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Facing a murder trial

Robert Wigley acts as his own attorney during his preliminary hearing in Del Norte County Superior Court yesterday. Wigley is charged with the killing of a young woman in 1994. (Stephen M. Corley/ The Daily Triplicate).
Robert Wigley acts as his own attorney during his preliminary hearing in Del Norte County Superior Court yesterday. Wigley is charged with the killing of a young woman in 1994. (Stephen M. Corley/ The Daily Triplicate).

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

Robert Alan Wigley will go to trial on charges of murder and solicitation of murder, Judge William Follett decided yesterday.

"It appears to the court that the offense of murder did occur and there is sufficient evidence that the defendant, Mr. Wigley, could have committed that murder," Follett announced yesterday afternoon at the conclusion of Wigley's preliminary hearing.

Wigley, 43, is accused of killing Camillia ‘Forest' Randall, 18, of Longview, Wash. eight years ago in Crescent City. Randall's mutilated body was found wrapped in a sleeping bag off Howland Hill Road in 1994.

Since his arrest a year ago, Wigley has fired several attorneys and recently took over advocacy of his case himself.

But during his two-day preliminary hearing this week, Wigley appeared confused as he cross-examined witnesses and had difficulty refuting evidence produced by District Attorney Robert Drossel.

Wigley never objected to any of Drossel's questions or exhibits presented in court.

"I strongly suggest you reconsider your decision to represent yourself in this matter," Follett warned Wigley at the conclusion of the hearing. Wigley replied no attorney could represent him properly – "not even Johnnie Cochran."

Wigley openly acknowledged he had firsthand knowledge of what happened to Randall. He accused Drossel of coercion by charging him with a special allegation of torture on the charge of murder.

"I want to weed out what is the truth from what is not, in this case," Wigley told Follett. "The District Attorney's Office has overcharged me in an attempt to get a confession from me. If I were to apologize to the family, they would naturally assume I am guilty of all the charges against me ... I do not desire in any way to go to my Maker with Forest's family (thinking) she was tortured in any way."

Testimony yesterday morning focused on retracing the last steps of Randall, as she hitchhiked in Northern California.

According to testimony and evidence produced in court, Randall arrived in Crescent City at about 8 p.m. Oct. 26, 1994 after being dropped off at the Texaco service station on Highway 101.

This testimony was corroborated by the final entry in Randall's diary, which was found in a backpack near her body four days later. In her last entry, the day of Randall's death, she wrote she turned down an offer to spend the night in Oregon.

"The third car that picked me up were two old guys, Chris Collins and Ernie. They took me to Brookings to Chris's house, he wanted me to see it so badly. They are good men. Chris offered for me to stay the night. I probably should have but I declined from his offer. I really don't know why. I got a ride to Crescent City. Now I'm here. What now?" she wrote.

Randall wrote she was worried when she set off from Ashland alone but she gained confidence when a friend gave her a lift part of the way.

"I'll sleep on the ocean tonight. I tried calling aunt but no one's home. I hope all is well. Tomorrow is Mom's birthday. Happy birthday, Mom. Best wishes. Feel sort of sad," was the last portion she wrote.

Prosecution witness Bill Steven, a deputy with the Del Norte County Sheriff's Department, read the diary passages aloud from the witness stand. Several members of Randall's family, who attended the hearing wearing picture badges of Camillia on their lapels, were visibly shaken and wept during the reading.

Randall eventually reached her aunt, Wendy Whiteman, by telephone, from Denny's Restaurant a short time later. Whiteman remembered Randall saying she was planning on sleeping on the beach.

Witnesses said a woman matching Randall's description appeared at the Redwood Mini Mart at about 9 p.m. and asked if she could "hang out" in front of the store for a while. The witness said the woman was gone a few minutes later.

It was verified in court that Wigley and his then-wife, Marie, were managers of the Super 8 Motel on Oct. 26, 1994, about a mile south of the mini-mart.

During testimony, Detective Gene McManus of the sheriff's office claimed Wigley made some admission of the crime earlier this year. "When Camillia Randall came into my office at the Super 8 Motel, I wouldn't have imagined carrying her body out that night," McManus testified Wigley said.

Steven, who worked at the Del Norte County jail last winter, also said Wigley mentioned disposing of Randall's body.

"He said, ‘I'm a stupid bastard for dumping the body where it could be found' and that he should have hidden it better," said Steven.

Others testified that on Oct. 27, 1994 two people saw what appeared to be scattered clothing and a body halfway down a ravine in Stout Grove. One of the two reported what they saw to his mother, but she reportedly told him "things like that don't happen up here." No report was made to police at that time.

On Oct. 30, the body was reported to the sheriff's office by hikers in the area.

A second charge of solicitation of murder comes from allegations that Wigley planned an escape and homicide while in jail last May.

A letter, reportedly written by Wigley and given to fellow inmate David Anderson, included names and telephone numbers for Anderson to contact upon his soon-to-be release. Investigator A.C. Field testified Anderson was coached by Wigley to obtain a gun, two vehicles and some cash in an elaborate plan to escape from custody while the defendant was being transported to court on on June 10, 2002.

According to Anderson, Wigley instructed him to shoot the single bailiff escorting him and help him to escape in one of the two vehicles.

Wigley contested the credibility of Anderson as someone who is on "psychological medication" and was attempting to gain fame for himself from the high-profile case.

In testimony earlier this week, pathologists said Randall's heart was removed after she was killed, leaving a gaping hole in her chest.

DNA samples collected at the scene appear to be a match with Wigley, experts said.

Arraignment for Wigley is scheduled at 8:30 a.m., Friday, Nov. 1.

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