An Offutt Air Force Base airman who wrote in his journal about strangling a female airman in her dormitory room in July 2016 pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of premeditated murder at a court martial proceeding in Omaha.
Airman 1st Class Timothy Wilsey’s sentence will be determined by a military judge after hearing testimony over the next few days about the life and death of Airman 1st Class Rhianda Dillard, 20. The maximum sentence for premeditated murder is life in prison without parole, and the minimum sentence is a life sentence with the possibility of parole. He also pleaded guilty to a charge of desertion.
Dillard was found dead in her room at Taylor Hall, an Offutt dormitory, after she didn’t show up for work at the 55th Strategic Communications Squadron on Monday, Aug. 1, 2016. She had last been seen entering the dorm three days earlier.
Surveillance footage had also captured Wilsey entering the dorm, and then leaving, the same day, July 29. He left the base in his car and was absent without leave from his unit, the 55th Intelligence Support Squadron, until he was arrested in Emporia, Virginia, 11 days later. While he was missing, Wilsey, who is from Valdosta, Georgia, sent Snapchat messages and left voicemail messages for his friends. He was 20 at the time he was apprehended.
Dillard had died of compression to the neck, according to testimony last year at a pretrial hearing by a special agent from the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigation.
The special agent also described what was written in a journalthat agents found among Wilsey’s possessions when he was arrested. The handwriting matches Wilsey’s, according to prosecutors.
The journal described a man sitting in a dorm room with a female airman, watching a TV show on a laptop computer. He counted down silently three times before he worked up the nerve to act.
The journal described the man slipping his arm around her shoulder and grabbing her in a headlock, then switching arms, sitting on her, and choking her to death. The journal said he found a package of Oreo cookies and took them with him.
During Thursday’s hearing, Wilsey was expected to describe the crimes in his own words, a requirement when a military defendant pleads guilty.
Dillard’s mother, Elizabeth, described Rhianda Dillard as “a sweet, kind child” who was a top student who turned down scholarships after graduating from D’Iberville High School near Biloxi, Mississippi, because she wanted to serve in the Air Force.
The court martial was moved from a small courtroom at Offutt Air Force Base to the Roman L. Hruska Federal Courthouse in Omaha to allow more people to attend. Although it is a civilian courthouse, the proceeding is being conducted by military personnel under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.