From our files
Wilson tells her story from prison
After more than five years in a cell at Alabama's Julia Tutwiler Prison, former Huntsville socialite Betty Wilson says she is innocent of the 1992 beating and stabbing death of her husband, Dr. Jack Wilson.
"So what happened?" Wilson said. "I don't know. Maybe I was an easy person to hate and maybe media ratings were more important than guilt or innocence."
She was convicted in a Tuscaloosa court in March 1993 and sentenced to life without parole. Wilson did not take the stand during her trial, nor did she speak in her own defense.
Wilson said lies told by her alleged hit man "to stay out of the electric chair" and the jurors' racial reactions to her affair with a black man were the turning points in the trial.
"From the looks on the jurors' faces, though, it was enough," Wilson said of the black man's affirmation of their affair to the Tuscaloosa court. "For the first time, I had to face the possible reality of being convicted."
Wilson's account of the murder and her conviction will be distributed throughout Madison County today in the Old Huntsville magazine. In a side story, Huntsville writer Bob Carey reviews events, personalities and paradoxes surrounding the murder trial. Tom Carney, publisher of Old Huntsville, said he told Wilson he would print her story only if she did not lie to him.
Also included in the issue is the 1994 signed confession of James Dennison White, the alleged hit man. In the confession, White recanted his 1992-93 story of being hired by Wilson and her twin sister, Peggy Lowe, to kill Dr. Wilson. White took the fifth when questioned about his confession in court.
White, the state's chief witness, testified against Wilson and Lowe during the 1993 trials in exchange for a reduced sentence. He is serving a life sentence at a state rehabilitative institution in Springville. He will be eligible for parole in 2000.
Lowe stood trial six months after her sister and was found not guilty.
Wilson told her story to Carney after several exchanges.
"I started corresponding with her about six months ago," Carney said. "I told her that if she wanted to tell her story I'd print what she said. My only qualification was that I would check everything in the story. If she printed a lie, I wouldn't tell the story. I don't want to print something that is an obvious lie."
"All the TV stations had been trying for years to get her to talk. She was burned out with the media," Carney said. "I told her I wouldn't editorialize. I don't care if you're the biggest bum in the world, you've still got a right to tell your story."
Over the next six months, Wilson told her entire story. She wrote of what it was like to be arrested, tried and sent to prison.
Carney verified the following facts included in Wilson's story.
Wilson found her husband murdered in their home at 9:30 p.m. May 22, 1992. A baseball bat appeared to be the murder weapon. Wilson went to a neighbor's home and dialed 911.
Following a lead from the Shelby County Sheriff's office, detectives on the Wilson case picked up James Dennison White, a 42-year-old Vietnam veteran who had a history of mental disorders, alcoholism and substance abuse. White said he was hired by Lowe to kill a Huntsville doctor and prove his love for her.
White had been in a number of mental institutions and in prison. While serving time for selling drugs, White escaped and was captured almost a year later in Arkansas. There he was involved in the kidnapping of a man and his wife.
After extensive questioning, White confessed to being paid $5000 by Lowe and Wilson to kill Dr. Jack Wilson.
Both women were charged with murder: White accepted a plea bargain for life with possible parole in seven years in exchange for helping convict the sisters.