Macon widow pleads for tips in husband's slaying
Jeanie Hudson remembers the last time she saw her husband.
Three days before Christmas, just before 9 a.m., he dropped her off to work at Family Dollar.
"Pick you up at 6, baby," Wiley Hudson said before driving off in his in-laws' Xterra.
He didn't even get three miles down the road before someone shot him in the head as he was parked on a dirt road with the engine running.
Around noon that day, a Bibb County sheriff's deputy came to the Shurling Drive store where Jeanie Hudson was assistant manager. She had been called in early because someone shot out the front window the night before.
She was already on edge, because her husband hadn't shown up for work at 10 a.m. when he was supposed to be stocking shelves before the Christmas rush at a nearby Family Dollar that's closer to Millerfield Road.
Hudson overheard the deputy's cell phone conversation about an Xterra, but he wouldn't tell her why he was asking about the vehicle.
After a visit from Coroner Leon Jones, she realized the deputy was trying to identify the man in a Family Dollar shirt who was found dead behind the wheel of the SUV in a desolate stretch of Lakeshore Drive, off Recreation Road in east Bibb County.
Someone had tried to set the car on fire, but the rag sticking out of the gas tank had burned out.
A dozen weeks later, she knows little more than she did then, except that her husband's killer is still on the loose.
"To everybody else he may be old news, but not to me," said Hudson, who has since lost her job.
Last week, investigators shared with her surveillance video clips from cameras near the murder scene.
The Bibb County Sheriff's Office denied The Telegraph's request for a copy of the footage, citing the ongoing investigation.
Hudson is frustrated that no one has come forward with any information that could lead to the arrest of the gunman, even with up to a $10,000 reward offered by the Georgia Arson Hotline.
She's seen the footage of a figure in a dark hoodie, dark pants and white gym shoes walking toward the spot where Hudson had parked, likely to pass the hour by playing video games on his phone.
There wasn't enough time to go back home to south Macon, and he was hooked on a new game, "Injustice: Gods Among Us."
She suspects that sheriff's investigators have even more detailed video clips that they have been keeping from her.
Investigators told her the gunman, who looked to be in his late teens or early 20s, tapped the driver's side window with the gun barrel.
About the same time, a tree fell nearby.
If the gunman was startled and fired the fatal shot accidentally, she could forgive him, but how could someone try to burn up his body, she asked.
Cameras also recorded a car driving toward the murder scene and later driving away, she said, but the sheriff's office declined The Telegraph's request to interview an investigator about the case.
"My baby's been dead three months and I've been going through hell," Hudson said.
PREMONITION OF DEATH
If the case was one of robbery, the gunman didn't get anything, she said.
There was still $4 in Hudson's wallet, along with credit cards, and he had three rings on his fingers that had been busily working the game on his "Obama phone," as she called it.
The man who loved dressing up at the sci-fi and fantasy convention Dragon Con found that secluded spot in his days as a contractor for Cox Communications, his wife said.
Although a sign warns of video surveillance to combat illegal dumping, the circular road was blocked recently by a couch and other debris on the backside of Lakeview Apartments.
Nearly five years before Hudson's death, he had photographed a coyote in the same spot, an eerie coincidence for a man who didn't fear death and associated himself with the "Wile E. Coyote" of Roadrunner fame.
The artistic loner, who enjoyed making butterflies for his wife and sculpting figures from animal bones, had a premonition that he would not live to see old age.
"He always said he wouldn't live past 36," said Jeanie Hudson, who buried him at age 43.
Investigators recovered a methamphetamine pipe in the car, which shocked his mother-in-law, Raycille Jacks.
Jeanie Hudson said she scoured their financial records and found no evidence that he had a drug problem that might siphon off their limited funds.
"He had no business doing that," Hudson said. "I still don't feel like he could just get thrown to the curb."
They are both frustrated that the sheriff's office has not released information that might lead to an arrest.
"The detectives have been too damn secretive, if you ask me," said Jacks, who also fears for her family's safety. "This fool could know where we live and come by in a drive-by."
When a server at Ole Country Buffet was shot in a robbery off Gray Highway five days after her son-in-law's death, Jacks thought the crimes could be related.
In a review of that restaurant video, which the sheriff's office released to the media about three weeks after the shooting, they noticed one of the two suspects looked just like the man in the Lakeshore video, believed to be the gunman who killed Hudson.
"When they do catch this person, I just feel bad for what his parents will go through because somebody does love him," Jacks said.
She wonders why the sheriff's office won't release images of her car, either, the Xterra that has been described as a cross between maroon and brownish copper.
"Somebody might have seen it," she said.
As Jeanie Hudson struggles to get on with her life, she appeals to the killer.
"I just need to know why," she said. "You just don't know what you took."
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303 and follow her on Twitter@liz_lines.