ELLENTON -- By all accounts, Willie Lee Shannon was a perfect neighbor.
Courteous. Friendly. Hard-working.
That’s why a sentiment of disbelief prevailed Tuesday night among Shannon’s neighbors on 82nd Avenue West when they heard he had been arrested in connection with a 1981 Las Vegas homicide.
“Willie’s a great guy, hard-working,” said one neighbor who wished not to be identified. “He’s been a good neighbor, better than most.
“I’d loan him my lawnmower and he’d bring it back filled with gas.”
Tammy Daley has lived in the neighborhood for five years, just a few doors down from Shannon’s house.
“That’s shocking,” she said. “I’ve never really met him, but he’s always waved when I saw him and I would wave back.”
Shannon, 60, was arrested Tuesday and booked into Manatee County jail on charges of murder, kidnapping and sexual assault related to the 29-year-old case, according to the sheriff’s department.
DNA evidence led to Shannon’s arrest in the death of 18-year-old Jamey Walker. On Nov. 3, forensic scientists found semen on Walker’s underwear containing Shannon’s DNA.
Deputies arrested Shannon without incident in Parrish after learning last week that Las Vegas detectives had obtained an arrest warrant and were on their way to Manatee County.
Las Vegas Metro Police Department officials would not say when Shannon would be extradited and declined further comment Tuesday. They are set to hold a news conference this morning to discuss the arrest.
According to a criminal complaint filed Nov. 30, Walker’s father, James, received a phone call on May 9, 1981, demanding $75,000 in exchange for his daughter.
The body of Jamey Walker was found the next day under a bridge in Lake Mead National park in Nevada, an approximate 30-minute drive from Las Vegas.
In an online story Tuesday, the Las Vegas Sun reported Shannon denied involvement during questioning in the days following the discovery of Walker’s body, and that fingerprints at the scene didn’t match Shannon’s on file at the time with Las Vegas police.
‘He was a good guy’
T.J. Milewski, 15, a student at Manatee County School of the Arts, and his parents live across the street.
“I just talked to him the other day,” said Milewski, who added Shannon has lived at the home for about three to four years. “He was taking the trash out and I just offered to take it to the curb for him. He said, ‘Thank you.’
“He was a good guy.”
Milewski also said Shannon worked for a local landscaper.
A woman at what neighbors said was Shannon’s home declined comment at around 5:30 p.m. as several vehicles were arriving at the home.
The woman said she believed them to be relatives of Shannon; she then asked a Herald reporter to leave the property.
More details on the case
Before the ransom call on May 9, 1981, ended, Jamey Walker allegedly got on the phone.
“Daddy, they are not kidding,” she said. The caller instructed her father not to call the police because the family was being watched, according to the warrant.
Family members went to the house where Jamey Walker lived with her mother, Eleanor, who was separated from James Walker, and found a back door ajar. Items also were knocked over in Jamey Walker’s room, the arrest warrant alleges.
When detectives interviewed Eleanor Walker, she identified Shannon as someone who might want to kidnap her daughter because he lived in the neighborhood, according to the arrest report.
James Walker received two more calls May 9, 1981: one from a male caller who asked whether he had gathered the money and another from Jamey Walker, who said she was OK. The kidnappers then got on the phone and told him they would release his daughter the next morning because they had intended to kidnap Eleanor Walker’s boyfriend, not Jamey, the warrant states.
The next day -- May 10, 1981 -- U.S. Marine Corps sergeants reported to the National Park Service that while conducting military exercises they found a woman’s body under a bridge in the Lake Mead National Recreation area. The person believed to be about 20 years old was identified as Jamey Walker, who appeared to have been thrown from the 47-foot bridge, according to the warrant.
Shannon was questioned by police days after Walker’s body was discovered. He denied being involved in her kidnapping, saying he had been training for boxing at the time she disappeared, according to the warrant.
Shannon told detectives he heard that Eleanor Walker’s boyfriend had “burned” someone on a drug deal, but the Walker family denied being involved with narcotics, according to the warrant.
In 1990, a former inmate claimed that Shannon admitted to the slaying while in prison. The former inmate said Shannon allegedly had never received payment from the Walkers for a heroin sale, according to the warrant.
Detectives believe Shannon’s statement to police in 1981 about Eleanor Walker’s boyfriend burning someone on a drug deal indicates he was the person burned, the warrant alleges.
-- The Las Vegas Sun contributed portions of this report.