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Suspect in overboard death told driver to leave victim, Clearwater police say

A witness emerged to say he was at the helm on the night the three men were drinking and boating on the Intracoastal, according to an affidavit. A fatal argument ensued.
Lonnie Wilson, 48, was found dead Dec. 4 off Sand Key Park in the Gulf of Mexico. He was thrown overboard the day before during an argument on a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway, Clearwater police said.
Lonnie Wilson, 48, was found dead Dec. 4 off Sand Key Park in the Gulf of Mexico. He was thrown overboard the day before during an argument on a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway, Clearwater police said. [ Moss Feaster Funeral Home ]
Published Dec. 23, 2021|Updated Dec. 24, 2021

CLEARWATER — A man who threw another man overboard during an argument ordered a third man who was piloting their boat to pull away, leaving the victim to die, Clearwater police said.

New details have emerged in a search warrant affidavit about the death of 48-year-old Lonnie Wilson on Dec. 3. Wilson’s body was found the next day a mile off Sand Key Park in the Gulf of Mexico.

Clearwater police arrested Shane Ryan Dugan, 29, who had possession of the 25-foot Catalina Yachts sailboat, on a manslaughter charge.

The affidavit was filed in court last week as detectives sought approval to search Dugan’s boat. The affidavit gives this account:

At the time of the Dec. 3 trip, Wilson was working at an Express Mart convenience store and living aboard his 24-foot Dolphin sailboat at the Clearwater Beach Marina. Next to Wilson’s vessel was a 30-foot Lippincott boat where 61-year-old James Alex McManus lived.

Detectives questioned McManus and he told them he was too drunk to remember whether he had gone boating with Wilson and Dugan on Dec. 3. Later, McManus told detectives he wanted to “clear his conscience” and tell the truth about what happened.

Shane Dugan, 29, was arrested on a manslaughter charge in connection with the death of 48-year-old Lonnie Wilson. Detectives said Dugan threw Wilson off a boat after an argument.
Shane Dugan, 29, was arrested on a manslaughter charge in connection with the death of 48-year-old Lonnie Wilson. Detectives said Dugan threw Wilson off a boat after an argument. [ Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office ]

McManus said he was on board when the three men set sail about half an hour after sunset. For several hours, they drank alcohol and boated up and down the Intracoastal Waterway.

At one point, Wilson suddenly became belligerent towards Dugan. McManus said he didn’t know what sparked the change. Dugan cursed Wilson and told him he would toss him off the boat if he kept it up. Wilson stood and cocked back his arm, as if he was going to punch Dugan in the face, McManus told detectives.

Dugan stood, grabbed the front of Wilson’s jacket and swung him over the side of the boat.

Dugan then instructed McManus to take the boat straight back to the marina, about half an hour away, leaving Wilson flailing in the water. They reached the mooring at about midnight.

Related: Clearwater Police: manslaughter suspect threw man off boat during argument

“There were no attempts to stop the boat or seek help for Lonnie Wilson by either him or Shane Dugan, and no other boats or citizens were in the area,” the affidavit said.

Dugan told McManus that if anyone asked about Wilson, he should reply he “had fallen into the water and not to say anything else,” the affidavit said.

Dugan tied his sailboat to McManus’ vessel and asked if he could take his smaller boat to shore near 25 Causeway Blvd. in Clearwater. McManus agreed and told detectives he hasn’t seen Dugan since.

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Dugan later called McManus’ cell phone while McManus was talking with police. An officer answered and asked Dugan what had happened to Wilson. Dugan replied that there had been no argument and that he and McManus last saw Wilson when they dropped him off at his own vessel.

Clearwater police noted injuries to the front and back of Wilson’s head consistent with blunt force trauma, the affidavit said. The cause of death has not been determined yet.

Dugan was taken into custody on a manslaughter charge Dec. 10 and was released the following morning after posting $20,000 bond, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office records show.

Calls and Facebook messages to Dugan, McManus, and Wilson’s family were not immediately returned.

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In an obituary, Wilson is described as a freelance chef and a loving father to his young son. He enjoyed playing pool, tennis, bowling and sailing with friends, and is survived by his son, brother, half-brother, sister, mother and stepfather.