Arrest made in 2002 slaying of Georgia family

The News: The Georgia Bureau of Investigations has made an arrest in the 2020 slaying of a family in Turner County.

The Arrest: On Wednesday, 47-year-old Jason Michael Walker, of Pulaski County was arrested and charged with Murder for the deaths of Thomas Wideman, Deborah Wideman, and Melissa Wideman. Walker is also charged with Feticide for causing the death of Melissa Wideman’s unborn child. According to the GBI, the child was determined to be Walker’s biological child. Walker was also charged with Aggravated Assault, and Arson in the First Degree.

Walker was booked into the Turner County Jail.

The Crime: On Friday, March 22, 2002, the GBI Region 13 Perry Office was asked by the Turner County Sheriff’s Office to assist in the death investigations of 51-year-old Thomas Joseph Wideman, his wife 48-year-old Deborah Wheeler Wideman, and their daughter 20-year-old Melissa Wideman.

Melissa Wideman was 8 and a half months pregnant at the time of her death. In the early morning hours of March 22, the Turner County Fire Department and Sheriff’s Office responded to a house fire at a home on Highway 112 East in the city of Rebecca. The fire was reported by a truck driver passing by the residence. Inside the residence, fire personnel discovered the three bodies, as well as the body of Melissa Wideman’s unborn child.

The GBI Medical Examiner’s Office performed autopsies on the bodies and revealed that the three adults had been shot and died prior to the fire. 

The Investigation: During the initial investigation, numerous investigative acts were conducted, evidence collected and processed, evidence analyzed at the crime lab, and numerous interviews were conducted until all leads were exhausted. This initial investigation developed possible suspects in the deaths; however, no one was charged at that time.

On December 9, 2014, the case was reassigned. The new GBI case agent and a Turner County investigator reviewed the original evidence and reinterviewed numerous witnesses.

New Evidence: While the case was actively being investigated, a new witness contacted law enforcement. The witness identified a white male leaving the scene of the Wideman residence during the time frame in which the killings occurred. This new information corroborated the evidence obtained during the initial investigation and the follow-up investigation conducted by the GBI and Turner County Sheriff’s Office.

This new information was presented to Tifton Judicial Circuit District Attorney Paul Bowden. Upon review of the case, Bowden determined the case should be presented to a Turner County Grand Jury.

The Turner County Grand Jury met on December 1, 2020. The GBI appeared before the Grand Jury and presented the evidence in this case, which was developed since the murders were discovered. The Grand Jury returned a True Bill on the Indictment, charging Jason Michael Walker.   

This case has been turned over to the Tifton Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. Anyone with information related to the charges against Walker is encouraged to contact the GBI Region 13 Office at 478-987-4545, the Turner County Sheriff’s Office at 229-567-2401, or the Tifton Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office at 229-386-7900.

Tips can also be submitted by calling 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online, or by downloading the See Something, Send Something mobile app.

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