It is among the most bizarre stories you will have read locally this year: Michael S. Wilson, a 32-year-old resident of 110 White Hall Drive in Palm Coast, is accused of rigging his front door with live electrical wiring in an attempt to electrocute his wife shortly after Christmas. He’s in jail in another state, awaiting extradition back to Flagler County.
But it’s not as straight-forward as that: Wilson, by his wife’s account, may be experiencing severe mental health issues to the point that he had to be Baker Acted in late November (that is, held at a psychiatric ward without his consent). The couple–they had married in November 2015—separated on Nov. 29, and his wife felt threatened enough by him that she acquired a firearm for her protection and installed remote-controlled cameras in her house so she could detect whether he was there or not. In Early December, she filed for divorce, according to Flagler County court documents.
The couple have an 18-month-old child in common, and Wilson’s wife is pregnant with their second child. She told police that a few months ago Wilson had a seizure and fell but declined medical attention. Until then his behavior seemed normal. Since then his behavior changed. He became paranoid and temperamental. He was diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia, according to his arrest report.
He was Baker Acted in November, and the couple separated since then. Her step-father provided her with a firearm, which she kept on top of the cabinets above the kitchen stove. She installed two smart cameras in the house that she could control through her phone.
A few days before December Wilson called his wife, apologized for his absence, and told her he wanted to be with her again. She invited him to visit in Knoxville, Tenn., where she and her children were visiting her father. She booked a room for him at a local hotel. He got there on Dec. 21. But the next night he got up from watching TV with everyone and simply left the house, without explanation. At 9 a.m. the next morning she received a text from him. He was accusing her of cheating on him. Then he blocked her phone number. She was able to connect with him the following day, calm him down, and urge him to return to her father’s house. He returned to Knoxville at 4:30 p.m. He claimed to have been visiting his own family in Ohio in the interim.
That does not appear to have been the case. She told police that during Wilson’s absence, she got an alert on her phone that the cameras at her house had been disconnected. (There’d been no power cuts of note in Palm Coast in the past two weeks.) When Wilson returned to Knoxville, he made several strange comments. He asked her about her gun. He somehow knew precisely where she’d hidden it. He asked her about the cameras in the house and accused her of getting them to figure out when he’d be in the house.
Then it got alarming. He told her, in words she quoted to police, that when she was to go home, “make sure you use the front door because the garage door is not going to open.” He also told her to “make sure that [their daughter] isn’t with you because I don’t want her getting hurt.” And before she left Knoxville to drive back to Palm Coast, Wilson insisted that their daughter should travel with him rather than with his wife as he followed her to Florida—and got so aggressive that she fled from a gas station to get away from him.
On Wednesday (Dec. 27) she had contacted her step-father, Jon Flositz, and relayed the elements of the strange conversations she’d had with Wilson, promoting Flositz to go to the W-Section house to check on things there.
What Flositz discovered was strange and startling: there was the writing on the back sliding door, with a “Hi!” written in lipstick and two eyes painted above the word. There was the trouble with the front door, which wouldn’t open, though neither Flositz nor his wife held the door knob while using a key at the same time—something that may have kept them from suffering great harm, as they would later discover. The oddness was enough to call for Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies, who continued with the odd discoveries. The door handle had burn markings. There were the missing bulbs from certain lamps, the lamp with its cord cut, strange love notes on the bed along with a photo album opened to the pages that showed Wilson and his wife together. The gun was missing from the kitchen.
And there was this: the front door had been rigged into what deputies described as a booby trap designed to electrocute whomever would unlock the front door in a certain way.
“The mechanism appears to have been rigged so that when the house key was inserted into the top portion, dead bolt locking mechanism, by one hand and then grabbing a hold of the lower portion door handle with the other hand,” the arrest report states, “an electrical closed circuit would be established. This would allow electrical current to be able to then flow freely from one hand up the arm through the chest passing the heart and back through the other arm. The items used for rigging this electrical booby trap consisted of two chairs, one high chair, blue tape, shower type rod, electrical cords and wiring, and a battery charger with clamps.”
The afternoon of Dec. 27 a detective met with Steven Bray, a veteran production lead supervisor of some 18 Florida Power and Light journeymen linemen, and showed him several photographs of the scene, without being filled in on details behind the scenes.
Bray, the report states, “estimated that a person touching the door lock and the door handle of the door in question, would be exposed to approximately 120 volts and approximately one (1) amp. Steven Bray estimated that a person who touched both the door lock/keys, and the door handle simultaneously would have an approximately 80-100% chance of suffering death or great bodily harm. Mr. Bray stated that he believes that there is a great likelihood that a person touching the door lock and the door handle simultaneously would ‘complete the circuit’ and would cause them to squeeze the door knob for an extended period of time, resulting in greater chances of great bodily harm or death. Mr. Bray estimated that approximately 100 out of 100 electricity industry professionals could look at the same photographs provided to him, and estimate the same results.”
Later that evening, the detective found Wilson’s Facebook page, which lists him as a truck driver for Amvets. Wilson’s status read: “Widowed.”
On Thursday, Circuit Judge R. Lee Smith signed a warrant for Wilson’s arrest, charging him with three third-degree felonies: attempted aggravated battery on a pregnant person, grand theft, and attempted aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Additional charges are pending. He was arrested in Knoxville and held there on $150,000 bond pending his extradition to Flagler.
“This is one of the most bizarre domestic violence cases I have seen in my career,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in a release issued this morning. “Not only did this man plan to electrocute his wife, but he could have injured a deputy or any person attempting to enter this residence. Thankfully this man was found and taken into custody before he could cause the harm he intended.”
The case has the makings of two other disturbing cases in recent years in Flagler that are yet unresolved: that of Joseph Bova, the man accused of murdering store clerk Zuheily Roman Rosado, a 32-year-old mother of five, at the Mobil gas station convenience store in February 2013, and that of Jonathan Canales, the now-30-year-old Army veteran initially accused of attempted murder for shooting his common-law wife in the neck in their Daytona North (or Mondex) home in 2014. Both the Bova and Canales cases have since meandered through court and psychiatric hospital proceedings, with both men at various times declared incompetent to stand trial, and Bova still under that same declaration, which his defense attorney says may hold for the foreseeable future. Canales was in court earlier this month, his incompetence-to-stand-trial order lifted. He is due in court on Feb. 14 on an aggravated battery with a firearm charge, by which time almost three and a half years would have elapsed since the time of the shooting.
Given his recent medical history, diagnosis, Baker Acting and his wife’s observations to deputies, the Wilson case is more likely than not to take the same path, in time and complications, through court and psychiatric corridors.