HOLMBERG: Slippery career criminal charged in 1994 Henrico murder mystery

Posted at 11:05 AM, Oct 23, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-24 07:09:44-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) - Henrico County cold case investigators have made an arrest in a 1994 murder case that has seen a number of suspects and a false confession over the past 19 years.

Lonnie R. Wiseman, a 45-year-old career criminal and escapee already serving a long prison sentence in Iowa, was indicted based on old DNA evidence matched with backtracking previous interviews and other evidence.

“Several Henrico Detectives, including some that have retired, a Henrico AFIS (forensics) Examiner, and law enforcement officials from Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas, Idaho, and Iowa assisted in the development of Mr. Wiseman as a suspect,” Henrico Police wrote in a media advisory. “Their research, as well as DNA collected as a result of the investigation, led to charges being placed. The relationship between the suspect and victim is still under investigation.”

Henry W. Weatherford Jr.  was found lying on his couch by his business partner inside his secluded home in the 5700 block of Crenshaw Road in Henrico County, just north of Azalea Avenue, on June 13, 1994.

The 50-year-old antiques dealer had been shot multiple times, his wallet and car missing.

The day before he had taken a clean-cut young man to a musical at Collegiate School. Investigators wanted to find that young man. (Wiseman would’ve been 26 at the time.)

Early on in the investigation, police said they believed Weatherford may have met someone in Georgia or Florida while traveling to antique roadshows, looking for the fine antiques that were his specialty.

1994 became the most murderous year for the Richmond area since the Civil War, with 160 slayings in the city alone. Much of the area was in shock over the bloodshed.

Weatherford and his  partner had opened Honeybrook Antiques here on Grove Avenue near Libbie Avenue the year before, according to business incorporation records.  After the murder, partner George Robert Newby sold off much of the inventory.

A month after the murder, Weatherford’s Oldsmobile was found at a St. Louis Wal-Mart parking lot, according to news reports at the time.

Shortly before Thanksgiving 1994, accused serial killer Gary Ray Bowles - wanted for murdering six gay men in a high-profile crime spree -  was caught in Florida.

Henrico investigators named him as a potential suspect, bringing the Weatherford case back into the spotlight. But the Bowles connection fizzled out.

In March of 1995, partner George Newby was arrested and later convicted of raping and sodomizing a Chester waitress who had given him a ride after he shift had ended.

In 1996, Newby confessed to killing Weatherford, apparently  in the hopes of reducing his 85-year rape sentence.  Investigators doubted his confession and he recanted.

The Weatherford murder faded from public view.

In February of 1999,  Henrico police posted information on their website about Weatherford’s murder and four other cold cases, hoping to generate new interest/leads.

Sometime in 2001, forensics evidence pointed toward Wiseman, but there were too many loose ends, CBS-6 was told.

Lonnie Ray Wiseman is a real desperado. Shortly after the Weatherford murder, he was arrested for a drug store robbery in Idaho. He was already wanted for robberies in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Utah, records show.

In the fall of 1995, he staged a McGyver-like escape and he and another inmate disappeared from an Idaho jail  and then went on a multi-state robbery spree. They were caught that December and he’s been locked up since.

Wiseman will be brought to Henrico to stand trial on one count of murder and one count of use of a firearm in commission of a felony.

A trial date has not yet been set.