Archive for Thursday, May 2, 1996


May 2, 1996


A Davenport, Iowa, man is upset at the way local authorities handled remains believed to be those of his son.

The father of a man believed to have been murdered and thrown in a pond was angered to learn Wednesday that authorities left the victim's remains underwater for 14 months before recovering them.

"That's not right," said Donald Shipley, whose son, David, was named this week as the victim of a Jefferson County homicide. "I mean, would they have done it if it was theirs? It seems like if they've got a murder they should go after it and not let it lay for 14 months."

Skeletal remains believed to be those of David Lee Shipley, Davenport, Iowa, were discovered last Thursday in a secluded farm pond in southeast Jefferson County.

Michael Dean Wilkins, 25, 2500 W. Sixth, has been charged with first-degree murder in Shipley's death. During a first appearance Wednesday in Jefferson County District Court, a preliminary hearing was set for May 10 for Wilkins.

At a press conference after the appearance, Jefferson County Atty. Dan Owen said authorities had known for more than a year that the remains were in the pond.

But the body went unrecovered as investigators worked to identify suspects and file charges in David Shipley's death. Owen said authorities tried to strike a balance between the need for gathering enough evidence vs. pulling the body from a pond for proper burial and family notification.

"It's a real difficult balance," he said. "You want to bring closure to this with the family ... against the need to get all the evidence in. You need enough to prove a case in court."

Owen has said that authorities kept the whereabouts a tight secret so David Shipley's killer or killers would not suspect the law was closing in.

That explanation didn't soothe Donald Shipley.

"I am ticked," he said. "The information I've got is that the water had gone down and animals had eaten it. I don't want to think about it."

Donald Shipley, a Davenport resident who reported his son missing in June 1993, said Kansas authorities had contacted him several times about his son but never told him David Shipley's remains were in the pond.

He said officials notified him Monday that remains had been discovered last Thursday. Donald Shipley was asked to provide a blood sample for DNA testing to positively identify the remains.

"Why would it take them 14 months to get the body out of there?" he asked.

A complaint filed against Wilkins alleges that the murder occurred in July or August 1993.

Owen has declined to release such details as the cause of death, motive or what relationship David Shipley and Wilkins might have had.

Wilkins, listed as a construction worker on jail records, was accused in 1991 of conspiring with a reputed Ku Klux Klan member to spray-paint "KKK RUL" at the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art at Kansas University.

However, Owen said the killing was not a hate crime. David Shipley, who was working as an exotic dancer when he was reported missing, was white.

Wilkins remained in the Jefferson County Jail without bond on Wednesday night.

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