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    Man killed landlord, left her facedown in 'decorative water feature,' tried to pass off 'decades old' journal entry as suicide note

    By Jerry Lambe,

    29 days ago

    James Edward Hicks (Escambia County Sheriff’s Office)

    A 62-year-old man in Florida will likely spend the rest of his days behind bars for killing his landlord as she was trying to have him evicted, strangling the 65-year-old woman to death and leaving her in a “decorative water feature” before attempting to convince authorities that she took her own life.

    An Escambia County jury on Thursday found James Edward Hicks guilty of second-degree murder in the 2022 slaying of Terri Jo Williams, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

    According to a probable cause affidavit from the Pensacola Police Department, officers on Aug. 12, 2022, responded to a call about an adult female — later identified as Williams — facedown in a “shallow 3′ x 3′ decorative water feature” in the front yard of a home in the 3000 block of Aqua Vista Drive. The home is about 190 miles west of Tallahassee, Florida, near the state’s northwest border.

    Emergency medical personnel pronounced Williams dead at the scene.

    A subsequent autopsy determined that Williams’ manner of death was a homicide and her cause of death was asphyxiation. The examination showed that Williams suffered two broken ribs, abrasions on her arms, and bruising on the back of her head. There was no sign of water in her lungs or nasal canal, which ruled out the possibility of drowning as the cause of death.

    Hicks, who subleted a room at Williams’ home for about eight years, told authorities that he came home and found her in the water feature before calling 911. The two initially met when they both worked at Publix grocery store.

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      Police noted that upon their arrival, Hicks “insisted officers look inside (Williams’) car to observe alcohol located on the passenger floorboard and one pill located on her driver’s seat.” The pill was “not readily visible from outside of the vehicle,” police said.

      Investigators soon learned that Williams was in the process of trying to evict Hicks from the home and had been in court earlier that day in connection with her efforts to get him out of the home.

      In an interview with police about a week later, Hicks told police he found evidence that Williams’ death was a suicide.

      “(Hicks) provided a letter claiming to have been in the laundry room two days after (Williams) died,” the affidavit states. “(Hicks) presented the letter as being hand-written by (Williams) containing suicidal statements. When (Hicks) presented the letter only half of the page was present, with the bottom missing as though it was torn off.”

      However, photographs from inside her bedroom on the day of Williams’ death showed the “exact same letter” was found and photographed by police. The photo also showed the full letter and the bottom half of the letter — which was ripped off when Hicks gave it to police — “indicated that the suicide note was several decades old.”

      Williams also kept a journal documenting instances where Hicks had been physically abusive toward her.

      Police said Hicks was “unable to explain” how he could’ve come across the top half of the letter in the laundry room of the home two days after Williams’ death when it was fully intact in her bedroom on the day of her death.

      Just after killing Williams, Hicks sent her a text message asking “Where are you? You OK … text me,” police said.

      After Hicks claimed that Williams was his “best friend” and said they “communicated almost every day,” police reviewed his phone and found only two additional messages between the two.

      Hicks’ sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled . He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

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      The post Man killed landlord, left her facedown in ‘decorative water feature,’ tried to pass off ‘decades old’ journal entry as suicide note first appeared on Law & Crime .

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