75-year-old suspect in decade old murder case to plead not guilty

A 75-year-old man arrested in a decade old cold case made his first court appearance today. The lawyer for Jimmy Wise says his client will be pleading not guilty.

Jimmy Wise looked frail and disheveled as his wheelchair was pushed into the courtroom. It's been 30 years since his name first came to the public's attention as a suspect in other cases.

For a few family members present, it was a day in court they likely thought they would never see. For 9 years, Raymond Collison's disappearance and murder had remained a mystery.  He had gone missing in 2009 and his remains discovered in 2014 on a rural road in North Dundas Township. But Ontario Provincial Police and crown prosecutors believe they have the answers. Thursday, first degree murder charges were laid against 75-year-old James Henry Wise. His lawyer says Wise will plead not guilty.

“I can't say anything about his state of mind,” said defence lawyer Ian Carter, “except the instructions are that he will be pleading not guilty to this charge.”

A frail Wise was wheeled into a Cornwall courtroom Friday afternoon.  Carter says his client suffered a stroke a few years ago.  James Wise, or “Jimmy” as he was called, is a name well known in the area.  Over the decades, North Dundas Township has seen several unsolved murders and suspicious fires. In addition to Collison's murder, police were investigating the shooting death of Randy Rankin near Morewood in 2007, the murders of Wallace Johnson and John King in 1987 and the murder of Harold Davidson in 1983.

Wise was considered a suspect by the OPP but he was never charged and denied any involvement in the deaths.  Wise ultimately sued the OPP for defamation in a $1.8 million dollar claim which was settled out of court.

His lawyer says his client's notoriety could impede his ability to have a fair trial.

“Whether that necessitates a change of venue application, that's something we will consider,” Carter said.

Wise will be back in court by video on Monday for a bail plan. He remains in custody at this point and has been ordered not to communicate with 31 people connected to this case.