FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – A man on Wednesday pleaded no contest to second-degree murder, armed burglary and assault, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in the death of 73-year-old Nassau County pet sitter Colleen Potts.
Shawn Whigham was sentenced to 20 years for the murder charge, 20 years for the armed burglary and assault charge, and 15 years for the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon charge. The sentences will run concurrently.
Whigham has already been in jail for 406 days, so the judge gave him time served for that. Prosecutors also spoke with Potts’ family, who agreed to the deal.
Whigham was facing multiple charges that could have each carried a life sentence, but prosecutors offered him a deal to only serve 20 years if he pleaded no contest to three charges. Whigham’s initial charges were first-degree murder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, armed burglary with assault and battery, and burglary to a dwelling while armed.
After the sentencing Wednesday, New4JAX spoke with Whigham’s brother, Granzie Whigham, who questioned the plea deal because he said his brother did not kill Potts, whose body was found in a home on South 13th Street in October 2021.
“We were hoping for a better situation. God works in mysterious ways. It’s not over yet. No evidence,” he said. “So hard to swallow this. Everything pointed to his innocence.”
He said he hopes his brother will appeal the conviction.
“Maybe somebody will look into it, help him out, whatever. God’s got a plan,” he said. “He didn’t do this. The evidence points to someone else.”
In court Wednesday, the prosecution admitted to the judge it had no DNA evidence linking Whigham to the crime, and the defense said it was withdrawing a motion to suppress Whigham’s confession. The defense had claimed that Whigham’s rights were violated during an interrogation and that what he said to investigators was coerced.
According to the Fernandina Beach Police Department, Whigham admitted to the crime, saying he went into the home to steal when he encountered Potts. His arrest report shows that police said he confessed to shooting her, grabbing her purse and taking off.
In court documents, the defense claims that police threatened Whigham’s wife, her job and her home.
Whigham’s attorneys had said there is no “physical, forensic, digital, direct, circumstantial or eyewitness evidence” that connects Whigham to the death of Potts, who, according to community members, was pet sitting at the home where her body was found.