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Published: Wednesday, 1/6/2010

Defendant in '08 murder enters plea of not guilty

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Willie Washington appears in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on a murder charge in the death of Gordon Wright, whose body was found Feb. 13, 2008, in the attic of a burned-out duplex where Washington was a tenant. Willie Washington appears in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on a murder charge in the death of Gordon Wright, whose body was found Feb. 13, 2008, in the attic of a burned-out duplex where Washington was a tenant.
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After investigating hundreds of homicides in the city of Flint, Mich., the city's retired Police Chief Fay Peek said he couldn't remember any one more vicious than the deaths of two women at the hands of Willie Washington.

More than three decades later, Washington appeared in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to face a murder charge one more time.

Washington, 52, pleaded not guilty to one count of murder yesterday. He is accused of killing Gordon Wright, 24, whose body was found hidden in a third-floor attic of a burned-out duplex on Feb. 13, 2008.

If convicted, Washington faces life in prison. He remains in custody at the Lucas County jail in lieu of a $1 million bond.

Yesterday, Mr. Peek said via a telephone interview that he knew little of the case pending in Lucas County. But it reopened the vivid memories of the deaths of Thelma Cox, 36, and her daughter, Tanya, 18, who were found murdered in their Flint home.

Washington, a former boyfriend of the younger Ms. Cox, was convicted in the killings, Mr. Peek said. But years later, Mr. Peek learned that the double homicide netted Washington just eight years behind bars.

"Today, I'm very mad. He worked out some sort of a deal and entered a plea to two counts of second-degree murder," Mr. Peek said. "That's ridiculous."

Toledo attorney David Klucas, who is representing Washington on the Lucas County charge, said yesterday that he was aware of his client's prior convictions but didn't know any details.

"He's been arraigned and pleaded not guilty, and therefore, he is presumptively innocent," he said.

According to 2008 Toledo police reports, Wright's body likely had been inside the house at least a couple of days before being discovered by firefighters putting out a blaze at 1025 Marmion Ave.

It was later determined that Wright died of blunt-force injuries to the head before the fire was set in the central-city home.

Washington was a second-floor tenant in the duplex at Marmion and Midway Plaisance Street. He fled Toledo shortly afterward.

Police initially interviewed Washington in March, 2008, after he was arrested in Flint, Mich., on an unrelated charge. Since then, items collected from the crime scene were tested, and DNA evidence led to his arrest.

When indicted in November, Washington was incarcerated in New York on a parole violation from a 1996 robbery charge. He was recently extradited back to Ohio.

The victim's family members, who attended the arraignment yesterday, declined to comment.

Mr. Peek said he intends to follow the case through the Lucas County courts.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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