WARRENSBURG — Chief of Police Bruce Howey stood at the corner of North Holden and East Pine streets on Wednesday night, watching as a throng of people slowly dispersed.
Nearby, Barry and Diane Whitworth were sharing a final round of hugs and condolences with the mass of people who turned out for a candlelight vigil held in honor of their son, William “Blaine” Whitworth, who was shot and killed Saturday night in the driveway of his east-side Warrensburg home.
“I would say that was at least 1,000 people,” Howey said of the crowd, which had gathered outside of Molly’s, one of two nightclubs owned by Whitworth.
The words came at the end of a hectic 96 hours for Howey and his department, made more so by Tuesday’s activation of the Missouri Rural Major Case Squad and a veritable invasion of the college town by the media. Investigators remain guarded when discussing details of the homicide, the first in Warrensburg since 2009, but the crowd of grieving family and friends, customers and former employees, and others who knew the slain man were still abuzz over a pair of arrests the day before.
By Tuesday, 35 investigators with the major case squad, including officers from the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office, had convened in Warrensburg and had spent the day following up on some 70 leads, one of which potentially lead to the arrest of Reginald L. Singletary, 27, of Warrensburg, who was taken into custody without incident by local law enforcement after he was stopped around 6:30 p.m. in Sedalia.
Singletary was returned to Warrensburg and was interrogated by police, eventually telling them, according to court records, that “he killed Whitworth at the request of Ziyad T. Abid in exchange for money from Abid.”
Abid, 23, of Warrensburg, was arrested just after midnight Wednesday. Despite Singletary’s admission to police, investigators have maintained their silence as to what motive prompted the crime, with multiple rumors circulating through the crowd at the vigil.
Both men were formally charged on Wednesday, facing charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action, just hours before the start of the candlelight vigil. The vigil was organized by Jessica Lewis, a friend of Whitworth’s, as a way for friends and family to mourn the popular nightclub owner who had gone on from the University of Central Missouri to work as a safety manager on oil rigs in Singapore.
He returned to Warrensburg in September 2011, re-opening Bodie’s, a well-known venue, then followed up with Molly’s in February.
Remembered during the vigil as somewhat larger-than-life, Whitworth had reportedly always wanted to own his own business and had developed a fondness for Warrensburg while attending school. He was an Eagle Scout and a dedicated brother who protected his younger siblings from bullies and was known for his generosity with friends and customers.
During the vigil, Diane Whitworth said her son “was never one of those kids who would sit around” and had always been highly motivated. She thanked the crowd, especially Lewis, for turning out in such strength to support the family.
“It is the only way we can get through, so thank you from the bottom of our heart,” Diane said. “When you think of Blaine, he wouldn’t want us to be sad. He wouldn’t want us to be mad. He would want us to be happy for the time we had together. I will tell you what he did ... he crammed 100 years of life into those 25 years.”
“He just wanted to make things better. He wanted to give back and make the community better,” Lewis told the Democrat, recalling that he would often show up to work in a pair of old safety pants with cargo pockets and reflective tape down each leg and a tattered pair of tennis shoes.
“He always wore them when he was working, which was most of the time. You would see him zoom by in that little outfit, and if you made fun of him for it he would say ‘I can fit so much stuff in these pockets and you are just jealous because I can carry more than you,’ ” Lewis said.
Lewis said Abid was a regular at Molly’s who called himself “the Prince” and was known “to throw a lot of money around.”
Singletary, she said, had worked over the summer as a bouncer at the bar, but she didn’t know of any tension between the men.
During a court appearance by the two defendants on Thursday, Abid, a Saudi Arabian national, was ordered held without bond over fears he represents a flight risk. Both men are still being held in the Johnson County Jail.
“Good to know they had people in custody for doing what they did,” Lewis said. “I think it helps people knowing they have who did it.”