnapping. Police also suspect her family’s alleged link to drug dealing might have played a role in her death.
The report said that Shannon, while serving time in the Nevada State Prison in 1986 and 1987, told inmate James Phillips that he lost $27,000 in a heroin deal with James Walker.
"In the prison cell, Shannon told Phillips that he gave the heroin to James Walker to sell," the report said. "Phillips told Shannon that he had heard the Walker family often beat people on drug deals and that was the rumored reason why Jamey was killed."
Phillips told police that Shannon did confess to killing Walker.
Shannon was arrested in North Las Vegas in 1984 and later convicted for battery with intent to commit a crime, the report says.
The report also said that during a third and final ransom call to the father, an unknown man told him that Eleanor Walker’s boyfriend, Lusby Marshall, also known as "Pep," was the intended target. The man then said his daughter would be returned unharmed.
During a May 12, 1981, interview with police, Shannon told investigators Pep had "burned" someone on a drug deal by taking either the money or the drugs.
The report said James Walker and two of his brothers, Richard Walker and Glynn Walker, all took polygraph tests about the family’s alleged involvement in drugs. The tests concluded that James Walker and Glynn Walker were not being deceptive, but Richard Walker’s results were inconclusive, the report said.
Police suspect that Jamey Walker, a Clark High School graduate who was attending the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was kidnapped from her mother’s home. Police believed the abductors broke in through a rear window.
The report said that Shannon was initially a suspect in the kidnapping and slaying. Eleanor Walker told police that Shannon was a boxer who lived nearby. She said she met Shannon through her son only a few days before the kidnapping, and that Shannon tried to flirt with Jamey, who didn’t like him.
In 1981, Eleanor Walker told police that before the kidnapping, she and Shannon had a conversation about how dangerous it was for two women to live alone. Eleanor was separated from James Walker.
The report said police had probable cause to arrest Shannon for several reasons, including his confession to Phillips in prison. Police also found a waitress from a resort in Overton who said that she saw a black woman accompanied by a black man on May 9, 1981. The waitress later identified the woman from a photo lineup as Jamey Walker. Her description of the man was used to develop a composite sketch, which resembled Shannon, the report said.
Police also obtained DNA from Jamey Walker’s underwear that partially matched Shannon’s.
Although Shannon is in Florida on a murder charge, the Clark County district attorney charging documents also contend that Shannon raped Walker. The report alleges that Shannon might have had co-conspirators in the kidnapping and slaying.
Since January, Las Vegas detectives have been working on solving cold cases with support from a $500,000 grant received last year from the Department of Justice. Shannon’s arrest was the ninth investigation to result in a cold case arrest.
Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@review journal.com or 702-383-4638.