It was the most celebrated murder case in Clark County history. Before Turman and Utah Wilson went to their deaths on the gallows at Walla Walla a few minutes after midnight Jan. 3, 1953, the two brothers from Camas had their executions post-poned more than any other condemned men in state history.
The case received national publicity and finally even involved Earle Stanley Garner, author of the Perry Mason courtroom dramas, and his famous “Court of Last Resort.”
The Wilsons, members of a family who lived near Lacamas Lake north of Camas, had been convicted in June 1950 of first degree murder and kidnap in connection with the slaying of Jo Ann Dewey, a Battle Ground teen-ager. The jury was out seven hours before stipulating the death penalty.
The brothers were accused of abducting Dewey from a street near the old St. Joseph Hospital on March 19,1950, and carrying her off in an automobile. The victim’s nude body was found a week later in the Wind River north of Carson. An autopsy disclosed she had died of carbon monoxide poisoning and had been badly beaten.
Evidence against the Wilsons was mostly circumstantial, with the exception of a beer bottle with Utah’s fingerprints allegedly found at the scene of the kidnapping. The brothers maintained their innocence throughout the trial and during the years before their executions, saying they were in a Portland theater at the time of the crime.
When they went to their deaths, Turman was 26, Utah just 22 years of age.
The bodies of the two brothers were returned to Camas and they are buried in the cemetery overlooking the city. A group which has insisted the two young men were innocent had asked permission to erect a monument with the words: “Here lie two innocent boys, victims of society.”
The request was denied by the cemetery board.