Jesse Whitley, also known as “Pee Wee,” will have his tragic story recounted on ID’s Killer Instinct With Chris Hansen. People from the city of St. Augustine, Florida, will most likely remember the story. Killer Instinct’s episode documenting the St. Augustine, Florida, cold case is titled “And Justice For All,” and follows police as they hunt for clues into a man’s disappearance. But when his floating body turns up in the St. John’s River, law enforcement detectives will be on a 20-year hunt for the killer, who was in their midst the entire time.
Jesse Whitley, affectionately known as “Pee Wee,” drove away from his home in St. Augustine and never came back. He was reported missing by his girlfriend and mother. Jesse Whitley’s family worried for his well-being, but later got the call that no one expects from police. The body of Jesse Whitley was found floating in St. John’s River at Riverdale Park a week later.
The local coroner stated that 31-year-old Jesse Whitley had died from multiple gunshots wounds to the abdomen. Circumstances surrounding his death were a mystery to detectives and grieving family members. What they didn’t know is that they wouldn’t have answers for almost two decades.
The mystery murder was finally solved in 2008 after cold case detectives contacted the media about doing a story on local cases that hadn’t been solved. When the story aired, authorities were flooded with leads.
The biggest bombshell occurred when they interviewed a woman named Becky Foster, who was once married to a man that police had interviewed 18 years earlier. Becky Foster was Steven Stanaland’s girlfriend in 1991 and was present at the scene when Jesse “Pee Wee” Whitley was killed.
Foster, who is now divorced from Stanaland, said she didn’t come forward because she feared that he would kill her. According to her version of events, Jesse Whitley was shot and killed because Steve Stanaland believed that she had sex with him. Steve was so jealous and angry that he ordered Becky to kill Jesse Whitley. Becky describes in detail what happened the night that Whitley arrived at their trailer, according to the St. Augustine Record.
“She had never shot a firearm before, Foster testified, using her hands to show how she sighted a .357-caliber handgun near her right cheekbone. She deliberately missed Whitley, and the recoil gave her a black eye. Stanaland took the handgun from Foster and fired at Whitley, who’d gone under the porch. Whitley was saying he’d been hit: ‘I’m crippled for life. You win.’ He was begging him to stop shooting. Then, she went with Stanaland as he took Whitley’s body out to Riverdale Park.”
After the murder, Steve and Becky married and kept the secret for years. When police finally arrested Steven Stanaland, he tried to blame the killing on his ex-wife. Foster testified against her ex-husband in court.
Family members of Steven Stanaland blamed his troubles in life on his upbringing, which they described as unstable due to their strict but alcoholic father, whom often abused them physically and verbally, the St. Augustine states.
“Steve Stanaland’s lawyers on Monday presented jurors with a portrait of a kinder, gentler client – one who should not be executed for shotgunning a friend in 1991. Defense attorney Michael Nielsen showed the jury enlarged color family portraits; a picture of Stanaland, perhaps in his early 20s, taking the son of a friend out fishing; a yearbook picture of Stanaland in the second or third grade.”
Steven Stanaland was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life with eligibility for parole after serving 25 years, reported the St. Augustine Record. More inside details of the case will be shared on Chris Hansen’s Killer Instinct. Tune in for this compelling story on Monday, September 12, at 9/8 p.m. Central on Investigation Discovery.
[Image via 11078137/Shutterstock]