HOUSTON – On July 1, 1983, the bodies of four young men were discovered at a popular Houston arcade and racetrack along the Southwest Freeway near Westpark. The victims had been mutilated and slashed in a gruesome case that left the community reeling and veteran law enforcement officers with scenes many had never encountered during their careers.
The case, which had become infamously known as the Malibu Grand Prix Murders, was centered around two groups of young people; the victims - ranging in age from 18 to 22 - and brutal knife-wielding assassins, with the youngest being only 16 years old.
That day started a decades-long struggle of heartache and grief for the families of all parties involved, including shame from the killers’ families on the actions of their loved ones.
KPRC 2 Investigates Robert Arnold sat down with a retired homicide detective, JC Mosier, who acted as a police spokesperson at the time of the murders. You can learn more about the case, what led up to the murders, and the surprising call that broke the case in ‘The Evidence Room’, Episode 15 -- Murder at Malibu Grand Prix.
Murder at Malibu Grand Prix
According to court documents, Richard James Wilkerson, 19, was angry after being terminated about two weeks prior from his job at Malibu Grand Prix, a go-kart amusement center in southwest Houston.
“RJ,” as he was known, shared his frustrations with his cousin, 20-year-old Kenneth Ray Ransom, and their friend James Edward Randall, a juvenile.
Documents state that the three hatched a plan to rob the business while going to retrieve Wilkerson’s final paycheck. Armed with kitchen knives, they arrived at the fun center right after closing time. The door was locked, but an employee closing down for the evening recognized Wilkerson and let the trio inside. That proved to be a fatal decision.
Richard Wilkerson’s family member shares memories
While it is obvious that the victims’ families were forever scarred by the tragedy, one of Wilkerson’s family members gave KPRC 2 her perspective of standing by their loved one while very much acknowledging his wrongdoing.
A cousin, who wishes to be identified as Jane Doe for privacy reasons, shared how it felt learning about the case and, ultimately, seeing it come to a close with Wilkerson’s execution on August 31, 1993.
“There were people on both sides of the road; one side was burning candles asking for him to be spared, hoping he’d get a stay of execution and the other side had their signs and their family members were out there wanting him to be executed because he had took the lives of their loved ones,” Doe described.
“It was awful. To me, it was vicious, you know because no one should have to go through that,” she said. “I never thought in a million years that I would ever have to see anything like that. It’s a memory that I wish that I could forget, but I can’t.”
Doe said she was standing on the side with Wilkerson’s supporters when his sister came out and announced, “They killed him.” It was not the outcome they wanted.
After Wilkerson was executed by lethal injection, his body was immediately placed in a room for a quick family viewing.
“They had him wrapped up in some type of cloth and he still had beads of sweat across his head,” Doe described. “His mama, of course, that was her baby, and his sister, you know, it was awful. It was the most awful thing I’ve ever experienced in my life to this day.”
How does the family remember RJ?
Doe said that Wilkerson had never been in any trouble, and was quiet, shy, and “always smiling” so the crime shocked them all.
“He was a good person. He always had that smirk on his face and always looked like he was smiling. I remember in one of the interviews, the news reported that he didn’t care and that he was just laughing, but he wasn’t,” Doe explained. “We know that was the way RJ looked, like he was smiling all the time, but we couldn’t tell nobody. Who were we going to tell?”
Wilkerson’s father was no stranger to the law and was serving a prison sentence when his son committed the murders. The father had to be moved for safety reasons.
“I don’t know if he was in Huntsville, but he was in prison at the time and they had to usher him out because they were threatening to kill him,” Doe said.
Doe said the family did not feel comfortable speaking publicly about the case, also afraid of possible retaliation.
“We were scared about what people might do because it was so horrific,” she explained. “I had mixed feelings. I was mad, confused, couldn’t believe he did it, couldn’t believe he was a part of anything like that because he was always such a good guy. We were all so young.”
Even though Doe said it was “out of RJ’s character,” she acknowledged his guilt.
“They took knives so they had plans to do something. Did they plan on killing them, cutting them, robbing them? I think it was a robbery gone bad,” Doe shared. “He (RJ) said the youngest boy took a boy in the bathroom and he came out by himself. He said as far as he knew, the boy was being tied up and I guess once the youngest boy came out and said what he had done, they felt like they had to do whatever; I don’t know.”
Police praised the bravery of the mother who turned in the suspects, helping bring those responsible to justice.
The heinous crime left a bloody trail behind with six dead (four victims and two convicted killers) and only one still breathing today.
Ransom was convicted on June 15, 1984, and sentenced to death. He was executed by lethal injection on Oct. 28, 1997.
Randall is continuing to serve time behind bars.