Jesse Wilson: Adoptive mother arrested for boy's death in Buckeye pleads not guilty

The adoptive mother of a boy who went missing in 2016 and was later found dead in 2018 in Buckeye has been arrested, police said.

On Dec. 13, Buckeye Police announced that 54-year-old Crystal Wilson was arrested at her home in Gainesville, Georgia in connection to the death of Jesse Wilson.

Crystal Wilson was extradited to Maricopa County in March and is jailed on a $50,000 cash bond. She pleaded not guilty during her initial court appearance on March 10.

Buckeye Police Chief Larry Hall said at a news conference that there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Crystal Wilson with homicide, but she was the main "person of interest" all along.

"We never gave up hope that justice was going to be served," said Jesse's grandmother at the news conference.

Wilson's trial is set for July.

Legal expert speaks out about case

As Crystal Wilson returns to Arizona, a criminal defense attorney says the case of Jesse Wilson's death shares some similarities with another high-profile murder case.

"This case has a lot of similarities to the Casey Anthony case. In that case, the mother was tried for murder. A jury found her not guilty,"  said Russ Richelsoph. "That's the same situation here as with Jesse. They found a body, but can't determine cause of death, so prosecutors can't say beyond a reasonable doubt that it's a homicide, and that's the problem with this case. That's why the case is charged as a Class 5 felony."

Crystal was indicted by a Maricopa County Grand Jury, and is accused of abandoning or concealing a body.

"If a prosecutor cant prove it, if they don't believe there's a reasonable likelihood of a conviction on a homicide charge, they can't charge it, even if it violates our sense of fairness or our sense of justice of what's right," said Richelsoph.

Jesse Wilson's disappearance

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Jesse Wilson

Jesse Wilson was 10 years old when he disappeared from his Buckeye home during the early-morning hours of July 18, 2016.

Police treated Jesse as a runaway because Crystal Wilson initially told investigators that he suffered from "learning and developmental issues" and was taking medication for it. She said he had slipped out of his second-floor bedroom window overnight in the past.

The FBI, Buckeye police and Maricopa County Sheriff's Office personnel searched for the boy for weeks following his disappearance. Drones, U.S. Border Patrol tracking dogs and citizen volunteers also searched.

Police said partial human skeletal remains were found on March 8, 2018, about six miles from the boy's home and a subsequent search of the area uncovered additional remains. The remains were later identified as Wilson.

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office ruled that Wilson died from an undetermined cause and manner.

Police said the area where the remains were found was searched in the summer of 2016, but the area was covered by water at the time.

A new investigator was assigned to the case in 2020.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.