Local investigator turned author shares tales of true crime

Published 9:00 am Thursday, June 1, 2023

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Local author and longtime criminal investigator Clay Bryant will soon have his work inducted in the Georgia Writer’s Museum. Bryant has authored two books on local cold case murders that were solved with his help.

In his two books, Bryant details the true-crime stories of the murders of Gwendolyn Moore and Fred Wilkerson.

Bryant said he got into law enforcement because of his father, Buddy Bryant, who served as Hogansville police chief for over 20 years.

“I was practically raised on the seat of a police car,” Bryant said. “The day after I got out of high school, I went to work for the [Georgia] State Patrol as a radio operator. As soon as I turned 21, I was promoted to a trooper.”

Bryant worked with GSP for about nine years. When his father passed away, Hogansville offered him his dad’s position, and he served as their police chief for 12 years.

After leaving HPD, Bryant opened a commercial tire business which he ended up selling to Bridgestone.

“Pete Skandalakis offered me a job as an investigator with the [district attorney’s] office, and that’s how these things started,” Bryant said. “We had a very good run. During just over a three-year period, we solved and prosecuted four cold case homicides with the oldest being 33 years old.”

“The prosecutors did an excellent job in the cases. The evidence was there, and we convicted on all but one of them. The only one that we didn’t convict on was because a perpetrator died before we could go to trial,” he said.

Bryant said that one was the subject of his first book, “Solving the West Georgia Murder of Gwendolyn Moore: A Cry from the Well.” Gwendolyn was found at the bottom of a well on Aug. 3, 1970.  At the time, Gwendolyn’s husband, Marshall Moore, was a person of interest and was questioned. Their relationship was determined to be an abusive one.

According to Bryant, political workings and Marshall’s connections helped the murder fall through the cracks and the case was not pursued at the time. In 2003, the case was reopened with Bryant taking the lead.

Bryant said divine intervention and a longshot autopsy that determined the cause of her death helped bring justice for Moore 33 years later.

Marshall never stood trial for Gwendolyn’s murder. By the time of his arrest, he had been diagnosed with throat cancer and passed away prior to the trial.

Bryant said he began writing a book on the case as a way to get out his thoughts on the matter but never intended to publish it. He said he was at a dove shoot with Dr. John Williams, a professor of creative writing at LaGrange College, when he offhandedly mentioned he had written the book.
Williams asked to submit the work for publishing and a few weeks later he received an offer to publish the book. The book was a success, which lead to publisher Arcadia commissioning more works from him.

Bryant’s second book, “The Cold Case Murder of Fred Wilkerson: Untangling the Black Widow’s Web in West Georgia,” has also been a success since its debut on May 8.

The story outlines the murder of LaGrange resident, Fred Wilkerson, who mysteriously vanished in 1987. Bryant was later able to help solve the case two decades later and successfully prosecute the killer, his mistress, Connie Quedens.

Bryant said Wilkerson and Quedens moved in together after they both left their spouses. Quedens later convinced Wilkerson to put his house in her name. Shortly afterwards, she filed a police report against Fred and his son to have them removed from the house.

Fred filed a lawsuit against Connie, and she invited him over on Nov. 27, 1987. to discuss the suit. That was the last time Wilkerson was seen alive. Wilkerson’s car was later found abandoned at the airport in Atlanta. Seven years after his disappearance he was declared dead.

Bryant the case was later reopened in 2003 after the Wilkerson family asked Skandalakis and him to look into it. The subsequent investigation revealed that Quedens’ neighbor received a call from Connie asking her to pick her up from the airport shortly after Wilkerson went missing.

Investigators later learned that a well near Wilkerson’s former home had been covered at Quedens’ direction. A search warrant revealed Wilkerson’s remains in the well with a gunshot wound to the back of his skull.

Quedens was later convicted for Wilkerson’s murder. She is currently serving life in prison at Pulaski State Prison.

“I’ve dealt with some very mean people. I mean bad people. The name of the book is Untangling the Black Widow’s Web,” Bryant said. “She truly spun a web of lies and deceit.”

The book is currently available for purchase on Amazon and at Pretty Good Books in LaGrange, where Bryant held a signing event.

Bryant’s books will be entered into the Georgia Writer’s Museum in Eatonton on June 24 at an event billed as Wine and Crime.