LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Just two days before Mother’s Day, a Lubbock man pleaded guilty to murdering his mother in August of 2016.
Jury selection began on Monday for 48-year-old Kody Climer, accused of killing 67-year-old Linda Wilhite, whose body was never found.
On Tuesday, Climer stood before the court and said, “I am not guilty.”
The defense’s opening statement centered around bloody fingerprints found at the crime scene that had allegedly never been processed by police.
One of Climer’s attorneys told jurors that police did not follow the evidence.
On Wednesday, the judge called for a recess until Monday morning.
Climer’s trial was expected to resume Monday morning, but during a status hearing on Friday, Climer pleaded guilty to Wilhite’s murder.
He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, the maximum sentence.
“I want to thank the Lubbock Police Department for a fantastic investigation that led to this disposition. We are pleased that this Defendant chose to accept responsibility for the death of his mother, Linda Wilhite. We hope that this will bring some sense of closure to the victim’s family, at least in the legal realm,” said K. Sunshine Stanek, Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney
Stanek said more than 3,000 photos were taken in this case.
Following Tuesday’s testimony, Stanek said a Lubbock police officer was going through those pictures and noticed something she had not noticed before.
Stanek said it was not new evidence, but the information did have to do with a fingerprint Climer’s attorney mentioned in his opening statement.
Stanek said that information was then presented to the defense.
“Through our independent investigation, we had realized that there were several fingerprints in the home that had never been processed,” said Matt Morrow, Climer’s attorney. “Through our own investigation, we had reached out to experts and built a defense around that. On Tuesday, we were provided with additional information that had not been processed before the trial. Once that happened, the client made the decision to plea,” Morrow said.
Morrow said after the first day of testimony, a fingerprint, “was looked at with newer technology that the defense didn’t have access to.”
“It had been overlooked by the police department,” Morrow said.
“I feel like we had a very strong case, and he would have been convicted by a jury as well,” Stanek said.
Stanek said while Climer did plead guilty to murder, he gave no indication as to where Wilhite’s body is.
“It wouldn’t be fair for a defendant to get a benefit for being smart enough to hide a body and then us not being able to prosecute him. The law supports the fact that if we can present a case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, and they believe a victim is dead based on blood evidence, lack of financial activity, the health of the victim, lack of cell phone activity, witness statements, those types of things, we are able to prove death in other ways other than being legally declared dead, especially when you don’t have a body,” Stanek said.
The Lubbock Police Department served an arrest warrant in August 2016 on Climer for the murder Linda Gail Wilhite. Climer was already in the Lubbock County Detention Facility on unrelated charges.
Based on the investigation and evidence, police believed Wilhite was murdered by her son.
Police say Wilhite had numerous health problems and her medications were still in the home when a welfare check was made. Her cell phone records show her last phone activity to be on the evening of Aug. 15.
A witness told police they last spoke to Wilhite on Aug. 14 around 11 a.m. The witness also saw Climer that day around 1 p.m. The witness said Climer was very upset over insurance money and was depressed.
The warrant says Climer believed his mother was getting a $90,000 settlement check for his brother's death. He felt Wilhite owed him some of the money because it was his brother. He was upset his mother would not give him $4,000 to leave town and start his new business and new life.+
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR SOME READERS.GRAPHIC INFORMATION IS INCLUDED FROM THE ARREST WARRANT.
The arrest warrant for Climer states when police arrived to perform the welfare check, they found a kitchen knife laying on the ground outside, and pry marks on a bedroom window. Wilhite was not inside, her medication was still inside the home and her vehicle was missing.
After officers forced entry, they went into a bedroom and found a light switch with a bloody finger print on it. The closed door was closed, but saw blood on the closet door with a faint bloody trail leading to the interior of the closet. The officer stated in his report that it appeared something had been dragged into the closet.
The officer then opened the door and discovered a walk in closet. He saw several thick blankets on the floor with blood on them and towels with dried blood on them under the blankets. The officer moved the blankets and he saw a pillow soaked with blood. The warrant says the blood continued from the pillow onto the carpet and the blood on the carpet had pooled and was thick. The warrant says some of the blood was coagulated and still appeared to be wet. The warrant also says there was so much blood, it had soaked through the pillow, through the carpet, through the padding and onto the concrete slab.
Officers also found spots of blood on the bed in the master bedroom. The officer reported there was blood on the kitchen floor and blood smeared on a table cloth on the kitchen table.
On the same day as the welfare check, Climer was seen by a witness at a convenience store and appeared paranoid. He told the witness that he "was going to be famous but for the wrong reasons." He told the witness he had been pulled over by an officer and they didn't do anything. He told the witness if anything happened it was a set up.
Climer had been pulled over in Wilhite's vehicle on Aug. 17 just after midnight, a day before Wilhite was reported missing. He was the only person in the vehicle, according to the warrant. The officer said he appeared nervous. Climer saw a Bowie knife sheath in the front cup holder and a large hatchet laying on the back floorboard of the vehicle. The officer issued Climer a citation and released him. The officer had dispatch call Wilhite, but the call went to voicemail.
Witnesses told police Climer was trying to sell Wilhite's vehicle for $500. The same group of people told police that Climer is known to want money when he is using drugs and he has a history of heavy street drug use.
Financial records and business surveillance show Climer trying to use Wilhite's debit card to make withdraws or attempting to make withdraws from her account since she was last seen alive.
On Aug. 19, Wilhite's vehicle was found at 81st and Ave. L unoccupied. Investigators responded to photograph the vehicle. Blood was found in Wilhite's vehicle on the spare tire wheel rim that was in the rear cargo area of the vehicle, two other spots of blood in the cargo area, one on a carpeted piece and another on the passenger side.
Climer was found a few blocks away from where Wilhite's vehicle was found. He had the keys in his possession. He also had two bags containing a large silver knife with a wooden handle and Wilhite's debit card. He also had a check made out to him for $500 dated Aug. 15 with a memo "birthday money." His birthday is Sept. 12.
When Climer was questioned, he said he didn't know where Wilhite was but he did admit to writing hot checks on her account. The officer noticed he had scratches on his hands, legs and forehead.
A DNA analysis was performed on the blood in the house and the vehicle and the results show all of the blood belongs to Wilhite.
Wilhite’s remains have not been found. Anyone with information is strongly encouraged to call Crime Line at 806-741-1000.