$15K reward offered in Brookhaven death of visiting British scientist

Credit: Brookhaven Police Department

Credit: Brookhaven Police Department

Authorities have increased a reward for information leading to an arrest in the January death of a scientist visiting Brookhaven from England.

Brookhaven police on Monday announced the $15,000 reward as the investigation continues into Dr. Matthew Willson’s death. Detectives believe Willson, 31, was shot and killed Jan. 16 by someone recklessly firing a gun outside his girlfriend’s Clairmont Road apartment.

The astrophysicist was in bed when a stray bullet came through the wall, into the headboard and struck him in the back of the head about 2 a.m., according to police. His girlfriend, Katherine Shepard, said Willson, who lived in Chertsey, Surrey, England, and was completing post-doctoral work, arrived in Atlanta days before the shooting. Still jetlagged, he went to bed early that night.

Shepard was still awake when she heard a series of gunshots outside, she previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There was a pause before another round of gunfire, and Shepard went to the window to see where the shots were coming from. She noticed Willson sit up.

“Then the bullet came through,” she said. “Then I heard his breathing change.”

Willson died at a hospital.

Brookhaven police believe the bullets were fired from a neighboring community, the Sierra Garden Apartments on Buford Highway, which backs up to the Park on Clairmont complex where Willson was killed. A 911 caller reported random gunfire at Sierra Garden minutes before Shepard made her own 911 call, according to police.

They are asking the public for help identifying those responsible for “recklessly discharging firearms in the area.” Anyone with information is asked to call Brookhaven police at 404-637-0636.

Tipsters can also remain anonymous, and be eligible for rewards of up to $2,000, by contacting Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website.