Last week, I presented a case underscoring how the legal system sometimes fails. James Richardson spent nearly 21 years in prison for murders he didn’t commit. This week’s case from St. Louis is the murder of Walter Scott. Scott was a successful singer murdered by his wife’s lover.
Walter Scott (born Walter Simon Notheis, Jr.) was a musician and singer. He enjoyed success and local fame as the frontman for Bob Kuban and the In-Men, a St. Louis-based rock band. In 1966, his lead vocals helped take the song “(Look Out for) The Cheater” to the number twelve spot on the Billboard Hot 100. In total, the song spent eleven weeks on the charts.
Scott left the In-Men soon after the success of “The Cheater” to launch a solo career. When this didn’t pan out, he traveled with a cover band and performed for a televised reunion with Kuban.
Walter Scott Disappears—And Reappears
On December 27, 1983, Walter Scott disappeared. More than three years later, in April 1987, police discovered his body floating face-down in a cistern. He had been hog-tied and had been shot in the chest.
The cistern in question was on property belonging to one James H. Williams, who, it developed, had been romancing Walter Scott’s wife, JoAnn. (JoAnn Scott and Williams married in 1986). Williams’ son told police where to find Scott’s body.
Williams faced charges not only with the death of Walter Scott but also of killing his wife, Sharon, in 1983. Authorities initially believed Sharon died in a one-car auto accident. After exhuming her body, it was evident she had been murdered, and the accident staged.
Williams was convicted on two counts of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
JoAnn Scott pleaded guilty to hindering the prosecution of Scott’s murder and received a five-year sentence (she served 18 months).
James Williams died in prison at age 72 on September 11, 2011. JoAnn Scott Williams died in 2019.
Several crime-related television series have aired episodes featuring the Walter Scott murder, including Forensic Files, Autopsy 3: Voices from the Grave, Secrets of the Morgue, Exhumed: Killer Revealed, and The New Detectives. (The Forensic Files episode incorrectly states that Scott’s bullet wound was in his back).
You can read more about this case in the 1997 book, The Cheaters: The Walter Scott Murder by Scottie Priesmeyer.
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