NEW INFO: Thomas Wilcox Sentenced to Life Without Mercy for Wife's Death

By: WSAZ News Staff Email
By: WSAZ News Staff Email

UPDATE 7/28/10 @ 9:15 p.m.
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- She was a devoted mother of two, active in her church and a special education teacher.

But, in April of last year, Amy Wilcox was doused with gasoline and set on fire by her husband. On Wednesday, he took responsibility for his actions in a plea agreement.

Tom Wilcox had very little to say in court. But his actions spoke volumes as he pled guilty to charges related to torching his wife. Now he's headed to prison for the rest of his life.

"Cause and origin of fire was in master bedroom on the bed and at foot of bed," said Paul Scarsella, the Ohio assistant attorney general.

That was where Amy Wilcox was sleeping when her husband, Thomas, poured gasoline on her and set her on fire. Her son and daughter were home in nearby rooms at the time.

"Then she heard her mother screaming," Scarsella said. "She got up because she thought mom saw a bug. She was met at door by (her) father and saw fire."

A letter to the court from Amy's mother detailed the weeks of suffering until Amy eventually died from her injuries.

"Can't explain the anguish and pain," the letter read. "Our family is broken. Amy was 30 when Tom poured gas on her and set her on fire. We waited anxiously and saw her pain, which was unbearable. It is the request of our family that Tom Wilcox receive the maximum penalty."

And that's exactly what the judge did. In a plea agreement that took the death penalty off the table, Wilcox received three life sentence without the possibility of parole, in addition to other sentences for child endangerment and domestic violence. Wilcox did little else other than cry while his attorney spoke on his behalf.

"He worked hard in Lawrence County and supported his family," said Greg Meyer, Wilcox’s lawyer.

In the end, Wilcox's tears and his attorney's kind words didn't mean anything. Wilcox is headed to prison for the rest of his life. This was a situation both sides agreed to in the interest of avoiding a painful trial.



UPDATE 7/28/10 @ 12:35 p.m.
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Thomas Wilcox was back in court Wednesday morning in Ironton for the final hearing in his long awaited death penalty case.

Wilcox pleaded guilty to Aggravated Murder, Causing the death of Amy Wilcox after committing Aggravated Arson, Causing the death of Amy Wilcox after committing Aggravated Burglary, Aggravated Burglary, Aggravated Arson, Endangering Children and Domestic Violence a Misdemeanor of the first degree, and was sentenced immediately by Judge Charles Cooper.

Wilcox was sentenced to three life sentences without mercy on the first three counts, and did not receive the death penalty. Wilcox was sentenced to 10 years each on counts four and five, he was sentenced to five years on count six and six months for count seven. All of the sentences will run concurrently. The prosecutors consulted with Amy's family on several occasions and they understand the decision and are in agreement with dropping the death penalty in return for a guilty plea from Wilcox.

The trial had ups and downs along the way as Wilcox fired his attorneys and new court dates had to be set. The status hearing this morning brings this long awaited trial to an end.

Prosecutors say in April 2009, 39-year-old Tom Wilcox took containers of gasoline to his estranged wife Amy’s Ironton area home, assaulted her, doused her with gas an set her on fire.

Wilcox will be sent to prison for the rest of his life with no chance of receiving parole.



UPDATE 6/10/10 @ 10:25 a.m.
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A new trial date has been set for the man charged with dousing his estranged wife, Amy, with gas and then setting her on fire.

Thomas Wilcox could face the death penalty if convicted of that murder.

A January 13, 2011 trial date was set during a hearing in Lawrence County, Ohio Common Pleas Court on Thursday, according to court officials.

The new date was set less than a month after Wilcox fired his court appointed attorneys.

His new attorneys Jerry McHenry and Greg Myers of the Office of the Ohio Public Defender's Office attended Thursday's hearing.

A pre-trial hearing is set for June 29.



UPDATE 5/27/10 @ 12:15 p.m.
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The long awaited death penalty trial of a man police say doused his estranged with gas and then set her on fire is on hold again.

Tom Wilcox fired his lawyers Wednesday, just two weeks before the latest trial date. WSAZ.com’s Randy Yohe has covered this case since the crime occurred in April, 2009.

