Parents of Amanda Gonzales speak following conviction of daughter’s murder after 23 years

Published 3:03 pm Friday, May 10, 2024

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The family of Amanda Gonzales, a member of the U.S. Army who was murdered on a German base in 2001, spoke following the conviction of their daughter’s murderer over 22 years after the crime.

In an interview with Blaine Wilson of Andalusia’s WAAO Radio, Michael and Gloria Bates of Wiley, Texas provided their reaction to a federal jury’s guilty verdict on charges of second degree murder against Shannon L. Wilkerson, 42, of Andalusia. The couple’s comments in this article appear with permission from WAAO.

Gonzales was 19-years-old and four months pregnant when she was murdered in her barracks. The cause of death was ruled homicide by asphyxiation.

“We’re relieved that after 22 years we finally have some closure. Justice has been served,” Michael Bates told WAAO.

“I feel we finished what we started and that Amanda and her baby can rest in peace,” said Gloria Bates.

Over the years since their daughter’s death, the Bates said they continued to receive support from people, including those who knew Amanda personally.

“(We got through this with) a lot of prayer, support from our family, our employers and co-workers. We also had a lot of support from those she served with who reached out to us over the years. They wanted justice for her also,” the couple said.

The parents said they consistently spoke to their elected Congress members and Senators in Texas to make sure their daughter’s case was not forgotten.

They said Amanda was a good student, friendly to others, and a loving member of her family.

“She was very independent, strong-willed. She was protective of her younger sister and brother. Everywhere she went she made friends. She never met an enemy and loved children.

“When we received her items back, we found she was studying physical therapy for children,” they said.

During high school, Amanda was involved in student council, made high grades, and was a dedicated students, Gloria said.

Among her inspirations for joining the military was her grandfather, who served in World War II, an uncle who is a Vietnam veteran, and other family members, including her biological father, who served.

“It was in her DNA,” Michael said.

Amanda enlisted while she was in high school and completed the Army’s delayed entry program just months after graduating. She was a cook on her first Army assignment at Headquarters Supply Company of the 127th Aviation Support Battalion at the time of her death. She had been in Germany only eight months, according to CID.

The couple learned about Shannon Wilkerson from soldiers who served with Amanda.

“Several of those she served with reached out to us and we kept hearing his name, I guess you could say as a person of interest. His name was on the radar the whole time. Everything was pointing to him,” Michael said

Over the years, the investigation in Germany was transferred from one investigator to another. After some time, and the closing of the base in Germany where her daughter served, Amanda’s parents fought to get the case moved from Germany and was ultimately successful in having it moved to the FBI.

“I fought and fought and they finally listened to me,” Gloria said. “They gave it to the FBI in New York and (Agent) Frank Donado took over the case and he promised to take care of it for us.”

“He’s been awesome. He told us his focus would be to bring the killer to justice and he did,” Michael added.

The couple received a call in February 2023 from a U.S. Assistant District Attorney for the Northern District of Florida in Pensacola, telling them that Wilkerson had been arrested for the murder of their daughter.

“After 22 years, it was a release of emotion. It was like someone had taken a weight off our backs. It wasn’t over yet, we knew we were walking into something new,” they said.

The prosecution presented evidence showing that Gonzales’ DNA was on a sweatshirt that Wilkerson had borrowed the night of the murder. Also entered as evidence were incriminating statements by Wilkerson before and after the crime, as well as dramatic changes in behavior following Gonzales’ death.

As part of Wilkerson’s defense, numerous letters were presented from his friends and others, describing him as having a positive impact within the community, including mentoring and coaching young people.

Gloria said she was unable to sit through much of the testimony, but did come in for the closing arguments and the reading of the verdict.

“When he was handcuffed and taken away, I knew then that I had done my job. I knew I had done what I was put here to do. I told (Amanda) at her graveside that I would keep fighting for her,” Gloria said.

“We thank the jury. They heard all the evidence and they came to the correct decision,” Michael said.

The couple said they will return to Pensacola for Wilkerson’s sentence hearing, which is scheduled for August 8.

Wilkerson was on active duty from 1999 until he was discharged in July 2004. He was discharged from the Army Reserve in 2007. After the military, Wilkerson returned to Andalusia where he operated a fitness center and later was the manager of a race track in Holt, Florida.

For Blaine Wilson’s full interview on WAAO Radio, click here.

(Editor’s Note: The Andalusia Star-News would like to express its appreciation to WAAO Radio and Blaine Wilson.)