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Florida Man Allegedly Killed Roommate With Air Rifle, Left Body In Living Room For Hours
Police say Jesse Franklin Hill opened fire on his roommate, Ernie Wilburn with a high-velocity air rifle because he was “annoyed."
A Florida man has been apprehended by authorities in the killing of his roommate, whom he allegedly shot and killed with a high-powered pellet gun more than two months ago.
Jesse Franklin Hill, 42, was arrested on Friday in the fatal May shooting of his then-roommate, Ernie Wilburn, WKMG-TV reported.
Authorities received a report of a dead body in Hill’s home in unincorporated Lake County around 10:00 a.m. on May 4, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com. The victim, later identified as Wilburn, was found deceased underneath a sheet and couch cushions inside the dwelling.
Hill initially claimed that he’d found Wilburn's corpse when he woke up that morning, shortly before calling the police.
Officials, however, allege Hill first made the gruesome discovery at roughly 7:00 a.m. when a third person came by the house and told him there was a dead body in the living room. Hill allegedly then “spent several hours attempting to formulate an explanation for the remains within the residence," per the case's probable cause affidavit.
Detectives observed evidence indicating Hill had made various attempts to “conceal and attempt to cover up” the 44-year-old man’s slaying, charging documents stated. Witnesses also disclosed to detectives that Hill made statements about burying Wilburn’s body behind his residence in the woods before the police were called.
An autopsy found a .22 caliber pellet-like projectile in one of Wilburn’s lungs, Daytona Beach television station WESH reported. His death was ruled a homicide due to a gunshot wound, according to an autopsy, and investigators stated they "believed that the victim suffered for an extended period of time prior to his death."
They also believe Wilburn's body had been moved before their arrival, citing witness statements and a pool of blood elsewhere in the room.
Authorities say they suspect the shooting unfolded after Hill allegedly locked Wilburn out of the house they shared. Wilburn, who didn’t have a key, was then shot by Hill with a .22 caliber Ruger high-velocity air rifle as the two argued in and outside the property.
According to a separate arrest affidavit, Hill allegedly “shot [Wilburn] to get him to go away.”
“He shot him because he was annoyed,” Lake County Sheriff's Office Lt. John Herrell told WESH. “At that point, Jesse Hill shot him with a high-powered air rifle and that injury turned out to be fatal.”
Under police questioning, Hill claimed he didn’t know an air rifle could kill someone.
"He didn't expect that air rifle to kill him,” Herrell added. “He should have known. He should have known it was a very dangerous weapon because he'd been recently warned by his landlord not to be shooting it into the home because it went through several walls.”
Shortly after Wilburn’s death, Hill — who authorities described as a “transient" — vanished before law enforcement could arrest him. Before going off the grid, Hill told friends he was a “homicide suspect,” charging documents allege.
Hill was taken into police custody on July 8. He was charged with second-degree manslaughter and evidence tampering.
Hill is being held at a Lake County detention facility without bond, according to online jail records obtained by Oxygen.com. His next court date has been set for Aug. 1 at 12:00 p.m.
He has past arrests in Lake County for burglary and arson, according to authorities.