The firing was totally unexpected for a ready to go prosecution and the fired defense lawyers, death penalty specialists are tough to replace.

Bill Eachus and Chuck Knight told Judge Charles Cooper their client Tom Wilcox, just 10 minutes before today's hearing, had a conflict and wanted to explore other lawyer options.

Knight and Eachus are qualified and licensed death penalty attorneys. They had prepared for more than a year for this case, but said in they're line of work, you expect the unexpected.

“You have discussion with client’s right up to the trial on how you are representing him; in this case, we disagreed,” said Chuck Knight.

Prosecutors say in April 2009, 39-year-old Tom Wilcox took containers of gasoline to his estranged wife Amy’s Ironton area home, assaulted her, doused her with gas an set her on fire.

There were prayer gatherings and school benefits to help the severely burned teacher and her two children. Amy Wilcox died of her injuries a few weeks after the crime.

At first, surprised prosecutors said they were also ready for trial and attempted to fight the lawyer firings, but then more caring and legal heads prevailed.

“While my heart goes out to the victim and the family and we'll go talk to them today, this was a surprise, but the wheels of justice can turn slowly for a reason to insure that everyone has a fair day in court,” said Paul Scarsella.

The judge had a potential jury pool of 250 ready for the June 10 trial, but now they’re all out. No new date is set for the trial. Prosecutors guessed it may take 4 or 5 months to get the new lawyers for Tom Wilcox up to speed.

Besides aggravated murder and arson, Tom Wilcox faces burglary, child endangerment and domestic violence charges. Amy’s 11 year old daughter was also in the home during the crime, she escaped injury.



UPDATE 5/26/10 @ 2:50 p.m.
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A major delay in the murder trial of the Lawrence County, Ohio man charged with killing his ex-wife, Amy, by setting her on fire.

During a pretrial hearing Wednesday morning, Thomas Wilcox fired his lawyers.

His trial was supposed to start June 10th in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

Wilcox faces charges of aggravated murder, aggravated arson, aggravated burglary, domestic violence and child endangerment. He could face the death penalty if convicted. The crime happened in April 2009.

His attorneys, Chuck Knight and Bill Eachus, said Wilcox gave no reason for the firing except to say he wanted someone to better serve him and explore new options.

Both men are qualified and licensed to handle potential death penalty cases.

Following the hearing, the judge contacted the Ohio Public Defenders office in Columbus. They will begin the process of finding two qualified death penalty case attorneys.

The prosecutor in the case, Paul Scarsella, says the case could go to trial in September or October, but it depends on the when the new attorneys get up to speed,

Scarsella also said he knows the family and the community want closure in Amy Wilcox’s death, but the state first wants a fair and proper trial.



UPDATE 9/28/09
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A judge has ruled that Tom Wilcox’s murder trial will remain in Lawrence County, Ohio.

Back in August, Wilcox’s attorney requested a change of venue in the case.

That motion was denied during a hearing on Friday. The judge also ruled on several other motions.

Wilcox is charged with assaulting his estranged wife Amy, and then setting her on fire at her home back in April. She died at a Cincinnati hospital in June.



UPDATE: 8/26
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Although the bandages have been removed, the burn scars were still visible as Thomas Wilcox walked into Lawrence County, Ohio Common Pleas Court Wednesday morning.

Wilcox is charged with assaulting his estranged wife Amy, and then setting her on fire at her home back in April. She died at a Cincinnati hospital in June.

Thomas Wilcox was also burned in that fire.

Attorneys for the defense have filed more than 80 motions in this case. Prosecutor Paul Scarsellai of the Attorney General's office say most of these motions are typical in a death sentence case.

Scardelli says one of the motions is for a change of venue, which will be challenged by his office.

During Wednesday's hearing, both the prosecution and the defense asked for additional time to work through the motions and have agreed to meet back in court on Sept. 16 at 11 a.m. to evaluate where the case stands.



Update: Thursday, 8/6
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) –The Ironton man charged with killing his estranged wife was in court Wednesday for a pre-trial hearing.

Thomas Wilcox faces charges of aggravated murder, aggravated arson, aggravated burglary, domestic violence and child endangerment in the murder of Amy Wilcox back on April 30th.

