The family of former basketball coach and youth mentor, Ernie Walthour is asking for help in solving the murder of their beloved family member and provide them some sense of closure.
It’s been almost six years since Walthour was found dead on the front lawn of a home off Lewis Fraser Drive July 1, 2013.
“It’s like it happened yesterday for me and I know it feels that way for my mom, sisters and brothers,” Theresa Lingard, Walthour’s sister said during an interview with the Courier. “I have to drive by that house every day and it’s hard not to think about it. It’s heart breaking especially because of the person that he was. I mean he would have given you the shirt off his back.”
Walthour, was well known around Liberty County and beyond for his work with youth and athletics. He founded the Coastal Crews Rebels basketball program in 1993 teaching kids the basics and skills of the game, as well as the importance of education to lead successful lives. He was also involved with the basketball program for the Fort Stewart Youth ChalleNGe Academy. In 1996 he was named the Sports Director of the St. James Sports Center. With St. James serving as home base for the Rebels, Walthour helped nearly 42 basketball players achieve scholarships to Division I, II, and III colleges and Universities. He also served as the head coach for the boys’ basketball program at First Presbyterian Christian Academy, had his own bonding company and organized an annual event, the Summer Slam, to benefit the Rebels’ so they could travel to national tournaments. Every Christmas he organized an event at the St. James Center where the children from the Holmestown community were treated to gifts and the families treated to a Christmas dinner. In 2010 Walthour was inducted into the Liberty County Sports Hall of Fame for his work with the youth in his community.
Johnnie Mae Walthour sat next to her daughter shaking her head from side to side, the pain of the loss of her son still visible after all these years.
Lingard said Walthour’s did like to play cards. According to preliminary police reports Walthour was leaving a poker game the night he was shot. He reportedly had currency when he left the game but was found with no currency in his possession.
“He like to play cards, that is what he liked to do but should he have been killed for that…no,” Lingard said.
Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes said there is not a day that goes by that he doesn’t think about his longtime friend.
“He was a personal friend of mine, I’ve known most of my life,” Sikes said. The Sheriff met with the Courier at the home where he found his friend murdered. He said he has a photo of Walthour on his desk as a daily reminder to stay on the case. Sikes added he is determined to find out who committed the crime no matter how long it takes.
“It is going to stay open forever,” he said of the case, “Sooner or later somebody is going to tell us something.”
The Sheriff said they interviewed hundreds of people when the case first opened. He formed a joint task force with the City of Hinesville Police so they could cross reference potential clues, witnesses and possible persons of interest.
But the case hit a dead end.
In March 2017 Michael Albritton joined the detective unit of the LCSO and Sikes said the first thing he did was place the case in the hands of an experienced investigator with a fresh set of eyes.
Albritton said he took the case in July of 2017 and with the assistance of Chris Reed they’ve sought out the help of a professional profiler, interviewed old and new witnesses, used new investigative techniques and have found potential new leads.
“We never close murder cases and we’ve been actively pursuing this case,” he said. “Somebody out there knows what happened and we are appealing to the community for somebody to come forward with some information. Someone needs to held accountable for what they’ve done.”
“He has grandkids he never met,” Lingard said. “And he has kids that needed their father and it was hard….It’s been tough. Right now we have no closure. We don’t know if this person lives next door or down the street. We need someone to come forward, no matter how small the detail…but we need closure.”
Anyone with information on the murder of Ernie Walthour is encouraged to call (912) 391-1500.
This is the first report on the ongoing investigation of Walthour’s death.
Watch for a second story focusing on the case to follow soon.