By Karla Bowsher, BrowardBulldog.org
During the first week of January 2011, Russell Walker answered his front door and was shot nine times, his body left lying face down in a pool of blood on the floor of his Pompano Beach home.
The killer got a long head start on a getaway. A week would pass before anyone even knew Walker was dead.
The execution-style slaying was cold. One year later, it appears, so is the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s hunt for the killer.
Walker’s family says they have few answers from police about what happened. They learned how he died when the slaying was aired on a local TV news report.
“My sister, brother-in-law and two nieces were in a hotel room, horrified by the report,” said brother John Genzale. “That was no way for a family to learn the details.”
Walker’s body was discovered inside by the front door by sheriff’s Detective Tim Duggan on the night of Jan. 14, 2011, after a family friend went to check on Walker and detected a foul odor. The single-family home is on a canal in the 700 block of Southeast Seventh Avenue.
Genzale and sister Diane Scott believe Walker died on Jan. 5, as neither they nor his girlfriend heard from him by phone, text or email after Jan. 5. Duggan believes Walker died on Jan. 7, which is when a neighbor thought he heard a bang, according to Genzale.
BSO IS MUM
Duggan declined to comment when reached on his cell phone, and sheriff’s office spokesperson Dani Moschella did not respond to subsequent requests for an interview with Duggan.
Robbery does not appear to have been the motive, and the family remains mystified by what happened, Genzale said.
Walker’s girlfriend, Tricia Meza, also knows of nothing in the 50-year-old American Airlines pilot’s background that could explain his murder.
“This shouldn’t have happened,” said Meza, a San Diego resident who had been dating Walker long-distance for about a year at the time of his death. “There’s just nothing about him that would trigger me to think that somebody would want to do this to him.”
Longtime friend and fellow American Airlines pilot Jay Weitzel has no explanation either. “No one knows anything,” the Plantation resident said. “It’s very disheartening.”
Walker’s ex-wife, Nancy Hill Walker, also knows of no one who would have had motive to murder Walker.
“I’ve not a clue,” said the American Airlines flight attendant. “It’s just a mystery.” The two divorced in 2008 after 10 years of marriage and 14 years together.
Police appear equally clueless. According to Genzale, Duggan assumed that the grizzly nature of his murder likely meant that Walker was secretly involved with nefarious activities, such as gambling.
“The immediate reaction from the cops was rather offensive,” Genzale said. “And you know, we’ve never discovered anything.”
Genzale, a former newspaper editor in Miami, added that detectives later told him their investigation turned up nothing about his brother’s past to suggest why he was killed. Mistaken identity has not been ruled out.
Police have been tight-lipped about the case. Last year’s newspaper stories don’t even report that Walker was shot.
Fellow pilots held a service for Walker in South Florida before the funeral arranged by his family in San Diego. About 200 people attended the first service and at least 150 attended the second, according to Genzale, who traveled from his home in Como, Italy.
Walker, whose loved ones and friends called him Russ, is survived by his mother, brother and sister.
A “TOP GUN” NAVY PILOT
He grew up in San Diego and earned a bachelor’s degree in geography from San Diego State University. After college, Walker served in the Navy. “He was the real ‘Top Gun’ and flew the F-14 Tomcat,” said Scott, who lives in San Diego. As of the time of his death, Walker had worked for American Airlines for 19 years, flying out of Miami International Airport.
Family and friends describe Walker as an active, outgoing person who enjoyed traveling in his free time. He owned a boat and a Harley Davidson motorcycle and was an active member of the American Airlines Ski & Snowboard Club, a recreational team open to the airline’s employees.
Shortly before his death, Walker was preparing to compete with the ski team in Colorado. Some of his family and friends thought he was in Colorado when they didn’t hear from him after Jan. 5, but Walker had cancelled the trip because of a cold.
One year later, Genzale worries that solving his brother’s murder is no longer a priority for the sheriff’s office.
“I’ve kind of lost faith,” Genzale said. “We can’t live with the fact that we’re here a year down the road and we’re no closer to finding my brother’s killer.”
Karla Bowsher can be reached at KBowsher@BrowardBulldog.org.