During the hearing, Wilcox’s attorneys said they plan to file a number of motions in the next week, including one for a change of venue in the case.

The next pre-trial hearing is set for August 26. At that time, the judge is expected to rule on some of those motions.



Update: Thursday, 6/18
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A special Lawrence County grand jury has returned a seven count indictment against Thomas Wilcox in connection with the death of his estranged wife, Amy.

Wilcox was indicted on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated arson, aggravated burglary, domestic violence and child endangerment.

WEB EXTRA: click on the document link above to read the full indictment.

If convicted on the aggravated murder charge, he could face the death penalty.

Wilcox was arraigned Thursday afternoon in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

He pleaded not guilty to all the charges. His bond will remain at $10 million.

A pre-trial is set for July 1.

The judge approved Wilcox's request to not have his face shown on TV during the hearing.

The Ohio Attorney General's Special Prosecution Unit is handling the case.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for more information.



Update: Wednesday, 6/17
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The Lawrence County, Ohio, Prosecuting Attorney's Office tells WSAZ.com that a special grand jury is scheduled to convene Thursday in Ironton to consider charges against Tom Wilcox.

Funeral arrangements for Amy Wilcox are now set.

Her funeral will take place at Dawson-Bryant High School Friday afternoon at 1 p.m.

Her visitation will start at 10 a.m. at the school.



Update on Friday, 6/12
CINCINNATI, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The Community Missionary Baptist Church announced Friday evening that Amy Wilcox died.

Wilcox was the victim of a fire at her home in Deering in Lawrence County on April 30th. Her estranged husband is accused of setting the fire. He appeared in court on Friday.

Wilcox was 38 years old.

WSAZ.com spoke with Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless Friday evening. He said the Ohio Attorney General's Office will file new charges early next week.

Lawless said it will be up to the Attorney General's office to decide the new charges, but it could be a charge of aggravated murder. In Ohio, aggravated murder charges could lead to the death penalty.



Update on Friday, 6/12
CHESAPEAKE, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The man accused of setting his estranged wife on fire made his first court appearance Friday morning under a heavy police presence.

On Wednesday, Tom Wilcox was returned to Lawrence County, Ohio, to face charges of attempted murder, arson, aggravated burglary and felonious assault.

Amy Wilcox is still in a Cincinnati hospital burn unit where she is reported to be in critical condition.

Tom Wilcox was also burned in the fire. He had been in a Louisville hospital until Wednesday when he was returned to Lawrence County.

Wilcox was arraigned on the charges during a hearing in Lawrence County Ohio Municipal Court in Chesapeake. Wilcox had bandages from his hands up to the mid-part of both arms. His fingernails were black and his hands had noticeable scars from burns.

Judge Donald Caper set his bond at $10 million. His preliminary hearing is set for June 19th at 2 p.m.

Nine Sheriff's Deputies lined the courtroom during the hearing.

According to the criminal complaint, Thomas Wilcox entered Amy Wilcox' residence with containers of gasoline, while Amy and her 11-year-old daughter were asleep.

The complaint says Mr. Wilcox then set fire to Amy with the gasoline.

As a result, Amy Wilcox sustained 2nd and 3rd degree burns to 90 percent of her body.



UPDATE: 6/11
Lawrence County, Ohio Sheriff Jeff Lawless tells WSAZ.com that Tom Wilcox was returned to Lawrence County, Ohio around 6pm Wednesday night.

Lawless say Wilcox was booked on the charges he faces in the county, then transferred to the Scioto County Jail.

Lawless says that jail is better able to handle Wilcox's injuries.

Prosecutors say a special grand jury that was expected to convene this week to hear evidence in the case did not meet.

We were told they are waiting to get more information on Amy's condition.

Tom Wilcox will be arraigned in Lawrence County Municipal Court at 9am Friday.



UPDATE: 6/9
According her church's (Community Missionary Baptist Church) website, Amy's condition is now extremely critical.

They say her wounds are so severe they are overcoming her ability to heal.

Amy is being treated for her injuries and burns at a Cincinnati hospital.

The website was updated Monday night.



