Sheriff Anderson announces break in 2001 murder of Oakhurst businessman

Madera County Sheriff John Anderson announced Friday that he will request murder charges be filed against Kenneth James Wilson, for the April 25, 2001, murder of Gary A. Flynn, the then co-owner of the Sportsmen’s Den, an Oakhurst fishing and hunting store.

Residents of the area were shocked and enraged that such a violent crime could occur in the peaceful town of Oakhurst, especially to a businessman well-liked in the community. Flynn, 61, was killed in his store at 40111, Highway 41 (now occupied by Payday Services Plus), at about 3 p.m. by a single gun shot to the back of his head. His body was discovered in the back room of the store by a customer at about 3:15 p.m.

Wilson, 38, is currently serving a life sentence in a state prison, located in Susanville, for the 2008 execution style murder of 34-year-old Julian Barajas.

Prior to the murder conviction of Wilson in 2008, detectives and authorities spent thousands of hours interviewing witnesses and investigating leads.

According to authorities, 14 guns were reported stolen from the shop that day and it was assumed they would eventually show up and lead to a break in the case.

“There were 14 guns stolen and we sent things to every gun dealer in California, we took them to gun stores and gun shows and one of the guns we were sure would show up — a Ruger Red Hawk — these are very rare and are collectors, but it has never turned up ... it’s a very expensive gun,” Anderson said.

At this point in the case only a few of the guns have been retrieved none of which gave leads to the whereabouts or description of the suspects in the 2001 execution of Flynn.

In January 2006, Anderson announced that a .40-caliber Glock handgun, one of firearms missing from the store after the killing, was recovered by Madera police during a vehicle search. The Madera Police Department reported that the handgun was taken from Anderson Penn Jr., 23, of Madera, during a pat-down after his parked car was approached by officers who reportedly smelled marijuana.

At the time, Madera County District Attorney Ernest LiCalsi planned to file a felony charge of possession of stolen property against Penn, along with misdemeanor charges of carrying a concealed weapon and possession of marijuana.

However, during the press conference Friday, Jan. 17, held at the Sheriff's Annex, Anderson announced a huge breakthrough in the case which eventually led the department to request a filing for murder charges against Wilson for his involvement in the murder of Flynn.

Wilson was arrested in connection to a 2008 Auberry murder and according to the sheriff's office, that is when Wilson confided in his cell mate that he was involved in several crimes, including the murder of Flynn.

Fresno Sheriff’s Department Detectives Sergio Toscano and Hector Palma followed up the acquisitions with several dozen interview and interrogations — over several months — of Wilson who eventually admitted his involvement with the 2001 murder of the Sportsman's Den’s owner.

“We feel based on his confession, our collaboration on it and all the investigation done in Fresno and Tulare County that we have enough of a case that this afternoon we are going to present to the Madera County District Attorney with the case and recommend that they charge Kenneth James Wilson with the homicide of Gary Flynn.”

It is still unclear why Wilson admitted to his involvement in the murder although he claims he was doing so to clear his conscience. Authorities still wanted Wilson to clear up some facts to make sure Wilson was indeed one of the men they were looking for.

“The way he described the scene, the way the homicide was committed, you had to have been there,” Anderson said. “If you were not in that building in that back room where Gary was killed you would not have been able to describe where the body was — none of that was made public — you would not be able to describe the manor of death because that was not made public.”

Although his story checked out and it seemed to be a end to the murder-mystery Wilson went on to say that he was not the shooter and there was another suspect involved, although he was unwilling to give the name of that suspect.

“He said he was there but was not the shooter,” Anderson said. “First, they wanted him to substantiate his story and make sure he was telling the truth.”

Anderson expressed relief that there is some closure in a case that devastated the Mountain Area community.

“During my service as sheriff of Madera County there are two things I would like to get cleaned up — one of them is the homicide at the Sportsman’s Den in Oakhurst,” Anderson said. “It was quite a shock up in the mountains and we spent thousands of hours investigating that crime.”

Anderson said that most of the time there are a couple of leads where people come in and give statements. This crime, said Andrson, had 89 leads and some of those took days to clear.

The weapon used to murder Flynn turned out to be a 9mm tec-nine found by police on May 14, 2001 following a high speed chase in which no suspects were apprehended.

Wilson described the story of the murder weapon and said they were in a high speed chase with another suspect before crashing the car and fleeing on foot. Wilson claims the other suspect ditched the weapon during the chase and assumed the police retrieved the weapon because when they returned the weapon was no longer there.

According to the sheriff’s office the gun was recovered by the Fresno Police Department and in an independent investigation matched ballistics as the gun used in the killing of Flynn.

“He also accurately described four or five of the guns stolen and he claims he kept two of the weapons both of which matched two of the weapons on the list of guns stolen,” Anderson said.

Prosecution is now in the hands of the district attorney and courts however the sheriff’s department continues to look for the other suspect(s).

“The way we constructed it there had to be at least two people there, maybe three,” Anderson said.

If anyone has any information on the description of whereabouts of the possible other suspect(s) they are asked to call the Madera County Sheriff’s Office.