Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Leesburg, FL: Leesburg man accused of killing house guest

June 20, 2011|By Arelis R. Hernández, Orlando Sentinel
Jimmie Fowler could barely lift his head to the video screen where a Lake County judge told him he would remain in jail indefinitely to face second-degree murder charges.

With his eyes closed and his hands chained and clasped together, Fowler accepted his fate, requesting a public defender after being accused of shooting a man to death in his Leesburg home Sunday morning.

Lake County Sheriff's Office detectives say the 29-year-old killed 33-year-old Willi Culpepper because he thought he was having an affair with his wife. But for family and neighbors the story is much more complicated: a tale of drugs and dysfunction.
AdvertisementCulpepper's girlfriend, Mary Kollydas, told deputies she saw Fowler retrieve a gun from his bedroom and walk to the living room to open fire on a group of people that gathered for a small party.

According to a Sheriff's Office report, Fowler addressed Culpper with an expletive and shot him in the arm and abdomen. Culpepper asked why he had shot him, saying: "Are you kidding me?"

Deputies said Fowler replied that Culpepper was having an affair with his wife, Ruth Brown. Culpepper died from his injuries at Leesburg Regional Medical Center.

But it is not clear what set Fowler off. His younger brother Todd Fowler, 24, thinks he knows why.

"He has been on a slippery slope for some time with drugs and alcohol," said Todd Fowler, who lives out-of-state but is working in the area. "My brother is not stupid, but this was a stupid decision."

Since he injured his back, Jimmie had been taking prescription drugs for pain but soon he was hooked, Todd said.

On May 3, Jimmie Fowler was charged with fraudulently obtaining prescription drugs using a forged prescription, according to county records. He pled not guilty to those charges and was scheduled to be back in court earlier this month.

Neighbors said the late-night parties were a regular occurrence at 314 Montclair Road, a single-wide mobile home with a large yard strewn with garbage.

"There was too much weirdness going on," said next-door neighbor Chely Crain. "There were cars coming in and out all the time. It was beginning to get bad."

Relatives who live on the same property as Fowler were unwilling to comment but dispute the investigators' account of what happened.

Todd Fowler was told by family that Jimmie Fowler was antagonized by people at the gathering who knew he was under the influence of drugs. They poked fun at him about his marriage troubles, he said.

"He was always out of his mind lately," Todd Fowler said. "I just want to know the truth."

Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. John Herrell said there was no indication Fowler was encouraged or handed a gun, but alcohol was being consumed there. They did not find evidence of drug use, he said.

After the shooting, an investigative report said Fowler fled the area, spoke with his wife and told her he had shot someone. He was located in Eustis and told deputies he threw the gun in the woods behind his home.

Both the victim, Culpepper and Jimmie Fowler have criminal records that include drug charges, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Todd Fowler said he wanted Jimmie Fowler to find the help he himself had solicited to beat his alcoholism.

"I was trying to talk some sense into him," Todd Fowler said. "I knew something was going to happen but nothing like this."

Jimmie Fowler's next court date is scheduled for July 18.

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