Longform

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

Page 5 of 6

"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.

Britton grabbed hold of his arm and guided him into a chair. Her father came through the door from the parking lot.

"He's still breathing," he barreled, looking down at the young man who his daughter said was a child abuser. "Shoot him again." Wolfe fired another shot to the head.

Once Jackson's corpse was wrapped in a heavy blanket and placed in the back of Harry Britton's bright-orange Volkswagen, Wolfe cleaned the room. "There wasn't a lot of blood," he told the prosecutor.

They drove to the empty lot. Harry had already dug a shallow hole, hidden by vegetation in the sand. They dragged Jackson from the car and dropped him into the ground. When they saw the headlights of a car, they crouched low to avoid detection.

Wolfe said that he and Britton flew back to Tucson under assumed names. Two days after the murder, Jackson's roommate reported him missing.

The whole plan had been Barbara and Harry Britton's idea, Wolfe claimed. "Harry and I actually never talked about it. It went through her."

After a year, he said, he got a call from Harry Britton, who heard that developers were planning to tear up the land where they had buried Jackson to build the Walmart. Harry had returned to the site and collected Jackson's skull so no matches could be made through dental records. He told Wolfe to come get the rest of the bones.

Wolfe said he obeyed his father-in-law. He flew back, drove to the site, ducked low in the dead of night, and tried to dig the bones up from the ground with the aid of a flashlight. He got whatever bones he could find and put them out with the trash in front of the Britton house.


Police believed Wolfe's version of events. Once Wolfe made his statement, a grand jury met and agreed that with this information from an alleged co-conspirator, there was sufficient reason to charge Britton with first-degree murder. Although no one alleges that she fired the fatal shots, Florida law allows the most serious murder charge for someone suspected of helping to orchestrate and perform a plot to kill.

In mid-December 2007, just six weeks after Wolfe made his statement, detectives arrested Barbara Britton as she left to go to work.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stefan Kamph
Contact: Stefan Kamph