Willie Lee Shannon, an aging former professional boxer and former Ellenton resident, was sentenced to 15 years in Nevada state prison in a long-unsolved case stemming from the ransom kidnapping, rape and murder of a neighbor, an 18-year-old high school cheerleader, in 1981.
Shannon, now 64, said nothing during his sentencing Thursday in a courtroom full of family members and supporters wearing yellow "Justice 4 Jamey" T-shirts to honor victim Jamey Walker.
Shannon, who was arrested in December 2010 in Manatee County where he lived for about five years, pleaded an equivalent of no contest in January to second-degree murder in a plea that avoided trial. His so-called Alford plea didn't admit guilt, but conceded that prosecutors could prove their case.
Prosecutors said it would have been difficult to win a first-degree murder conviction in a 35-year-old case.
Authorities have alleged that Shannon had co-conspirators in the kidnapping and slaying, but no other arrests have been made.
Police said Shannon was linked by underwear DNA evidence to the slaying, but testing wasn't done until shortly before his arrest in 2010 while he was in a Florida prison on an unrelated murder charge.
Shannon had a troubled childhood in Florida, and he served a previous prison stint there as a teenager after he was convicted of robbery. He was freed in his 20s and began his boxing career.
He debuted as a professional in 1977 and fought as a heavyweight under the moniker Willie "The Cannon" Shannon. Most of his fights were in Florida, Portland, Oregon, and Las Vegas. He won a Nevada cruiserweight championship in 1979.
In Las Vegas, Shannon was a neighbor to Walker family — including nightclub owner James Walker and former Las Vegas NAACP President Eleanor Walker — when Jamey Walker was kidnapped on May 9, 1981. Her grandmother, Sarann Knight Preddy, ran unsuccessfully for Las Vegas City Council in 1979.
Police said the teen's father received a demand to pay $75,000, but he couldn't immediately fetch the cash on a weekend. Jamey Walker's body was found the next day, Mother's Day 1981, beneath a 50-foot high bridge at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. An autopsy determined she had been raped.
Shannon was convicted in a separate case in July 1985 of kidnapping and beating a woman he was dating in 1983. He served 13 years in state prison in that case.