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Suspect Arrested in Cold Case Murder of Pregnant Army Soldier After 21 Years

Her body was found in her barracks room.

After 21 years, a suspect was arrested Thursday in connection with the murder of a pregnant soldier on a military base in Germany, the FBI said. Prosecutors allege that Shannon L. Wilkerson, 42, killed 19-year-old Pfc. Amanda Gonzales on Nov. 3, 2001. Wilkerson has been charged with first-degree murder, according to the FBI.  "We all never gave up on fighting for her, believing this would happen," Amanda's cousin told a local station. "I'm so thankful no one ever gave up." Read on to find out more, including her parents' two-decades pursuit of justice, a heartbreaking wish from her father that was never realized, and her mother's graveside visit that proved prophetic. 

The Alleged Crime

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Gonzales was stationed as a cook at Fliegerhorst Kaserne, a former U.S. Army base in Hanau, Germany. On Nov. 5, 2001, her body was found in her barracks room after she didn't report for work. Medical investigators found the cause of death was homicide by asphyxiation. Gonzales was on her first assignment for the Army and was four months pregnant when she died, the FBI said.

Wilkerson was in the Army at the time of Gonzales' murder, the FBI says. He was discharged from the Army in 2004, and from the Army Reserves three years later. Neither Wilkerson's possible motive for the alleged murder, nor his connection to Gonzales, was immediately provided by prosecutors.

Suspect Pleads Not Guilty to First-Degree Murder


Wilkerson was charged under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which gives U.S. federal courts jurisdiction over crimes committed outside of the country by former Armed Forces members who are no longer subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  Wilkerson has been charged with one count of first-degree murder. He appeared in court on Thursday and pleaded not guilty. A detention hearing has been set for March 3. Wilkerson faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Grieving Parents Kept Pressing for Answers

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Through the years, Gonzales' divorced parents continued to seek justice for their daughter. It was a mission that took on added urgency after soldier Vanessa Guillén was murdered on an army base in Fort Hood, Texas, in 2020. "When I saw the news, and that she [Vanessa] was murdered, I thought, 'Oh my God, this is my daughter all over again,'" Gloria Bates, Gonzales' mother, said in an interview with KBTX that year.  

"I hope they find who did this before I pass away," Gonzales' father, Santos, told the station at that time. "I'm heartbroken. I have a million questions that nobody can answer and it feels like a coverup. Her death was put on the back burner and they won't release any information. I've tried. They won't tell me anything." Unfortunately, his wish wasn't realized: Santos Gonzales died shortly after that interview.

"I Couldn't Even Open Her Casket:" Mother "Shocked" By Arrest


When Gloria Bates was notified by phone that Wilkerson was arrested, she said the call was one she and her husband had been hoping to get for more than two decades. "They said, 'We want you to know we made an arrest this morning on Amanda's case,'" Gloria Bates told KBTX. "And his name is Shannon Wilkerson. We looked at each other like this isn't true. Like, we were shocked."

Time didn't reduce the grieving mother's desire to find answers. "She was strangled and beaten. I couldn't even open her casket. She wouldn't let someone do that to her. She's a fighter," said Bates. "It's just weird because literally just last week, I went over to her grave in Hearne to take her a new flag. I always talk to her. Before I left, I said 'Amanda, mom is still here. Dad's with you. I'm still here, and I'm not giving up.' Look what happened one week later. An arrest."

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"No One Ever Gave Up"


"I think that we all never gave up on fighting for her, believing this would happen," DeAnn Lucio, Amanda's cousin, told KBTX. "I'm so thankful no one ever gave up, that we kept on, for all of the resources we used to help capture her [alleged] killer. Hopefully it's something we can officially close. I know my uncle, her dad, would be so happy that an arrest was made. We wish he was here to see that with our side of the family." Lucio still vividly remembers her cousin: "Her smile was amazing," she said. "She was there for me when I was a kid. All those memories that I wish I could talk about, I can't, because she was taken at such a young age."

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