Sunday, March 6, 2011

Husband gets 10 years in university dean's slaying

On Monday, February 28, 61 year old William Murray Wiggins received 10 years for the 1st degree manslaughter of his wife, an assistant dean of the University of Oregon College of Education. The dean, 62 year old Andrea Nicholson Wiggins, was found strangled in a bathtub at her Springfield, OR home March 5, 2010. The perpetrator pled guilty to 1st degree manslaughter because prosecutors were uncertain that they could prove 2nd degree murder. Lane Circuit Judge Charles Carlson presided over the plea deal and sentencing.

William Wiggins initially reported his wife’s death as an accidental drowning. He might have succeeded at the ruse had Andrea Wiggins not left injuries on her husband’s body as she fought for her life, Springfield police Sgt. David Lewis said after the brief sentencing hearing.

Lewis credited Springfield police Detective Larry Turner with asking to see and then photographing scratch marks and “a severe bite mark” on William Wiggins’ chest after responding to a 911 report of “an elderly female found dead in a hot tub.”

Strangulation bruises were “not obvious” on Andrea Wiggins’ neck, Lewis said — perhaps because her body remained in the hot tub after her death.

William Wiggins claimed he killed his wife "while under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance,” but Springfield police indicated that the lack of financial contribution on his part to the marriage lead to the argument which lead to the slaying.

At the time of Andrea Wiggins’ death, William Wiggins had an inactive real estate broker’s license and she was the primary breadwinner. Her professional accomplishments included raising $30 million in private donations for a new College of Education building that opened in 2009.

According to the victim's son Alexander Vollmer, "she told us that Bill had no savings or money of his own and that she would have to earn enough for them both.” The victim's father said “I believe Andrea had had about enough and Wiggins was aware he was about to lose his meal ticket.

Before the sentence was passed, William said “Andrea was the love of my life and I’ll never forget her. I took away a daughter and a mother and a grandmother from her family. I cannot ask for their forgiveness. I can only hope for their understanding some day.”

Lane County Deputy District Attorney Bob Lane said the victim's family accepted the plea agreement because the perpetrator has reliquenched “all claims to property belonging to the victim, the victim’s estate, and to any proceeds of any life insurance policies. They wanted to make sure that he didn’t benefit from her death.”

Laura Fine, William Wiggins's attorney, said that the strangling of his wife was an anomoly in their 13 year marriage. "All reports indicate that this was a very loving couple with no history of domestic violence.” Her client's actions, she explained, was “the documented side effect of explosive rage caused by one of his prescription medications.”

Vollmer gave a victim impact statement saying that “It’s unbearable to think about how terrified my mother must have been in the last moments of her life,” As his rock, "Every day I miss her sound advice, her wacky sense of humor, her delight in retelling family stories, and even her constant worrying. Her absence has left a gaping hole in our lives.”

The son is still “shock and terrible distress at the nature of my mom’s death and Bill’s role in it," with the worst part being “having to explain to my 7-year-old daughter how her nanny had died.”

The victim's father Jack Nicholson wrote Judge Carlson explaining that his former son-in-law was
“a cruel, callous and calculating killer” and a “deadbeat,” in contrast to his daughter, who "was a precious and special person” who “worked all her life trying to make things better.”

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