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23. Finding Body Doesn't Surprise Psychic

The following has been transcribed from an original 1975 Lakeland Ledger digital newspaper archive. This article has been re-typed and organized from existing digital Lakeland Ledger archives; I've transcribed them for informational and readability purposes.I do not claim any ownership/authorship of these particular articles.


The Lakeland Ledger

Wednesday, September 17, 1975

Psychic: One-For-One

By Calvin Engh & Jim Degennaro | Ledger Staff Writers

EDITOR'S NOTE – James Wagner was found in a shallow grave in a citrus grove south of Lakeland Monday. The views expressed by the psychic in this story are not necessarily those of the writer.

A local psychic who predicted last month that the body of the then-missing Jimmy Wagner would be found in an orange grove said Monday night, "It doesn't surprise me – I knew all along Jimmy was dead." In the Sunday, Aug. 24, edition of The Ledger the spiritualist said., "This young man (Wagner) was not taken to a swamp the night he was murdered but an orange grove."

At that time, Polk County sheriff's investigators were concentrating their search for the frail 19-year-old in a secluded phosphate pit about a half mile from where the charred body of 33-year-old John M. Arnsdorff was found in the trunk of his burning car July 29. Wagner was then considered either a suspect or a victim in the six-week-old-murder case.

But Wesley Irvin Johnson changed all of that.

He's the 19-year-old drifter who had terrible nightmares recently and finally confessed to taking part in the murders of Wagner, Arnsdorff, and Caleb McDowell, who was blasted with a shotgun and then set afire in the trunk of his car two years ago. On Sept. 6, Johnson was charged with three counts of first degree murder. An associate of his, Dennis Wayne Smith, 23, has also been charged with three counts of first degree murder in the case.

Smith has remained silent. Johnson has not. He led deputies on several futile searches of orange groves in the Clubhouse Road area but could not pinpoint the spot where he said he had helped bury Wagner.

An experienced investigator who has been involved in the case since July 29 pooh-poohed the psychic's predictions about Wagner a month ago, but when Johnson started talking about citrus groves, he admitted he was somewhat startled by the uncanny accuracy of the spiritualist. The psychic, George Murdock, 753 Tennessee Drive, remained anonymous in earlier Ledger stories, fearing a deluge of telephone calls from persons wanting to contact missing or dead relatives.

He is still hesitant in revealing in his name because, in his words, "I made some predictions on some other unsolved murders and I don't want my brains scattered all over my yard by someone who thinks I can finger them." But any trigger-happy hit men out there would just be wasting hot lead on him, Murdock reassures.

"Look, the spirits I talk with can can tell me how they died, but they usually don't tell me who killed them," he said. "They just can't bring themselves to do it."

On Sept. 6, while deputies were still searching for Wagner's body, the 55-year-old psychic was asked to try and reach the young man's spirit to possibly pinpoint his shallow grave."I reached Jimmy again and he told me he was taken to an unfamiliar orange grove by two men and was told to dig his own grave. He said it was dark and, because he was scared, he didn't dig very deeply," Murdock said. "Jimmy also said the orange grove was newly worked, that it didn't have a fence around it, and he was taken quite a ways from the road way."

The psychic was pretty close. Three grove workers found Wagner's body in a grapefruit grove about 360 feet west of Scott Lake Road and approximately 1,230 feet from Lake Miriam Drive. The body was located off a bumpy road about 12 rows in, in an 18-inch grave. The grove was newly worked and like most citrus groves in the area, had no fence around it.

Murdock said one possible reason his prediction involved an orange grove and not a grapefruit grove is that Wagner may not have been able to tell the difference between the citrus trees in the dark. "It's like splitting hairs," he said.

In the Aug. 24 story, Murdock also predicted that Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa and Mark "Duane" Woodward of Lakeland were dead. He also said at this time he "receives a very strong reaction from the spirit world" when he tries to contact billionaire-recluse Howard Hughes and missing newspaper heiress Patty Hearst.

Woodward, 19, vanished April 14, the day he was supposed to begin a week-long trip to Texas with a friend. The former Seaboard Coast Line trackman reportedly was carrying between $2500 and $3000 in cash the day he disappeared He has not come home since then or contacted his family or friends.

The man he was to have made the Texas trip with showed up in Lakeland the next day saying "Oh, Duane found some other guys to go with. I decided to stay here."

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