Crime

Prosecutors claimed lack of evidence that Bradenton woman had stabbed boyfriend. Now he’s dead

911 call after Anthony Wilson was stabbed to death

A woman called to tell police that Anthony Wilson was stabbed and lying in an apartment in Bradenton.
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A woman called to tell police that Anthony Wilson was stabbed and lying in an apartment in Bradenton.

When Anthony Wilson called police on March 18 to report his girlfriend Roberta McDonald had put a knife to his neck and told him, “I’m going to kill you,” he showed the officer four wounds from previous instances when she had stabbed him.

The Bradenton police officer who later arrested McDonald thought the wounds were all consistent with his accounts.

But when the case was reviewed by the state attorney’s office, prosecutors decided there was a “lack of corroborating witnesses or other evidence” to file formal charges. The case was dismissed, and McDonald was released from the Manatee County jail on April 24.

Less than four months later, Wilson is dead.

McDonald, who is claiming self-defense, was arrested a few hours after police found Wilson dead inside his apartment from multiple stab wounds. She is charged with second-degree murder and is being held at the Manatee County jail on a $300,000 bond.

“There were no witnesses to any of these altercations,” Assistant State Attorney Rick Filkins wrote in an action memo about the case in March.

The decision on whether to file formal charges must be approved by a prosecutor’s supervisor, the division chief, at the state attorney’s office, in this case Assistant State Attorney Cynthia Evers. Some cases are discussed during a weekly meeting of all the chiefs with State Attorney Ed Brodsky.

Despite the decision by the state attorney’s office, Filkins wrote in the note that Wilson had “presented injuries to law enforcement that were consistent with knife attacks that had healed over. The victim delayed reporting the attacks until March 2019 because he was afraid it might compromise his employment as a mail carrier.”

But the couple lived together in a relationship he described as “friends with benefits,” the memo pointed out, and the assaults occurred over a period of about three months while they were drinking alcohol and smoking crack.

“When interviewed by law enforcement, the defendant stated she did argue with the victim on occasion but she never used a weapon against him. She said the victim was jumped by unknown assailants while walking to work on one occasion and that is how he was injured,” Filkins wrote in the note.

Anytime there is news of a domestic-related homicide, HOPE Family Services Executive Director Laurel Lynch and her team always check to see if they had any interactions with the victim.

“Domestic violence still happens behind closed doors between two people. It boils down to he said, she said,” Lynch said. “Regardless of gender, gender of the perpetrator or gender of the victim, these cases are in fact very difficult to prove.”

But Lynch believes strongly that domestic-related homicides are completely preventable.

“This is something that we as a society could do a better job talking about and preventing, regardless of gender,” she said. “It’s tragic.”

Victims of domestic violence are more often women, but it still happens to men, she explained. One thing that struck her about this case was the use of crack cocaine, she said, which itself makes people really violent toward others, not just their intimate partners.

Lynch encourages anyone who is unsure about their own situation, to call HOPE so that they can help create a safety plan with that person or even a lethality assessment.

“Most batterers are just bullies, but there is a percentage that are homicidal and capable of killing you,” Lynch said.

Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence can call HOPE Family Services 24-hour help line at 941-755-6805. A live chat feature is now also available on their website, hopefamilyservice.org.

Jessica De Leon has been covering crime, courts and law enforcement for the Bradenton Herald since 2013. She has won numerous awards for her coverage including the Florida Press Club’s Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting in 2016 for her coverage into the death of 11-year-old Janiya Thomas.
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