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Sarasota resident Brian Wilson
Sarasota Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 4 years ago

Sarasota man arrested for murder in girlfriend’s death

Sarasota police have charged Brian Wilson with murder following the death of his girlfriend, which authorities allege he attempted to cover up as a suicide.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

The Sarasota Police Department has arrested Brian Wilson, 46, for murder in the death of his girlfriend, the department announced today.

At about 2:32 a.m. Saturday, officers responded to a report of a potential burglary in the 1100 block of Patterson Drive. In a detached garage apartment on the property, officers discovered the body of Jennifer Copeland, 43.

Copeland, who lived in the apartment, was found hanging by the neck from a rope, according to a probable cause affidavit. Copeland’s mother, who also lives on the property, told the officers she saw Copeland with her boyfriend, Wilson, between 9 and 11 p.m. Friday.

Earlier that afternoon, the mother said, Wilson had shown Copeland a noose hanging from the rafters of the garage. Copeland told Wilson to take the noose down, the mother said.

Multiple witnesses told law enforcement authorities that Wilson admitted to strangling Copeland with his hands, staging the hanging to make the death look like a suicide. The witnesses said Wilson called them shortly after 11 p.m., asking that he needed to be picked up on Patterson Drive and instructing them to bring gasoline.

When they arrived, Wilson told them he needed gas to burn down the house because he just killed somebody, the affidavit states. As the three left the area, Wilson told them he needed to get his passport and a check, and that he was planning to steal his former roommate’s truck.

A third witness also reported receiving a call from Wilson shortly after 11 p.m. Friday in which he referenced the murder, the affidavit states. A fourth witness reported receiving a call from Wilson early Saturday morning, during which he stated he saw his girlfriend commit suicide and was going to Atlanta to disappear.

On Tuesday, officers arrested Wilson at the Hendry County Jail in Labelle, Fla., where he had been arrested for DUI. Wilson was found driving his former roommate’s truck, which had been reported stolen.

The investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information regarding the case should contact SPD Detective Dan Riley at 954-7062, the police department said. Individuals can leave anonymous tips with Crime Stoppers by calling 366-8477 or by visiting the organization’s website.

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