A man who was sentenced to life in prison in 1972 for shooting an on-duty Davenport police officer to death has died.

Wesley Betts, 63, was being housed in an out-of-state prison under compact agreement and died at a hospital at 9:21 p.m. Tuesday, according to a news release issued by the Iowa Department of Corrections.

A spokesperson for the department said legal agreements prevented reporting where Betts was being held. A Quad-City Times story in 1993 said he was at a federal prison in Virginia; a story in 2001 said he was at a federal prison in Pekin, Ill.

Betts died of natural causes. The preliminary cause of death is complications from non-small-cell lung cancer, which resulted in organ failure.

He was serving a sentence of life without possibility of parole for first-degree murder from Scott County and a sentence of up to 25 years in prison for second-degree murder from Lee County.

Michael Farnsworth was a 29-year-old rookie Davenport cop, four months on the job, with a wife and daughter at home when he was shot while answering a robbery call on Dec. 5, 1971. The shooting occurred at the former Quality Motel at 605 Main St. A residential correctional facility now stands at the site.

Former Davenport Police Chief Mike Bladel, who went through Davenport’s police academy with Farnsworth, remembers the shooting well. In a Quad-City Times photo from that night, Bladel can be seen on the third-floor balcony holding a shotgun.

Betts, then 22, and three other men, Willie Earl Davis, then 20, Wornice Lloyd, then 25, and Willie Lee Ellis, then 22, robbed off-duty Davenport police officer Leon Washington, who lived at the motel. The four, all from Chicago, fled Washington’s room with his gun collection as officers Sam Raley and Farnsworth pulled up in a squad car.

Farnsworth shouted for three suspects in the motel parking lot to stop. Betts opened fire from a third-floor balcony. Farnsworth was hit in the head and died instantly.

“Betts was on the third-floor balcony, firing down, alternating fire with a six-shooter in each hand,” Bladel said. “As Mike was running for cover, he was hit in the head.”

Moments later, other police officers converged on the scene, and the four suspects were captured.

The three other men received 25-year sentences for second-degree murder in connection with the case. Each was paroled in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

“Mike was a good guy who left behind a good family,” Bladel said. “It was a real tragedy that sent shock waves through the community and throughout the police department. We were new, we were green, and we were dedicated.”

Betts was serving his sentence at the state penitentiary in Fort Madison when he was involved in the stabbing death of inmate Gary Eugene Tyson during a riot in 1981. He was sentenced to 25 years for that death after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. A Quad-City Times story at the time of his sentencing said he was transferred to a federal prison in Oxford, Wis., after the riot.

“I’m glad that justice was served, and that Betts served his entire sentence,” Bladel said. “It was appropriate he received a life sentence.”

Washington eventually moved to Chicago. On June 6, 1981, he became involved in an altercation with James Riordan, first deputy superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. Washington shot Riordan to death and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. A search of the Illinois Department of Corrections website does not show Washington as being an inmate.

(16) comments


To mikey123 and jk3513, I'm not getting the same understanding that you read in DeangeloD's post, they did not say Race was a determining factor, they were saying that back in the 70's a crime of this magnitude involving a Black suspect and a White officer was bound to have controversy. I'm not trying to push any buttons but it's a tragedy and both the convicted and victim are gone, we can't replace that day. We just have to pray for both families. And one should not be offended if the post was read correctly.


Is it a bigger sin to kill someone or to steal a cracker? To bigduke6 be careful what you ask for. I would hate for you to turn around on judgment day and see this defendant standing in the same line as you. Funny people always wanna pray when America is under attack but believing and serving God also mean to forgive. Don't cast a stone if you live in a glass house yourself. I'm not commenting on the actions of the defendant. I know Willie Lord real good and I do know he expressed remorse about the killing and I got that right from his mouth.


I agree!


to iowalittledog, I agree!


To DeAngelo- group of black men that included Willie Lloyd, the supreme leader of the Unknown Vice Lords in Chicago. Lloyd does not even dispute what happened, not sure where you are following this story, but race was not a factor in determining


I cannot believe that anyone would make a comment on this story in regards to race. What does anything have to do with Mr. Farnsworth being white? He was a human being who was shot while in the line of duty. My father was the partner of Mr. Farnsworth that night, and I am highly offended that anyone would defend what was done to Mr. Farnsworth on the basis of color. No one should be robbing anyone or shooting any one, NO MATTER WHAT COLOR THEY ARE


Where did you read that someone defended Mr. Betts, he was guilty of the crime, and if wrongly convicted he was guilty for being associated.


To mickey 123
Where did you read that someone defended Mr. Betts, he was guilty of the crime, and if wrongly convicted he was guilty for being associated.


I just wonder, what makes a cops life more valuable than our children? I see that each time a person kills a cop, they get life without parole. But, a person can kill a child and receive 20 to 30 years. So sad that killers of children are given the opportunity to walk the streets and kill again.


I do not know where you live momma, but Murder 1st Degree is always a mandatory life sentence. No exceptions. It doesn't make a diference if you are a kid or a cop. There are no special enhancements.


Not a lot has changed in Davenport. The thug criminal culture thrives here.
R.I.P Ofc Farnsworth. Wesley Bets may to suffer eternal flames.

Comment deleted.

The really sad part is that a life was taken do to non-sense, however, we as a people do not have the right to judge anyone, I wasn't there and I don't know if you (bbbiker) where there but I can say this; I do know that there are a lot of inocent people incarcerated for crimes that they did not commit, I followed this story and did a little research and found that there were more key players in this, I think all involved should have received the same amout of time as Mr. Betts, Not sure that taking a life because a life was taken is the answer, however this was in the 70's and we're talking a black group of young men and a White officer, enough said...May God Bless Both families and all involved.


Both families lost when this homicide occurred. Just a tragedy.


The really sad part is that a life was lost for non-sense, however we as a people are not put on this earth to judge anyone, I was not there, unsure if you(bbbiker) were there, I do know that a lot of inocent people are convicted, not saying this is the situation, however, I have followed this story and I see it as Mr. Betts was an escape goat and took the fall for the others involved, back in this time we are talking about a black young man and a White officer, need I say more. I think all involved should have been given the same amount of time for the crime, and taking a life because a life was taken is not necessarily the answer, Mr. Betts did his time and paid the ultimate price for his involement. God Bless both families...


thank you so much for recognizing that whenever there is a tragedy such as this, many people are impacted. My brother Wesley was indeed the fall guy here. No excuses for him being involved in the shooting but he was not the trigger man as reported...
Thank you for also reminding folks of the times we lived in back then, An out of state young Black young with a Black Lawyer accused of killing a White officer,

Thank you for your kind words, I will be sure to pass them onto my family. Our prayers are extended to the family and friends of Officer Farnsworth.


To bigduke6
Again not trying to push buttons, but to ask for eternal flames on a death is horrible, I realized the magnitude of the crime, however we are not the judge nor jury, Mr. Betts will meet his maker who has the ultimate power, this world will never change with these types of comments and feelings, but one can comment how he/she chooses....God bless both families.

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