Even in a case with as many anomalies as Willie Manning’s, the reason for making him a murder suspect in the first place is particularly troubling.*
Four months after students Tiffany Miller and Jon Steckler were murdered, a silver monogrammed huggie (beverage holder) was found by the Starkville Fire Department as they flushed out a hydrant just south of Starkville, Mississippi. The huggie was identified as one that John Wise had reported missing from his car, which had been parked close to where the two students were last seen alive.
The sheriff was working on the theory – for which he admitted there was no evidence – that Wise’s car had been used by the killer to transport the students to the murder scene. The police must therefore have hoped that the discovery of the huggie would lead them to the murderer.
The huggie was found five miles from the house where Willie was living at the time. And that, inexplicably, was enough to bring Willie under suspicion. Although many thousands of people lived closer to the site of the find than Willie did, he became the chief suspect. Thus Willie’s case started, as it was to continue, without logic or fairness.
Nothing was found on the huggie that linked it to Willie; nonetheless, once he was designated chief suspect, Willie continued to be treated as such.
We hope that a court will soon recognize the lack of logic and fairness throughout Willie’s remaining case. It is high time for him to be granted a new trial.