A former Nassau County police officer choked his wife of 46 years to death Friday night during a domestic dispute at their Malta home, law enforcement officials said Monday.
Charles L. Wilkinson, 68, of 9 Meadow Rue Place, was arrested Sunday evening on a charge of second-degree murder in the death of Kathleen Wilkinson, 65, Saratoga County Sheriff Michael H. Zurlo said. He said Wilkinson continued to live in the neatly kept home in the Luther Forest development for more than a day after killing her.
Wilkinson was arraigned Sunday evening before Malta Town Justice James Fauci and sent to the Saratoga County Jail in lieu of bail.
A felony complaint filed with the Town Court indicated Wilkinson choked his wife to death around 10 p.m. Friday.
An autopsy done Monday afternoon at Albany Medical Center by Dr. Michael Sikirica determined the cause of death to be “asphyxiation by strangulation,” the Sheriff’s Department said late Monday afternoon. He is believed to have strangled her with his hands, Chief Deputy Richard Castle said.
Wilkinson spoke at length with investigators, though authorities wouldn’t say Monday whether he confessed. District Attorney James A. Murphy III said police continue to investigate to determine a motive.
Wilkinson retired from the Nassau County Police Department in 1984, Murphy said, and then worked as a painter. The couple moved to Malta about a decade ago. Wilkinson had worked recently as a part-time security officer at the nearby GlobalFoundries computer chip plant.
Responding to a request to check Kathleen Wilkinson’s welfare, Zurlo said Deputy Sean Lyons went to the home in the quiet housing development around 10:30 a.m. Sunday. He said an adult son who lives in the Boston area asked for a check at the request of a sister-in-law who lives in the Capital Region. The victim “had not been heard from in several days,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement Monday.
“The responding deputy was greeted at the door by Charles Wilkinson. After a period of discussion at the door, Charles Wilkinson allowed the deputy to enter the residence, at which time the deputy located the body of Kathleen Wilkinson deceased on the floor of a first-floor bedroom,” the sheriff’s statement continued.
The cause of death wasn’t immediately obvious, Murphy said.
Murphy said investigators will be especially careful in preparing the case, given that Wilkinson is a former law enforcement officer who knows the investigative process and his constitutional rights.
“Any time we have a former law enforcement official, it’s particularly difficult,” Murphy said at a news conference.
“We are confident we will sustain our burden of proof,” he added.
There was no prior history of domestic violence calls from the home, Murphy and Zurlo said.
Second-degree murder carries a potential penalty of 25 years to life in prison.
Murphy said the case will be presented to a grand jury once all autopsy and toxicology test results are in.
Kathleen Wilkinson worked as a teachers’ aide on Long Island, but hadn’t been employed since the couple moved to Malta.
As state police forensic investigators removed evidence from the home Monday morning, a Jeep sitting in the driveway had four flat tires. Zurlo and Murphy said they didn’t know whether the flat tires had anything to do with the slaying, or actions leading up to it. “I think investigators are curious about that as well,” Murphy said.
About a month ago, state police investigated when the Jeep hit the mailbox cluster on the opposite side of Meadow Rue Place.
Investigators continued to collect evidence from inside the house late Monday afternoon.
The homicide came just two weeks after Saratoga County’s most recent prior murder case, which also appears to be related to alleged domestic violence.
In that case, Schuylerville High School student Matthew J. Brown, 18, was charged with second-degree murder for allegedly stabbing Derick K. Clark, 32, in the neck during a violent altercation between Clark and 34-year-old Heather Brown, the teen’s mother and Clark’s fiancée, at their home in Schuylerville. A self-defense claim is being made in that case.
Having two murder arrests so close together is unusual in Saratoga County, which has a generally low crime rate and in the past has sometimes gone a full year without a murder taking place.
Maggie Fronk, executive director of Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services in Saratoga Springs, said the county had two homicides each in 2011 and 2012, and all four were domestic-violence-related.
“It’s a primary cause of homicides in the county,” she said.
That fact that police had no history of domestic violence calls to a particular home doesn’t mean violence wasn’t occurring, Fronk noted. “It’s very hidden. We get calls to our hot line saying it’s been going on for 10 years and I’ve never told anyone.”
Anyone in a violent domestic relationship — or concerned about someone who might be — can call a 24-hour hot line at 584-8188, Fronk said.