Murder victim's family frustrated killer is on the run

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Fear and frustrations from the family of a murder victim after learning the killer is on the loose. Police say William Wheelock cut off his electronic monitoring device just days after being furloughed from prison. Our Ike Bendavid has the latest on the search for Wheelock and reaction from the victim's family.

James Brillon

The family told WCAX News they are frustrated their loved one's killer is on the run. They call it a reflection of the failing criminal justice system.

Michele Brillon-Tobin remembers her older brother James Brillon.

"He was my hero," she said.

Brillon was shot in 1987 at a party in Ludlow. William Wheelock was convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

In 2004, looking to get released on probation, Wheelock apologized to the family.

"I am sorry, I truly am," he said in court.

Since his release, Wheelock has been sent back to prison repeatedly for violating conditions of his probation and furlough.

"I think Vermont is failing a lot of people and this is one of them," Brillon-Tobin said.

Wheelock's latest release from prison was at the end of January. And on Wednesday, police say Wheelock cut off his electronic monitoring and disappeared.

Wheelock posted a status on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon under the name Bill Wheel. It said, "To everyone I love, I'm sorry but I spent the last 32 years. In a cage, I'm not spending the rest of it on a leash" (sic).

Brillon-Tobin says it took more than 24 hours for her family to find out that Wheelock was on the run. She calls that an issue for their safety.

"I think it's an error of the Corrections Department. And it's somebody's error that they didn't notify us," she said.

"I don't have that answer besides I can gather from staff for some reason, the brothers and sisters were not on the notification list," said James Baker, the interim commissioner of the Vermont Department of Corrections.

Baker says his focus is working with other law enforcement agencies to catch Wheelock but he points to an internal review that will occur when Wheelock is back in custody.

"I'm not saying the Department of Corrections staff did anything wrong but the serious nature of his history requires me, as a commissioner of corrections, to ask for a review of the process," Baker said.

When it comes to why Wheelock was on furlough, Baker says corrections staff followed the law, even though Wheelock violated his conditions five times.

"We have limitations on what we can do to supervise folks and we try to follow the law," Baker said.

As for the family who has been following the process for years, they want Wheelock caught and for him to stay behind bars.

"I immediately thought, he is going to mess up again. It's been over and over," Brillon-Tobin said. "I hope he doesn't hurt anyone else."

WCAX News also talked with another sibling of James Brillon, his youngest brother, Patrick Sears. Sears was there the night of the murder. He also showed frustration that the convicted killer was released and wants answers on how this problem can be fixed.

Vermont State Police say Wheelock is 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs about 215 lbs. He has blue eyes and thinning gray hair. He has "666" tattooed on his left eyelid. He was last seen getting into a dark-colored SUV in Bellows Falls, possibly a late model Nissan Rogue. If you see him, do not approach him. Call the police.

William Wheelock