Questions About a Father’s Disappearance Led to Answers That Were Far Too Close to Home

John's response was chillingly calm. "Oh, I do believe she's holding information," he said.

"I don't think your mom is a bad person," the detective continued. "I think [she] has some mental problems."

John didn't demur, but he doubted that his mother would provide any new information. "She thinks you're waiting for her to say something she didn't say 20 years ago," he told Velazquez. "I would hook her ass up to a polygraph."

His son, John Wolfe, at his mother's house in Arizona.
Photo courtesy of Judy Carlson
His son, John Wolfe, at his mother's house in Arizona.

"What will you do if your mother is arrested?" she asked.

"If she is an accessory," said John, "I'll put the cuffs on her myself."

The detective asked him to persuade his mother to meet with her that very night, after she got home. John agreed.

"She'll probably be in her nightgown... if you come to the door," he said drolly. "That'd be funny."

Before they parted, she encouraged the dogged Police Explorer.

"Work your voodoo, man," she told him. "Go do your cop thing. You are now the detective. You are empowered. Go get her."

He did. That night, Velazquez and a partner came back inside the house to talk with Britton. They had met before, six months earlier, and Britton had denied any knowledge of a crime. Velazquez pressed harder now, confident that she could use Wolfe as leverage.

She started with the facts. The bones.

"We found David's body," said Velazquez. "He's been murdered."

"Where was he at?" asked Britton.

"In a very isolated area not too far from here. I have DNA results."

"Are you sure?"

"We're positive."

She continued. "My partner [is] out in Ohio where Mike Wolfe now lives," she told Britton, who was getting agitated. "Um, he said that... him and your dad were involved, and that you knew about it."

"I didn't know about it, no way."

"Mike is willing to take a polygraph. Are you willing to take a polygraph?"

Britton didn't answer. She was upset, focusing on the supposed role of her father, who had died in 1998. "My dad — I don't — I don't understand," she said, beginning to hyperventilate.

"The truth," said Velazquez. "That's the only thing that's important right now."

"Do you want me to make y'all some coffee or something?" interjected Britton.

"We're good, thanks." The detectives waited for an answer.

Britton broke down and was unable to speak. Still, she would maintain that she was in Tucson when David disappeared. "I was in another state. I don't know what happened," she told police. "I have to go on what the police tell me. I have to go on what the newspaper said."

The next day in Ohio, after hours of questioning and a lie-detector test, detectives asked Wolfe to put a statement in writing. Wolfe wrote that a few months before the disappearance, on a visit to Florida, he and Harry Britton had been watching John play at a park in Miramar — a park just across a lagoon from the new Walmart.

"Harry was very upset about hearing from Barbara that David had abused John during some of his visits with him," Wolfe wrote in shaky block letters. "Harry expressed that he 'should be gone,' or something to that effect, meaning to get rid of David... I wasn't sure he was serious, but I told him that the area we were in would be a likely spot to dispose of a body... I didn't know if he had listened or not."

Wolfe was pointing detectives toward a dead man.

In the following months, Velazquez pursued other leads. One led her to a woman whom Wolfe married after divorcing Barbara. The woman told Velazquez that on several evenings, after Wolfe had drunk himself into a near-stupor, he admitted to committing the murder himself. Later, another of Wolfe's ex-wives would tell a similar story.

In October 2004, Wolfe was arrested outside his Ohio home. As police took him to the curb, he summed up his predicament: "I'm fucked."

Michael Wolfe went on trial for first-degree murder in November 2007. His ex-wives' stories were convincing. After a week of testimony and less than an hour of deliberation, a jury convicted him and sentenced him to life in prison.

Two days later, Wolfe's public defenders requested a meeting with prosecutors. Wolfe had more information. Now that he had been convicted, he wanted to make sure justice reached everyone involved.

He confessed to killing Jackson. But he wasn't the only one responsible, he said. According to Wolfe, this is how David Jackson was murdered:

On the night of the killing, he said, Britton lured Jackson into the motel room with a phone call. When he arrived, she sat with him side by side at the foot of the bed. Wolfe hid in the bathroom, drunk near sickness on Jägermeister and White Horse scotch, attempting to gather courage for what he was about to do.

Britton made small talk while she summoned the nerve to pull out a large stun gun. Holding it close to Jackson, she shocked him and shocked him again. Jackson stood up, hurt and confused but still conscious.

Hearing the buzzes and sensing that the plan was going wrong, Wolfe wrapped a towel tightly around the pistol in his hand and stepped into the bedroom. David had pulled out his own pistol. But before he could use it, Wolfe raised the towel to Jackson's eye level and shot him in the left side of the head at a range of six or seven feet. Jackson stumbled crazily but did not fall.

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