A convicted killer has confessed to his involvement in the 2001 execution-style killing of Gary Flynn, co-owner of the Sportsmen's Den in Oakhurst, Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said Friday.
At a news conference, Anderson said Kenneth James Wilson, 35, knew details about the "cold-blooded murder" that only the killer would know.
Because Flynn was killed during a robbery, Wilson could be a candidate for the death penalty, but that will be up to the District Attorney's Office, the sheriff said.
Flynn, 61, died April 25, 2001, from a single shot to his head.
His killing stunned the Oakhurst community because he was well-liked and the killing happened in broad daylight, Anderson said.
The sporting goods store on Highway 41 near the Highway 49 junction was an informal meeting place for sheriff deputies, outdoorsmen and gun enthusiasts. It now has new owners and a new location in Oakhurst.
After Flynn's murder, residents, service clubs and local businesses raised at least $14,000 for a reward fund, but it was never collected. Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also offered a $50,000 reward for the information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer or killers.
"His death will always be remembered as a day in infamy because of his brutal assassination," Flynn's longtime friend, J.R. Froelich, said Friday at the news conference. "We will never forget it."
Flynn's widow, Shirley Flynn, 74, of Coarsegold, didn't go to the news conference, and said in a telephone interview that it would have dredged up old, unwanted memories. But she thanked Anderson and his deputies for sticking with the case and the community for helping her out.
"My husband and I were married for 41 years," she said. "We all miss him."
Money and 14 firearms, most of them handguns, were stolen from the Sportsmen's Den, but Anderson, wanting to protect the investigation, didn't release much more information over the years.
His staff spent thousands of hours following up on hundreds of leads, but the investigation went nowhere until 2008. That's when Fresno County sheriff's detectives Sergio Toscano and Hector Palma got involved.
He said the two detectives were interviewing Wilson in connection with the 2008 killing of Julian Barajas of Fresno when Wilson confessed to being involved in Flynn's murder, the sheriff said.
"These two (detectives) spent several months, even years, following up on Wilson's jail-house confession," Anderson said. "We are confident that we have enough evidence to request murder charges."
Wilson is serving life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to first-degree murder and carjacking in the shooting death of Barajas on Feb. 19, 2008.
Authorities said Wilson told Barajas he was interested in buying his 1999 Chevrolet S10 Blazer and asked him to drive it to Auberry. When Barajas showed up, Wilson pointed a gun at him. Barajas begged for his life before Wilson shot him in the back of the head, authorities said.
Sheriff's detectives arrested Wilson a few months later near the Big Sandy Rancheria, where he was staying in a hidden campsite with his pregnant girlfriend and their infant son.
While behind bars in the Fresno County jail, Wilson admitted to Toscano and Palma that he was inside the store when Flynn was killed by another man, whom he declined to identify, Anderson said Friday.
According to Anderson, Wilson said he and his accomplice were headed to Bass Lake to go fishing when they stopped by the Sportsmen's Den to purchase worms. Wilson drove his white, two-door Ford Mustang to the store and parked it near a car wash. Anderson also said that just moments before Flynn was killed, the sign on the front door of the store was turned to "Closed."
Anderson said the big clue came when Wilson said the killer used a Tec-9 semi-automatic handgun to kill Flynn and that the murder weapon had been recovered by Fresno police in another crime.
An independent investigation verified that the gun recovered by Fresno police was in fact the gun that was used to kill Flynn, Anderson said.
"Wilson's account of what transpired mirrors information our office had, but was never released to the public," the sheriff said. "We knew Wilson's account of what happened that day could have only been known by someone who was there."
Wilson told detectives about Flynn's murder because he wanted "to clear his conscience," Anderson said. Because Wilson said he wasn't alone, Anderson said his department will continue to look for an accomplice.
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