Homicide suspected in Port Lavaca man's river death

Jan. 29, 2013 at 7:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 29, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.

16x9 Port Lavaca man

16x9 Port Lavaca man

The investigation of David Willoughby's death is turning toward homicide after an autopsy report found sleeping medication in his system.

Willoughby, 52, of Port Lavaca, disappeared June 26 while en route to Rockport. His body was found in his white Honda Civic pulled from the Guadalupe River near Tivoli about two weeks after he disappeared.

"I don't think David left of his own will," said Charlene Willoughby, the victim's widow. "I've been telling the police that from the beginning."

The autopsy report showed a considerable amount of Ambien, a drug commonly used to help people sleep, in David Willoughby's system.

Detective Colin Rangnow, of the Port Lavaca Police Department, said the amount in Willoughby's system was significant, considering his body had been submerged for more than two weeks. The report showed that Willoughby had very little water in his lungs and no sediment in his throat to indicate drowning, Rangnow said.

Willoughby's body had no external or internal trauma and his vehicle sustained very little damage from going into the river.

Rangnow said police were unable to reconstruct the crash under these circumstances. An independent contractor also was unable to recreate the crash under such circumstances, Rangnow said, indicating either suicide or homicide.

Police have ruled out suicide in their investigation.

"Suicide just doesn't seem to fit everything that has been discovered," Rangnow said. "I find it hard to believe that someone would slowly drive their car into the river and slowly kill themselves."

Willoughby was planning a trip to Mexico for that weekend and was known to be a deliberate man, the kind who would not have been planning a trip if he was also planning to kill himself, Rangnow said. He noted it also doesn't make sense for a man about to go on a long road trip to take Ambien, especially someone like Willoughby, who was known for being a meticulous person.

"Homicide has become a more distinct possibility," he said.

The investigation is ongoing, and Rangnow said they have people of interest in the investigation. He said it's hard to tell how long it will take to solve the case.

"There's no particular smoking gun in this case, but there are a lot of little things that, when you put them together, make a telling story. It is steering the investigation in that direction. The autopsy results are only a little piece of the puzzle," he said.

Charlene Willoughby said she's glad the police are continuing to investigate how her husband died.

The couple would have celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary in August and were already packed to leave for a trip to Cancun when Willoughby disappeared.

She said her husband was wearing shorts and a T-shirt when he died, clothing he would never have worn to go on a trip to visit a friend.

She and her husband met when his mother, a seamstress, was fitting her for a dress and called her son telling him to come over, that she'd found him a girl. The pair married three months later and had two children, Colton and Madison Willoughby.

Since her husband's death, Charlene Willoughby has struggled to be patient with the police because information was slow to reach her. She said she's relieved to know they are continuing to look into the case to find out how her husband died.

"I just hope they won't let it go into a cold case. Nothing is going to bring him back, but if someone hurt him, I want to know," she said. "If there's any possibility of finding out what happened to him, then I want to pursue that."



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