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Wesley Beaver and the greatest fish story ever

By   /   June 14, 2011  /   Comments

Editor’s note: This column was originally posted on www.laws-n-sausages.com.

I want to tell maybe the greatest fish story ever told, but first I need to lay out some prior events so that my actions will be truly understood. So without further delay here we go.

March 8, 2008. This is the date that in many ways should have been my last day on this earth. On this date now over three years ago I totaled my car out on a dirt road, flipping it from hood to truck several times going at a speed accelerated up from 50 mph. I really thought as I felt my car begin to lift off the ground that this was it, my time. Then I awoke, and my survival with only a few scratches was nothing less than a miracle.

Feb.14, 2005. This is the date that quite possibly the most amazing individual that I have ever known did make his way to the Heavens above. On this cold Valentines evening, Wesley Beaver was shot in the head and killed by Lee County police officer Donnie Spillers.

For some reason, Wesley’s life was not spared like mine, and I have to say that my heart still aches for my friend more and more every day. I’m not sure that I can really express just how awesome of a person Wesley Beaver was. You just had to know him, and to know him was to love his mind, soul, and spirit.

We met in middle school and he was the good-looking guy who possessed everything that made him desired by all; I was the girl who had yet bloomed and was in my own little world segregated from the beautiful rest. It was an impossible combination, but with the help of several events, Wesley and I struck up an everlasting friendship. So, what made him so great? He was able and willing to see beyond my unsatisfactory looks and see the beautiful girl that lied beneath, no matter the negative gossip coming from everyone else. That takes a lot, and what he did was more than just about anyone had ever done for me in that sense. Wesley was a truly amazing person too great for this cruel world.

A few days before my car accident, I coached an 11-pound largemouth bass off of her bed with a black worm along the bank line of a pond. She was a great catch. The largest bass that I had ever caught up till this point was just over 9 pounds that I caught in the dead of winter down at Lake Seminole. This 11-pound large-eyed beauty I named Betty after Betty Davis was not only my largest catch, but was my most thrilling catch, to date. But, despite the urges by my fishing partner to mount it I said no. My reasoning for this was that Betty was not large enough and the green of her back was just not the right dark shade of envy green that I felt was worthy enough to mount. I claimed that the fish that I mounted would have to be over 13 pounds with a color only deserving of the fields of Ireland. So, I released her and felt certain that I would never have to mount a bass. Little did I know…

Middle of April 2008, just slightly over a month since catching Betty and not long after my accident I was out fishing a very grassy pond which I had been working on for quite some time. That day I was using a new strategy and to be honest with you I was becoming a little frustrated. I couldn’t get my dial set right for the top water frog that I was throwing and my backlash was more than it had ever been. Despite my frustration, though, I threw out one more time into this little cove made of grass just off the bank with a log jutting out to the side. My frog never even had a chance. I swear it didn’t touch the water, but I never saw the monster that had gobbled him up. In that instant I saw my line shooting out for deep, thick, grassy water and reeling down waiting for that right contact my stomach was in my throat and the butt of my rod was dug deep into my abdomen. Then, there it was the sign of life on the other end. Pointing the tip of my rod to the sky, grounding it into my stomach, I set the hook as hard and as well as I could just praying that at the end of this symphony of movements that she or whatever would still be on the other end … and she was.

After pulling the john boat about 25 feet through thick grass the beast was finally tired of fighting. It was now time to see what I had brought from the depths of this hairy pond. But, as my fishing partner lifted her from the water and his eyes grew to be the size of silver dollars, my heart sank. She was perfect; more than perfect, really. Weighing in at just over 18 pounds, spilling with roe and as envy green as she could get she was my mount. I don’t have to say much I’m sure that the picture tells it all.

Well, this was it, I had done it. I had caught a bass that some of the greatest and most dedicated anglers have fished their whole lives to catch and never had and never will. A truly amazing creature, and this was a truly unique situation I had been given the opportunity to behold. I only had to know her for a few minutes to understand that to know her was to love her just as it had been with Wesley.

Wesley was one of the first people to take me fishing. He and his father were inseparable fishing partners that were quite good to say the least at the art of coaching and catching a bass. Wesley’s fishing trips are why I love sardines and saltines. And, as I sat there with this impossible catch tagged by the boat I could only think of one person, Wesley.

Wesley was shot after pulling over from a short car chase where he was being pursued by Donnie Spillers. Spillers, against procedure, proceeded to Wesley’s truck door without backup and shot him point blank in the head through his truck window. Once backup arrived, Spillers then planted a knife in the seat of Wesley’s truck to make the shooting look like self-defense. Shot and bleeding, my old friend lied there clinging to life and later died in Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital only a few short hours later.

The chase had started when Spillers was called to an alarm that had been triggered near a pawn shop that Wesley was just down the street from. Spillers and Wesley had had some history and it was not good in Wesley’s favor at all, especially with Sheriff Harold Breeden at the root of everything. Lee County is famous for its crooked police department. You don’t have to ask around too much to find that out.

A few weeks before this happened to Wesley, he had exposed to his parents that someone had showed him a trunk load of stolen firearms and that Spillers had been harassing him. He had even warned shortly before his death that Spillers and Sherriff Breeden (his uncle) had something against him.

So, here we have a case just right for a felony murder conviction with aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during commission of a crime all wrapped up into a well-deserved life sentence. Oh, but wait, this man wears a badge and who other than the infamous Harold Breeden was backing his employee 110 percent. With that being said, Spillers walked out of this with what would be a slap on the hand for taking a 17-year-old’s life. In 2006, he was found guilty of violation of his oath of office and false statements. He was then sentenced to five years concurrent probation on each count. He will also be required to undergo mental health counseling and perform community service. And, get this: if Spillers completes his probation with flying colors, the conviction will be erased from his record under Georgia’s first-offender statute.

Is this really what a son, a brother, a great friend’s life is worth? People are convicted and serve more time under drug charges than Spillers will for taking the life of not just anybody; for taking Wesley Beavers life. This is such an injustice that I pray will someday be given some form of relief. But, regardless of the hurtful feelings, and my teary eyes I must finish my fish story.

So, as I sat there letting the sunset blanket itself down over me, the buzz of mosquitoes in my ears, the faint glimpse of that giant fish’s figure in the water beside me, I heard nor paid attention to any of this. Wesley, that night in February, that moment of Spiller’s choice, was laying heavy on my mind and left my body slightly paralyzed. I just wish and pray that Spillers could have only known what a magnificent person, soul, and friend that he had his gun pointed at with his finger hot on the trigger. If only he had been able to see that he was taking a life that would never even be able to be compared and certainly never duplicated with the amount of magnificence that Wesley possessed; the way that I looked at that fish who I named Edna for her tattered tail.

Looking up at the stars, I whispered as I let Edna swim from my boat back to her water world, “This is for you Wesley.” I gave the fish that I have had more curse words thrown at me for letting go than anything else the second chance that Wesley was not afforded.

I believe in the right to a fair trial by your peers, but this case was by no means fair. When will Wesley get his justice? Has this community just forgotten him? I haven’t. If this can happen, this corruption of the rights laid out in the Constitution then what else will be swept under the rug?

I miss you my dear friend.

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About the author

Owner / Editor / Writer

Tom Knighton is the publisher of The Albany Journal. In November, 2011, he became the first blogger to take over a newspaper anywhere in the world. In August of 2012, he made the difficult decision to take the Journal out of print circulation and become an online news agency, a first for the Albany area.

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