Shasta County triple homicide
Updated On: Feb 20 2014 02:35:12 PM CST
Three murder suspects have a lengthy criminal background, convicted on several charges that may paint a picture of their troubled past.
Joshua McCormick, 33, and Rebecca Wilson, 32, are charged with murdering two people in Ingot in Oct. 2012. In a connected case, McCormick and Byron Willis, 32, are charged with killing another man less than two weeks later in Redding, before allegedly dumping his body in the Millville area. In both incidents the victims were shot, killed, and their bodies were burned.
McCormick, Wilson, and Willis pleaded not guilty to murder charges Tuesday. It is not their first time in a Shasta County courtroom.
“They have prior contacts through law enforcement,” said Shasta County Sheriff’s Sgt.t Brian Jackson. “They have some jail time behind them for various offenses.”
KRCR News Channel 7 obtained an extensive list of various felony charges for all three. Many of them are active cases and a reason why all three suspects were already in law enforcement’s custody prior to Tuesday’s arraignment.
McCormick is the only one allegedly involved in both connected homicide cases. His criminal history dates back to 1999 where he pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree burglary. For that, he was sentenced to eight years and eight months in state prison. Additionally, there are two active cases from 2013. One is a charge of meth possession. The other stems from illegal possession of ammunition.
Wilson is allegedly involved in only the Ingot double homicide. In that incident the victims were robbed before they were killed. Wilson has a past conviction of possession of stolen property in 2011. She spent roughly three years in a work program and probation, according to law enforcement. There is also an active case from 2013, also for illegal possession of ammunition.
Willis has five active felony cases against him at this point in the investigation. He is being charged with homicide, allegedly involved in only the Redding homicide. His previous charges include a 2013 allegation of possessing and selling drugs, as well as causing corporal injury to a spouse.
Sgt. Jackson said McCormick and Wilson had a past romantic relationship, but piecing together everyone’s exact connection to each other may be difficult.
“The relationships kind of spured from that world or that network, you know, whether it's in the drug world or theft world where people come into contact with one another,” Jackson said. “But for us to be able to pinpoint where that connection came across it's probably something we won't ever pinpoint.”
When asked about a possible motive behind these alleged murders, Jackson discussed the possibility of gang affiliation with regards to McCormick’s appearance.
"Obviously, McCormick has some very indicative tattoos - prison-type tattoos - which could be alarming. That didn't seem to play a part in our investigation as far as the gang affiliation," Jackson said.
Investigators are also making the relationship connection between the suspects and victims in these alleged homicides.
Shasta County investigators said McCormick and Wilson shot and killed Thomas Burton, 65, and Michael Forsyth, 57. The suspects allegedly put the victims’ bodies in a home and set it on fire.
One member of Forsyth’s family said that both men had serious health problems. Forsyth was retired, but previously worked at the Ingot Auto Dismantlers site where his body was found. Forsyth and Burton were close with the owner of the business, according to the family member.
"On that day they were at their place, they were minding their business, and they weren't doing anything that day that would've caused for them to have any problems,” said Jackson.
The family member said that Forsyth met Rebecca Wilson once before, and the two had talked with him about some collectible items in his home. Many of those items were allegedly stolen in this robbery and homicide.
According to investigators Eric Ratledge was there, and witnessed the whole thing.
Less than two weeks later, Sunday, Nov. 3, around 7 a.m.; CAL FIRE responded to reports of a grass fire on the 8800 block of Bass Pond Drive in Millville. Firefighters found a pickup truck engulfed in flames. While extinguishing the fire, they found human remains later identified as Ratledge.
Ratledge was shot at least once and determined to be the victim of homicide. While detectives followed up on leads surrounding Ratledge’s death, they found stolen property from the home in Ingot where the two men were murdered.
"Unfortunately for Eric Ratledge, that week was ultimately the worst week in his life," Jackson said.
Court documents show Ratledge was at a home on the 3800 block of Rancho Road just hours before his death. The home is associated with McCormick and Willis.
"People float through that house for a long time,” said Jackson. “On those days we went out there we didn't have much interaction with those folks. It was more of we wanted to go there for our own purpose and those folks were some of the folks that were interviewed."
On Nov. 26, 2013, McCormick was arrested by detectives on outstanding warrants.
Willis was arrested almost a month later, on Dec. 18, 2013, on unrelated charges at his home.
While both Willis and McCormick stayed in jail, Wilson was arrested in connection with the double-homicide in Ingot.
All three gave statements about their knowledge and involvement in both the double-homicide in Ingot and the death of Eric Ratledge.
Jackson said the next step in the investigation can be time consuming.
"The biggest thing now is with everything we've done over the last four months, trying to put it on paper and to give the [District Attorney's] office all the information that we have for the prosecution," he said.
All three suspects were arraigned for different charges in the respective homicides Tuesday.
The preliminary hearing for was set for March 4.
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