Most of my neighbors are elderly. I say are as they are all still living. Behind me is Mrs. Johnson who is now 93, next door is Mr. Dudley who is now 95. The rest of the hood is populated by crazy folks, lesbians and a now deceased certain infamous retired lady wrestler.
Me as Red Cross Worker.
Shortly after I moved into my house in March of 2004, 6 months to be exact in September, the town was hit by dozens of hurricanes. Ivan was the most devastating storm and a strong category 3 with winds clocked at 130 miles per hour. Needless to say I stayed put in my old house and commenced to get drunk and have a party.
Before the storm.
The next day I went outside to survey the damage, I lost a few shingles on a 30 year old roof and the top of a huge magnolia tree. I look next door and Mr. Dudley is scrambling up on his roof with a hammer and starts nailing his shingles back in place. I asked if he needed any help? Mr. Dudley said, “Nope I got it but thanks for asking”. So I get out my old pick-up truck and hook a chain around the fallen magnolia limb and start to drag it to the street. I wasn’t getting anywhere. Mr. Dudley appeared with an axe and started swinging. It didn’t take him 20 minutes to chop that thing into bits and we carried the now smaller pieces to the street.
After the storm.
The next month in October, Willie J. Junior an Escambia County Commissioner was indicted for a corruption scandal involving a real estate deal with felony bribery and money laundering charges. Junior went missing on November 9, 2004, the day before he was to be sentenced. Many assumed he had fled town to avoid imprisonment.
Willie J. Junior.
On December 9th, I was outside showing a friend around the place and we both waved to Mr. Dudley then walked around the corner to have dinner. When we arrived back home, the whole of Mr. Dudley’s property was wrapped in official yellow police tape and numerous officers were questioning the elderly gentleman. I walked over to ask what was the issue and Mr. Dudley said, “Well, they found a dead body under my house”.
The scene of the crime.
I was shocked! My mind was racing with possibilities; Was Mr. Dudley capable of murdering a person and then stuffing the body under a house? I immediately thought of the axe incident. Yes, yes he was. Would Mr. Dudley have done such a thing? No, I don’t think a 90 year old man who drives himself to church and sings in the choir would do such a thing. My next thought was, who could it be under the house? There had been much talk about a missing person in the news...who was it again? What was his name? It’s Willie Junior! That’s what I concluded on the spot. The infamous missing city councilman of the “Where's Willie” campaign.
"On December 9, Junior's decomposed body was discovered under the home of Ben Dudley, a former employee of the Junior Funeral Home, after one of Dudley's neighbors complained of an odor. He had $60.76 in his pockets, and Heineken beer bottles and an empty pill container were discovered nearby. Dental records confirmed Junior's identity the next day. Pensacola Police Department Chief John Mathis told reporters, "The results of the autopsy revealed that there were no obvious signs of foul play." It was later determined Junior died from ingesting anti-freeze, and the death was ruled a suicide."
Close-up of the crawl space where Willie J. Junior's body was found. Incidentally this is the view outside of my dining room window.
So they knew one another and in fact Mr. Dudley had worked for Willie Junior.
"The owner of the home, a retired schoolteacher named Benjamin Dudley, had known Junior for decades and used to work for his funeral home.
Police Chief John W. Mathis said the 89-year-old Dudley had nothing to do with Junior's death. No suicide note was found, but investigators believe Junior killed himself.
Dudley agrees. "I look at it from this standpoint: When you have problems, problems mounted on top of problems, you might do anything," he said. "Only Mr. Junior and the good master know what happened, and we can't get in touch with either one."
Two days after Junior was found, more than 250 people met on Dudley's lawn for a memorial service. As community leaders praised Junior's life, people in the crowd whispered conspiracy theories. Maybe it wasn't suicide, they said, maybe it was murder. Junior seemed happier in recent months, some observed. The day he disappeared, he got a haircut."
"How many people you know go get a haircut, then go lay down and die?" said Charmane Jordan, of the Me & Mom's Family Hair Care Center who cut Junior's hair on the day he was last seen alive. "Willie Junior was the type that every time you saw him, he was dressed up. Willie ain't going up under no house like a dog."
It still remains a mystery to this day what exactly happened and how. Needless to say I am very friendly with Mr. Dudley the man who said to me upon meeting him for the first time, “You sure picked a nice quiet neighborhood to move into” to which I replied, “Yes sir and I’ll try to keep it that way for you”.