Guilty Plea In Wise’s Murder

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The man who shot and killed Weirton native Philip Wise on Christmas Eve pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Friday.

Laquan Fitzpatrick, 19, was sentenced to 50 years in prison after entering the plea in Arkansas’ Pulaski County Circuit Court.

He was charged in the Dec. 24, 2009, shooting death of Wise, a Salvation Army major, outside the North Little Salvation Army community center. Investigators say Wise, 40, was killed during an attempted robbery in front of his three adopted children, ages 4, 6 and 8.

Fitzpatrick apologized in court to Wise’s widow, Salvation Army Maj. Cindy Wise. She told reporters she appreciates the gesture and supports the sentence.

A second man believed to be involved in the murder, 20-year-old Brandon Leavy, was killed Jan. 7 in an unrelated robbery attempt. A security guard fatally shot Leavy as he and another man attempted to rob a Dodge’s Chicken convenience store in North Little Rock.

Prosecutors believe Leavy was the gunman in Wise’s death. According to police, Wise was nearing the side entrance of the center when he was approached by two black men in black clothing, both armed with handguns. One of them reportedly demanded money before shooting Wise.

Wise served for several years with both the Weirton and Moundsville posts of the charitable organization before moving to Arkansas in 2006. He was picking up his wife at the community center and preparing to return to Weirton for the holidays when he was shot.

Maj. Harvey Johnson, the Little Rock area commander of the Salvation Army, said the Wises had just adopted their children – ages 4, 6 and 8 – in 2008. The three were siblings who came from an abusive family. Wise’s work in Little Rock took him into a low-income neighborhood troubled by gangs and drugs, Johnson said. He ran youth programs, a food pantry and church services.

Wise met his wife, Cindy, who was from Charleston, 16 years ago at a Salvation Army training school. Both had worked for the Salvation Army ever since.

Those seeking to provide assistance to the Wise family have multiple avenues to do so.

According to Ray Smith of the North Little Rock Salvation Army, organization members have set up two funds in memory of their fallen comrade, with proceeds to go directly to Cindy Wise.

One is an account at Centennial Bank, and contributions may be made to: Wise Family Memorial Fund, 13910 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, AR 72223. Questions regarding this fund should be directed to Laurice Taylor at 501-603-3862.

Contributions also can be sent directly to the North Little Rock Community Center, c/o Maj. Cindy Wise, P.O. Box 186, North Little Rock, AR 72115.