Although considered by some the prime suspect in the killing of Kathleen Heisey, Lloyd Wakelee never has been arrested or charged in connection with her death. Indeed, his family and his attorney said he has cooperated with police, has an alibi, has undergone a polygraph examination, and has given a DNA sample.
His wife, Debbie Wakelee, said he now is in a nursing home, disabled by dementia. She said years of unfounded suspicion are responsible, at least in part, for his disability.
She said in November that Wakelee may have only months to live.
Because of his disability, Debbie Wakelee said, Lloyd Wakelee could not be interviewed for this report.
Wakelee was a counselor at Browning Road Elementary School in McFarland – where Heisey was principal – at the time of Heisey’s killing.
Wakelee was born in Texas and got his bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University and master’s degree in counseling from Central State University in Oklahoma. He has worked as a general contractor, teacher and counselor. He joined the Delano Joint Union High School as a counselor in 1987.
Now 67, he was 48 years old and 6 feet 1 inch tall and 225 pounds at the time of the homicide.
Co-workers and family members said Heisey was preparing a performance evaluation that was sharply critical of Wakelee.
Heisey’s son, Timm Heisey, was a 21-year-old midshipman at home on leave from the U.S. Naval Academy.
He said his mother was terrified of Wakelee.
“She told him that she was writing a bad evaluation on him,” Timm Heisey said. “When she presented it to him, he flipped out and basically said, ‘If you submit that, it’ll be the last thing you ever do.'”
Timm Heisey was so upset, he approached neighbors on his mother’s south Bakersfield cul-de-sac and asked them to be on the lookout for Wakelee.
His leave was up and he was required to return to training in Virginia.
“Several days later she was stabbed to death in her home,” said Timm Heisey, now a lieutenant commander in the Navy reserve.
“She paid the ultimate price for turning in the evaluation,” said Kevin Legg, the now-retired Bakersfield Police Department detective who was the first investigator assigned to the case.
Despite his suspicion, Legg never was able to gather enough evidence to arrest Wakelee.
In an interview with Channel 17 in November, Debbie Wakelee said she didn’t recall a negative evaluation. She said Lloyd Wakelee and Kathleen Heisey had a professional relationship with no ill feelings.
Technically, Wakelee has a clean criminal record in in Kern County.
But in March 1998, four months before the Heisey killing, he was questioned regarding a road rage incident in which he was accused of brandishing a sword at two men and telling them “someone might cut your heart out one day.”
At the time of that incident, Wakelee denied making those comments and said he took the sword out of his car for his own protection because he feared the men would follow him home and assault him or his family.
No arrests were made and no charges were filed in that confrontation. In fact, the report on the incident was not typed up for months – not until almost midnight on the day Kathleen Heisey’s body was found.
In June 1999 – a year after the Heisey killing – Wakelee was accused of beating a man with a bullwhip in another road rage incident.
No charges were filed in that case until February 2000, when Legg – the BPD detective assigned to the Heisey homicide investigation – persuaded prosecutors to file multiple misdemeanor allegations of assault with a deadly weapon and battery.
Charges eventually were reduced in a plea bargain that put Wakelee on probation and sent him to an anger management course. All charges were expunged four years later, leaving Wakelee with a clear criminal record.
Before coming to Kern County, Wakelee lived in Oklahoma. In 1983, federal court records show, Wakelee pleaded guilty to assaulting Postal Service employee Marshal Hannah, of Oklahoma City.
Hannah is 94 now but has no trouble recalling his confrontation with Wakelee, now more than 30 years ago.
Hannah was a manager of an Oklahoma City post office branch when Wakelee became enraged that a letter had not been delivered, according to Hannah. Wakelee grabbed a computer off the office counter and slammed it to the ground. When Wakelee left the office, Hannah followed him, intending to get Wakelee’s license plate number.
Wakelee pulled a handgun and threatened Hannah, Hannah said.
Nearby postal inspectors arrested Wakelee. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on a felony charge of assaulting a postal employee. He ultimately pleaded guilty and was placed on probation for four years and ordered to get psychological counseling.
He was discharged from probation in 1986.
Debbie Wakelee said that after the 1998 Heisey killing, because of his status as a suspect, Wakelee was put on administrative leave and never returned to Browning Road Elementary School, where he and Heisey had worked together. She said Wakelee was forced to officially resign from the district in 1999.
“BPD made sure Lloyd would never, ever work again,” Debbie Wakelee said. “He got a job as a counselor with Bakersfield City (School District). BPD went to Bakersfield City and told them he’s a suspect in a murder. They wouldn’t even let him go clean out his room. I had to go clean out his room,” she said.
“For some reason they decided to focus on Lloyd and never looked past that,” she said. “I never heard any other name come up at all.
“And Lloyd’s incapable of doing something like that in the first place,” Debbie Wakelee said. “In the second place, my brother and his wife were here, we were in the Sequoias all day, we didn’t get back ’til after 10 at night and I have gas receipts proving that.
“I had receipts from a place in Tulare that we went after that. We went to the Sequoias, then we ate, and then we came home. And as far as the timeline, we weren’t even in town. But they continued to focus on Lloyd for some reason, which has absolutely wrecked our lives.”
Her attorney, Kyle Humphrey, said Bakersfield Police should charge Wakelee or clear his name.
“If you think Lloyd did it, let’s go to trial, bring in the case, file the charges,” Humphrey said. “We asked for that repeatedly and they didn’t do it.
“In a way, the failure to investigate, they got their result,” Humphrey said. “Lloyd’s suffered every day since Kathleen Heisey was killed.”