Looking to find answers and solve the murder of popular youth mentor and basketball coach Ernie Walthour, several citizens have pitched in to raise funds they hope will lead to the eventual arrest and conviction of those involved.
An anonymous donor has stepped forward to match the funds raised, so the reward now is up to $25,000 — one of the largest ever offered by the county.
“I do think it’s the first time in history we’ve offered a reward that big,” Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes said.
He recently submitted an open letter to the community, which ran on the Coastal Courier’s editorial page, asking people to come forward with information on the case.
Walthour’s body, displaying signs of multiple gunshot wounds, was discovered the morning of July 1 in front of a home in the 200 block of Lewis Fraiser Road in Midway. Walthour reportedly was the victim of an apparent robbery. His BMW SUV was found on Dave Williams Road, miles away from the shooting scene.
Sikes said his office has invested extensive man hours and interviewed 200 witnesses while trying to piece together the possible events of the night and determine who is responsible.
“Our investigation indicates that someone out there has the information that could solve this crime. For the sake of Ernie’s family and in the interest of justice, I am appealing to anyone who could help,” Sikes wrote in his letter.
The sheriff said he watched Walthour grow up and develop into a hard-working business owner and youth coach. He considered Walthour a good friend and called his death a senseless crime.
Walthour’s long-time friend Linda Schumm said she is frustrated the case has not been solved. His cousin, Bess Walthour, a retired attorney now living in Atlanta, also is frustrated the case seems to be stagnating.
Walthour’s friend and former assistant coach David Linderman said he doesn’t understand why someone would want to allow a murderer to be on the loose. Like Sikes, he thinks there might be someone out there with the information needed to put this case to rest.
“It’s sad, real sad,” he said. “People know what happened and are not willing to help solve the crime of a man who would have done anything to help them. If someone knows some information and is not willing to help, maybe that makes them just as guilty as the person who pulled the trigger.”
Linderman said Walthour’s family and the community he served need closure that can only come through the judicial process of arresting and trying the those allegedly involved. He said his former mentor still is in a lot of people’s thoughts.
“I’m still getting calls from all kinds of people and still talking about Ernie,” Linderman said. “I don’t want the community to forget his life work and all he did to help everyone.”
Anyone with information can call 876-4555 or report a tip online at libertyso.com/anonymous-tip.