UPDATE: 6/8
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The man accused of beating his estranged wife and then setting a fire that left her seriously burned is out of the hospital and now in jail.

Tom Wilcox is charged with attempted murder, arson, felonious assault and aggravated burglary.

Investigators say Wilcox tried to kill Amy Wilcox at her home near Deering in Lawrence County, Ohio, back on April 30.

Amy Wilcox remains in serious condition in the burn unit of a Cincinnati hospital.

Lawrence County, Ohio Sheriff Jeff Lawless tells WSAZ.com that Tom Wilcox was released from a Louisville, Ky., hospital on Friday and immediately transferred to the Louisville Metropolitan Detention Center.

Sheriff Lawless says Mr. Wilcox was in the hospital being treated for burns he suffered in the fire.

Lawless says that Wilcox waived extradition back to Lawrence County during a hearing in Louisville Monday..

The Sheriff now has 10-days to bring him back to Lawrence County.
He expects that to happen this week.

Lawless also tells WSAZ.com that the case could go to the grand jury later this week.



UPDATE: 5/16
DEERING, OHIO (WSAZ) -- Friends and family gathered Saturday to raise money to help Amy Wilcox heal after she was allegedly set on fire.

Police say her husband, Tom Wilcox tried to kill her by setting her on fire.

Saturday Coal Grove High School set the stage for a major fundraiser to help cover her medical bills. According to her friends her insurance doesn't cover arson.

90% of her body is burned.

Saturday was a chance to write Amy cards, place bids in an auction and enjoy sweets at a fundraiser bake sale.

Amy is at a burn unit in Cincinnati.



UPDATE: Friday, May 15th
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- New charges have been filed against the man investigators say started a fire that badly burned his estranged wife last month.

Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless says Tom Wilcox is now charged with attempted murder, aggravated burglary and arson.

He was originally charged with felonious assault. He was also burned in the fire and is currently in a hospital in Louisville.

Amy Wilcox has burns to 90 percent of her body. She remains in the burn unit at a hospital in Cincinnati.



UPDATE: Thursday 11:19 p.m.
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) - Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless told WSAZ.com late Thursday Tom Wilcox is being charged with felonious assault.

Lawless said Mr. Wilcox is responsible for the arson at his estranged wife Amy's house late Wednesday.

Amy Wilcox remains in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center late Thursday, according to a close friend.

Tom Wilcox was taken to a hospital in Louisville, Ky.

Hundreds came to Thursday's prayer service at Amy's church, Community Missionary Baptist Church in Deering, Ohio.



UPDATE: Thursday 3:15 p.m.
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Coal Grove native Amy Wilcox is in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center's burn unit after she and a man were injured in a house fire Wednesday night.

Wilcox sustained burns to 90 percent of her body, according to family friend Donna Blair.

The fire happened just after 11:00 p.m. Wednesday just off Township Road 253 East, near Deering Elementary.

"We're just asking for prayers," Blair said. "(Doctors said) the next 48 hours will be the hardest for her."

Wilcox has two children, Trevor, 15, and Emily, 11.

She teaches special education at Collins Career Center in Chesapeake and is in the process of obtaining her Master's degree from Marshall University.

There will be a prayer service at Community Missionary Baptist Church Thursday at 7 p.m.

Investigators say the other person in the hospital is the suspect in the fire. They say the 38-year-old man left the fire scene and was taken to an Ashland hospital by private vehicle. He was then flown to another Kentucky hospital.

The sheriff has also not released his name or condition.

Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless was not available for comment Thursday afternoon.



Original Story:
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) - Two people are in the hospital following a fire that the Lawrence County, Ohio, Sheriff's Office says was intentionally set.

The fire happened just after 11:00 p.m. Wednesday just off Township Road 253 East, near Deering Elementary.

The sheriff's office says a 38-year-old woman was injured in the fire. As of Thursday morning, she is in a Cincinnati hospital. Investigators have not released her name or condition.

Investigators say the other person in the hospital is the suspect in the fire. They say the 38-year-old man left the fire scene and was taken to an Ashland hospital by private vehicle. He was then flown to another Kentucky hospital.

The sheriff has also not released his name or condition.

The State Fire Marshal's office says both people were seriously injured.


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