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Teens charged with murder admit killing missing Waco man: Affidavit

Suspects say decided to 'put him out of his misery'
Teens arrested for murder of missing Waco man
Posted at 3:19 PM, Jan 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-10 15:55:32-05

WACO, Texas — Two teens arrested and charged last week in connection with the shooting death of a missing Waco man confessed to the killing and decided to "put him out of his misery," according to an arrest affidavit.

The documents, obtained by 25 News, shed new light on how 59-year-old Stanley Wilcox spent his final moments, according to the suspects’ own confessions.

Waco police said James Keylan Willis, 18, and Brandon Xavier Stephens, 19, killed Wilcox on or around Dec. 23.

The teens said they got into an altercation with Wilcox and shot him. Toward the end of the struggle with the wounded man, both said they decided to "put him out of his misery," according to the affidavit.

Stanley Wilcox (left)

Wilcox was first reported missing to police six days later, but investigators said the following day a homeless woman turned in a cell phone, belonging to the missing man, at a convenience store.

Witnesses told police that Wilcox had not been to a gym he frequented in over 10 days prior, which was "highly uncharacteristic even despite the Christmas holiday."

When investigators arrived at Wilcox's home in the 800 block of Garrett Ave., they found Willis, Stephens and a 17-year-old girl living there.

Brandon Stephens
Brandon Stephens, 19, was arrested and charged on Jan. 6 with felony murder and tampering with evidence (body). He's being held on bonds totaling $1.5 million.

The teens told police Wilcox left the home on Christmas Eve without taking his car or possessions. Inside, officers said they "observed several suspicious circumstances."

The trio told police items taken out of the missing man's 2021 Ford Escape were moved to make room for camping equipment.

James Willis
James Willis, 18, was arrested and charged on Jan. 6 with felony murder and tampering with evidence (body). Willis is being held on bonds totaling $1.5 million.

A subsequent search warrant found a large amount of blood in the trunk of the vehicle, which appeared to have been cleaned.

Detectives spoke to Willis and Stephens a week later, when both admitted to shooting Wilcox to death and dumping his body near Baylor.

The third teen connected to the case, whom 25 News chose not to identify because they are a minor and not charged with murder, led investigators the same day on Jan. 6 to the man's body located in a creek.

Stanley Wilcox
Stanley Wilcox, 59, was first reported missing to police on Dec. 29. A week later, authorities say they found his body near Baylor's campus after two teens confessed to shooting him to death.

Waco police said she is charged as an adult and faces felony charges for failing to report the murder.

Still, it's the details missing in the affidavit that are most glaring.

The documents do not disclose the relationship Wilcox had with the teens, or why they were living in his home.

Wilcox's family shared a statement with 25 News on Monday:

"He was kind and compassionate and very giving. He always wanted to make people smile and was voted most fun to be around by his classmates in high school. We don’t want him remembered by the way that he died but rather as a loving son, brother, uncle, cousin, nephew and friend."

Paul Tran, a neighbor of Wilcox, said he did not know the victim well, but did have a strange interaction with Willis around the time Wilcox was killed.

"He asked if I knew anyone who was hiring. I told him my company was hiring and told him he could give me his contact information," he said. "He started to write down his telephone number and says...'No, actually I forgot the rest of my number,' and gave me his email."

Both Willis and Stephens face felony charges for murder and disposing of a body and have bonds totaling $1.5 million each.