GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) - There are defining moments in every journalist's career. For Brad Willis, the year was 2001.
“The story that Greenville believes is true, isn't as true as they think it is,” Brad Willis said.
Willis was a reporter working in Greenville when he first covered a case that still haunts him to this day. Nearly two decades later, he's still searching for the truth and he hopes to uncover it in his podcast, "Murder, etc."
Nearly two decades ago, Willis was assigned to a story about a convicted cop killer who was granted parole.
“I asked myself, when was the last time someone convicted of killing a cop got parole in South Carolina,” Willis said. “It just doesn’t happen.”
According to Willis, the story caused a public outcry and the man's parole was eventually overturned. He was sent back to prison for nearly a decade.
“When I finished this story, I thought, I've done a really good job right here,” Willis said. “It was only later that I realized I hadn't studied the case hard enough, and as a result, I hadn't told the whole story.”
He hopes to find answers to questions that still linger and potentially clear a man's name who was convicted of two murders more than 40 years ago.
“Even though it’s now 18 years after the initial story I did, I feel like it’s still my job as a reporter to tell this story the right way,” Willis said.
This story began many years before it made headlines around the state in the 2000’s. It all started 44 years ago in 1975.
Willis says Frank Looper was Greenville's top narcotics cop at the time and on the verge of breaking the biggest case of his career when he and his father were gunned down inside the family's garage.
“Police eventually decided it had nothing to do with his job and it was a random robbery,” Willis said.
Charles Wakefield, Jr. was arrested and convicted of the murders and sent to death row.
Willis believes the wrong man was convicted. According to the podcast, Wakefield had solid alibis and could account for his whereabouts the day of the murders.
Murder, etc. looks into other theories and uncovers evidence that Willis believes points to corruption, ties to the Dixie Mafia, and the possibility the murders were a hit.
“The story is bigger than the murder, bigger than what happened at the Looper garage,” Willis said. “It’s bigger than Charles Wakefield and that’s why the etc. is more important than the murder.”
Wakefield escaped the death penalty after a Supreme Court ruling in 1978 but spent 35 years in prison until he was eventually paroled in 2010.
Wakefield still maintains his innocence and hopes to one day clear his name. Looper’s family also believes the wrong man went to prison and fought for his release.
A new episode of Murder, etc. comes out on April 30. Catch up on other episodes wherever you listen to podcasts or find more information below.