PENSACOLA, Fla. — The family of Amanda Gonzales, a pregnant soldier from Texas murdered on an Army base 21 years ago, is one step closer to justice after the arrest of a former soldier charged with killing her.
The Justice Department said Shannon L. Wilkerson, 42, was arrested Thursday in northern Florida in connection with the murder of Pfc. Amanda Gonzales, who was killed at a former Army base in Hanau, Germany on Nov. 3, 2001.
Authorities said the 19-year-old from Madisonville, Texas was found strangled to death inside her barracks after failing to report to duty. Gonzales was four months pregnant when she was murdered.
Wilkerson, who was discharged from active duty in 2004, has pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree murder, according to court documents. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.
For Gloria and Michael Bates, it's been grueling to wait for decades on the hope their daughter's killer would finally be caught.
"Once a week I'd get a call, answer it, nothing new, saying it was the same story," Gloria Bates said in an interview with ABC News. "It was like a recording. Every time we come visit her graveside, I tell her I'm not giving up. I am not giving up."
Michael is Amanda's stepfather and has been in her life since she was 4 years old.
The couple, who now live in Dallas, said they brought their plea for justice far and wide over the years including appearances on America's Most Wanted and Dr. Phil.
The Bates said their daughter's case had renewed attention in 2020 after the murder of another young female soldier from Texas – Spc. Vanessa Guillén.
Both said the killings of the two Hispanic women are eerily similar as was the Army's investigation of their murders.
Gloria said she reached out to Vanessa's mother and developed a close relationship since then.
"I told her don’t give up, keep going, you’ve got to be a voice," Gloria Bates said. "Keep your head up, we’re going to do this. You’ve got justice for your daughter, if you can do it, I know we’re going to do it."
Wilkerson's trial is set to begin on March 27.