Detective William Thomas Whitehead

Detective William Thomas Whitehead

Jacksonville Police Department, North Carolina

End of Watch Thursday, May 28, 1981

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William Thomas Whitehead

Detective William Whitehead drowned after being beaten unconscious, handcuffed, and pushed into a river by two suspects.

Detective Whitehead was questioning the two men outside of a bar on suspicion of sexually assaulting a juvenile female. The two men attacked him and handcuffed him behind the back with his own handcuffs. They then threw him into the New River, under the Old Bridge at, Court Street. A medical examination determined that Detective Whitehead was alive when he was thrown into the river.

Both suspects, Marine deserters, 23 and 24 were apprehended on February 17, 1983. One was apprehended in Davenport, Iowa, and the other in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

One of the suspects was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He was denied parole in January 2015. The other suspect was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 15 years. He was paroled September 7th, 1988.

Detective Whitehead was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War and had served with the Jacksonville Police Department for five years. He was survived by his wife. A week before his death he was awarded the J. Edger Hoover Distinguished Service Award for his work on a string of armed robberies, 11 rapes, and several homicides.


  • Age Not available
  • Tour 5 years
  • Badge Not available
  • Military Veteran

Incident Details

  • Cause Assault
  • Weapon Person
  • Offender Sentenced to life

Most Recent Reflection

View all 42 Reflections

Det. Whitehead,
On today, the 40th anniversary of your death I would just like to say thank you for your service and sacrifice-not just for your Community but for our Country as well when you served with the USMC during the Vietnam War. And to your Family and loved ones, I wish to extend my deepest sympathy.

Semper Fi Devil Dog!
A fellow Leo; former Marine

United States Border Patrol

May 28, 2021

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