Man once on death row in Texas pleads guilty to keeping a sex sl - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Man once on death row in Texas pleads guilty to keeping a sex slave

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Claude Wilkerson Claude Wilkerson

A plea deal is reached in the case of a Colorado man accused of keeping a homeless woman chained in his basement and treating her as a sex slave over the course of several months in Gateway, about an hour southwest of Grand Junction.
Claude Lee Wilkerson pleaded guilty on Tuesday to counts of second-degree assault and false imprisonment. The deal calls for six years in prison and three years on parole.

Wilkerson was arrested in February 2016 after sheriff's deputies visited his home and found a woman who asked officers to arrest her on an outstanding warrant.
This wasn't Wilkerson's first run in with the law. In 1983, Wilkerson spent time on death row in Texas. How Wilkerson got off of death row is explained by the former defense attorney of Claude Wilkerson, and a former Houston police officer who investigated his capital murder case, went into detail on about how he was able to get his death row case dismissed.

The Murders

Earl Musick, the former HPD officer, described the murder case -- in which three people were killed in January 1977 during a botched robbery at a jewelry store, where Wilkerson once worked.

Musick said Wilkerson had planned the robbery.

"They held them hostage, taped them up, put duct tape over their eyes with tissue so they couldn't see. They took them form the jewelry store ... and they took about $200,000 worth of jewelry," Musick said. "What was planned was the robbery of the jewelry store. Claude was not going to be -- he was on the outside, kind of planning it."

Musick said three others were doing the robbery.

"Once they got them taped and everything, then Claude came in. Don Fantich recognized Claude's voice," he said. "Fantich said, 'Claude, I know that's you.' And because he had recognized the voice, they all get together and decide that they have to dispose of them."

The Confession

Musick said he had gotten to know Wilkerson over the years.

When Wilkerson saw Musick at the police station, he told the police captain he would be willing to describe the robbery to Musick.

"I know Earl Musick. Ask Earl to come in here and I'll tell him what happened," Musick recalled Wilkerson saying. "So, Claude basically got me to come in and from there we did a confession and all of that."

But Musick said Wilkerson only confessed to a part of the crime.

"He confessed to being part of the abduction, but claimed not to know that they were murdered," Musick said.

That confession was enough to help prosecutors convict Wilkerson of murder in 1978. He was sentenced to death and spent four years on death row before his case was dismissed because of the way the confession was given.

Wilkerson had invoked his right to an attorney during the interrogation, prior to the confession, but Musick said he unknowingly continued to interrogate him after a period of time after not hearing from the lawyer.

That violated a Supreme Court decision, said Stanley Schneider, Wilkerson's attorney at the time.

"They reinitiated interrogation after he asked for lawyer," Schneider said. "Once you stop that interrogation, you can't go back and reinitiate."

A federal court agreed and ruled that the confession was inadmissable, as was "the existence of accomplices, the bodies of the victims, the murder weapons and the stolen jewelry. 

Wilkerson was freed on bond in 1983 and moved to Colorado four years later.

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