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Who killed Donald "Don" and Helen Willingham

The elderly couple who was found murdered in their home in southwest Greene County yesterday (04-25-11) were stabbed to death, according to Sheriff Jim Arnott.

Ellen Willingham, who was 79 years-old, called 9-1-1 at 5:44 Monday morning and said an intruder was in her home at 2919 W. Swan and was assaulting her 79 year-old husband before she dropped the phone. 

In the call that lasted approximately 40 seconds, "There was a disturbance heard in the background before the line was disconnected, according to Arnott.  Authorities aren't releasing many more details about the call at this time.

First responders arrived at the home nine minutes after the 9-1-1 call and found the couple dead from multiple stab wounds to the chest.  Arnott would not comment on what room the couple were found, or if it was a knife from the home that was used to kill them.  He also would not say whether or not authorities had recovered the murder weapon.




Shortly after Helen Willingham's 9-1-1 call, emergency dispatcher's received another 9-1-1 call from a neighbor of the elderly couple who said they saw a clean shaven, thin white or Hispanic man with a dark complexion, wearing a hoodie running south from the elderly couple's home.  Arnott acknowledged that the description was vague, "but that's all we have to go on."

Investigators are hitting businesses with surveillance cameras around the area hoping to catch a lucky break.  They are also processing the crime scene, "slow and methodical," checking every door and window, according to Arnott.

Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott
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Arnott says, "it was violent and random," even though there are no signs of forced entry into the Willingham's home.  "This is one of the worst cases of my career.  It's a rough deal, not only for the family but for everyone involved." Arnott said. 

“Why them? I don’t know, I don’t have an answer.”

The neighborhood has been targeted by vandals who hit unlocked vehicles and vehicles containing garage door openers, "This area is one of the ones that are prone to that," said Arnott.

Willingham's home is still surrounded by crime tape (Courtesy KOLR)
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The sheriff says someone knows something about the double homicide and is asking for help in solving the "brutal" crime.  "We know somebody knows what happened here," Arnott said.  "I need the public's help....I am very concerned about something like this.  We have lots of crimes where victims are targeted. I'm very concerned for everyone....on this case, I have no idea," he said.

Arnott believes the suspect, "may have defensive wounds on his body....there was a struggle."

Don Willingham was a part time pastor at Northside Baptist Church.  He and his wife, who were married in 1952,  had also been missionaries at one point in their lives, "This is a wonderful couple.  From visiting with family and neighbors, this is a couple who would do anything to help anyone.  His voice breaking, Arnott said, "They dedicated their life to the Lord."

If you have any information that could help investigators, please call the Greene County Sheriff's Office at 417-868-4040 - 9-1-1  or Crime Stoppers at 417-869-TIPS (8477). Callers may remain anonymous.

A reward is available for any tips leading to an arrest.

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