Veteran Judge’s Slaying Shocks Community With PM-Judge Shooting, Bjt
PORT ST. JOE, Fla. (AP) _ A judge slain by a man who opened fire with two guns during an alimony case had no fear of violence in the courtroom, a colleague and the sheriff say.
Circuit Judge Wilson Lamar Bailey ″never had a weapon, and Judge Bailey never was afraid,″ said Gulf County Sheriff Al Harrison after the shooting rampage Tuesday that also left an attorney and another person dead.
″Judge Bailey was a fearless man. He was never afraid of being hurt in a courtroom,″ Harris said. ″We discussed it several times - things that had happened.″
″He would pick up hitchhikers, things like that,″ said Circuit Judge Dedee Costello. ″There was a case ... where one guy walked out of the courtroom and put his fist through the wall. Bailey just laughed at it like it was not a big thing.″
The 64-year-old judge had planned to retire next July, said State Attorney James Appleman. He handled a wide range of cases, from domestic matters to murder trials, in 14 years on the bench.
In what was probably his best-known case, Bailey sentenced Christine Falling of Blountstown in 1983 to life in prison after she pleaded guilty to killing three children while babysitting for them.
Outside court, Bailey was known as a friendly, family-oriented man with a passion for golf. His wife, Jeannette, 59, was playing golf Tuesday when informed of his death.
The Baileys had no children of their own but adopted a daughter and two sons, one of whom died of a brain tumor as an infant.
Bookkeeper Elna Adams, a business associate of Bailey’s in Blountstown, where he lived and maintained an office, said the judge was quick with a smile for his neighbors.
″He was like an Andy of Mayberry,″ she said, referring to the folksy sheriff on television’s old ″The Andy Griffith Show.″ ″His eyes actually sparkled when he smiled at you.″
Bailey, a native of Blountstown, earned his law degree from the University of Florida, was elected to one term in the Legislature in 1951 and served as mayor before he was elected a judge in a six-county circuit in 1973.