Man charged with murder in death of local teacher

SEATTLE -- Prosecutors filed a second degree murder charge Thursday against Johnnie Lee Wiggins, who is accused in the beating death of his girlfriend, Prudence Hockley, in Seattle on Christmas Eve.

Investigators believe Johnnie Lee Wiggins beat and killed 55-year-old Prudence Hockley outside her home in the 300 block of NW 74th Street. Hockley was a mother, a teacher, and into fitness. Friends say she met and started dating Wiggins after they met at a gym. Wiggins is a championship body builder.

Court documents show Wiggins went looking for Hockley at her home Christmas Eve. Wiggins told police he only wanted to deliver a gift and didn't mean for "anyone to get hurt" but then he spotted a man leaving through her back door and that's when he told investigators, things "just went bad from there."

That man, a friend Hockley had over, told police that Hockley panicked when Wiggins showed up and told him to leave out her back door. He said as he left, he heard a commotion and Hockley's teenage daughter yelling - then he found Hockley on the ground, bleeding. She died the next day; the medical examiner said she had multiple fractures to her head and face.

The news shocked Hockley's friends and neighbors.

"She was very happy and go lucky and a free spirit and that's the way she always was when I talked with her," Ryan Ericson said.

Police called Wiggins and he later turned himself in with an attorney.

Wiggins is no stranger to trouble. His record in Washington State goes back more than 10 years, and more than 20 years in North Carolina. He's also a convicted felon in the state of Georgia and was living here on supervised release - at least until this summer.

"A community corrections officer visited Wiggins' home in a home visit and he was found with controlled substance, steroids and was verbally aggressive to the officer," said Washington Department of Corrections spokeswoman Maria Peterson.

King County Jail records show Wiggins spent more than two months in the King County jail after that incident. Having violated the terms of his release, state officials notified Georgia, but DOC spokesman Chad Lewis said the state of Georgia at first said the offense was not serious enough to recall him. He said Washington was pursuing other action to make Georgia take action when that state notified Wiggins that he had until Aug. 16 to return.

Wiggins made that deadline and that's when the Washington DOC said it considered his case closed.

But sometime after Aug. 16, the state of Georgia lost track of Wiggins, unaware that he had moved back to Washington. KOMO News has learned that Wiggins started working as a personal trainer at Gold Creek Tennis and Sports Club about 8 weeks ago.

We spoke with a manager at the club, who said she was shocked to hear of the allegations against Wiggins. Charlotte Ochoa said Wiggins was an excellent trainer and that she was even client of his. She called him gregarious and said that other staff and clients really liked Wiggins.

But according to court documents, Hockley's adult daughter said Wiggins was controlling, jealous and short tempered. In filing the second degree murder charge against Wiggins, the prosecutor's office also filed the allegation that Hockley was murdered in front of her 13 year old daughter. If he's convicted, this could be used to seek an exceptional sentence, so that instead of up to 20 years in prison, he may be sentenced to life.

Wiggins remains in jail on $5 million bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Jan. 12.