A Sarasota man is charged with strangling his girlfriend and then hanging her body to make it look like a suicide, according to the Sarasota Police Department.
Brian Wilson, 47, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Jennifer Copeland, 43, according to an arrest report. He is being held without bond at the Hendry County jail where he had been held on unrelated DUI charges.
Sarasota police discovered Copeland’s death after responding to reports of a possible burglary in progress at 2:30 a.m. Saturday in the 1100 block of Patterson Drive in Sarasota. The resident, Copeland’s mother, told police she found a tear in the screen near a door knob and glass slate removed, and was afraid someone had broken in.
When officers searched the home they didn’t find any intruders, but when they check a detached garage they found Copeland hanging by the neck from a rope that was tied to the exposed trusses of the garage, the report states. She was pronounced dead by paramedics.
The mother told police she had last seen her daughter with Wilson between 9 and 11 p.m. Nov. 27. Early Friday afternoon, the mother said Wilson had showed her a hangman’s noose hanging from the garage rafters and she had asked him to take it down.
Soon after detectives and the medical examiner noticed something peculiar suspicious about the way the noose was tied.
On Monday, two witnesses told law enforcement what Wilson had admitting to strangling Copeland and staged a suicide, according to the report. They said Wilson had called them at 11:04 p.m. Friday and said he needed a ride, asking to be picked up near his girlfriend’s house. Wilson reportedly asked them to bring gasoline.
The two witnesses drove to pick him up and found him standing outside on the curb in front of Copeland’s house.
“I need the gas to burn down the house because I just killed somebody,” Wilson said, according to report.
They said Wilson explained how he strangled her but that she took long to die, adding that “she just wouldn’t shut the (expletive) up so I had to shut her up.”
He had planned to kill her mother also, but decided she didn’t deserve to die.
The two witnesses and Wilson got into the car and drove off to where one of the witnesses’ car was, the report states. They then drove behind one another to Wilson’s former roommate’s house. Wilson told one of them on the way that he needed to get his passport and a check from his parents’ house, and that he intended to steal his former roommate’s truck.
A third witness told police he had gotten a call from Wilson at about 10:05 p.m. Nov. 27 and that he was very irate and asked for a ride. Wilson reportedly said, “I killed her,” and then hung up after he was refused a ride.
A fourth witness told police that he gotten a call from Wilson early on Saturday, saying he had just seen his girlfriend commit suicide and that he was heading to Atlanta to disappear.
Wilson was arrested at about 2:50 a.m Saturday in Hendry County on an unrelated DUI charge. At the time, Wilson is reported to have been driving his former roommate’s car which had been reported stolen to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. Police say the investigation remains ongoing.
Anyone with information on the case can call Sarasota Police Detective Dan Riley at 941-954-7062 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling 941-366-TIPS (8477) or online at www.sarasotacrimestoppers.com.