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A Missouri restaurant owner, who once appeared on the Food Network show “Restaurant Impossible,” has been charged in connection with a drug-related homicide in 2017.
Jeffrey McWilliams, 28, is facing charges of second-degree murder, first-degree burglary and armed criminal action for the death of Augustus Roberts, 28, according to a statement from the Columbia Police Department.
McWilliams appeared on the reality television show, which follows Robert Irvine’s attempts to turn around failing restaurants, in July 2019 as Irvine helped the family restaurant McLanks with a makeover, People reports. The restaurant was featured again in an August 2020 spinoff version of the show known as “Restaurant Impossible: Back in Business” that strived to help businesses struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Authorities now believe that before McWilliams made his television appearance on the show, he had helped to carry out a gruesome murder.
Roberts was found “unconscious and not breathing” in his Columbia home on Dec. 11, 2017 after Columbia Police had gotten a call about a suspicious person in the 1900 block of Lasso Circle. He had suffered “significant wounds to his face which were bleeding profusely” and an apparent gunshot wound, according to a probable cause statement obtained by Oxygen.com.
A 24-year-old female resident of the home—who had fled the home in terror before the fatal gunshot—told police that three unknown armed individuals wearing ski masks had broken into the home and demanded money and property, before striking Roberts “multiple times” with the guns in the face in an attempt to gain his cooperation.
The woman ran from the home to get help. She told police she heard a gunshot as she was running away.
She told investigators that Roberts had been involved in drug trafficking and had “large quantities of marijuana and money” at the time of the slaying, court documents stated.
A large amount of marijuana was being stored in a U-Haul parked at the property. Roberts had allegedly told the woman that the U-Haul contained the couple’s “entire life savings.”
Investigators later recovered the stolen U-Haul abandoned at the end of a road in Boone County, according to the probable cause statement. Authorities found several boxes of packaged marijuana and THC vapor pens inside, along with blood and tan paint consistent with spilled paint found in a garage at the scene of the crime.
An officer also discovered a black Ralph Lauren “XXXLT” pullover nearby, covered in paint and Roberts’ blood.
“Because the pullover contained the victim’s blood, it is reasonable to believe the person wearing the pullover was at a minimum present when the victim was murdered, and possibly the person responsible for the murder,” authorities wrote in the probable cause statement.
The case would go unsolved for years until a witness came forward in April 2021, claiming to know who was responsible for the murder. The witness told police that two individuals and a third man he knew as “Jeff,” who had owned the restaurant McLanks, went to the victim’s home with the intention of committing a robbery and one of the men—referred to in the court documents only as “DM”—had shot and killed Roberts.
The witness told police the alleged shooter’s brother had also told him that the trio had gone to do a “million dollar lick and f---ed it up” and said they ended up killing “the white boy” while the girl at the home had gotten away, according to the court documents. He claimed the three suspects later showed up at his home with “about a thousand pound(sic) of marijuana and a bunch of money.”
Investigators did a “tower dump” on a cell phone tower near the murder scene and found that a phone number associated with McWilliams was in the area at the time of the murder. They also found his DNA on the collar of the black pullover left near the abandoned U-Haul, according to the probable cause statement.
McWilliams was arrested and is being held without bail in the Boone County Jail. A court hearing in the case is set for Tuesday.
Sheila Lankford reportedly opened McLanks Family Restaurant along with her children in December of 2017. The restaurant focuses on serving comfort food that had been a staple at their own family dinners for years, according to the restaurant’s website.
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