WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — Fishermen found the body of a Connecticut multimillionaire yesterday, tied to concrete blocks in the deep water beside his 100-foot-long yacht, named After You, police said.
Wrigley Byron Knightsley, Jr., 68, heir to the second largest axel grease fortune in the country, was found dead when two local clammers happened by and saw Knightsley’s bald head bobbing on the surface of the calm Intracoastal Waterway waters just off the Dockside restaurant at 1308 Airlie Road.
The clammers, Abe Green, 18, and Fruity Nelson, 18, told police they were out in their skiff around 3 A.M. trying to get the best clams when they saw what they thought was something that had dropped off of the yacht.
They pulled up beside the After You, realized they had found a body and started yelling for help.
Their cries woke up Eva-Marie Knightsley, the dead man’s wife, and the captain of the boat, John “Handsome Jack” Feloni, said police.
The 22-year-old woman and the 25-year-old captain ran to the back of the boat, then called police.
A two-page hand written letter was found on Mr. Knightsley’s office desk, said police. They refused to show the letter to reporters but said it indicated he was despondent.
Divers pulled the body out of the water around 5 A.M. Acording to police
“He committed suicide,” said one of the divers at the scene.
In an afternoon press conference later that day, Wrightsville Beach Police Chief John Carey summarized what the divers had found.
Knightsley’s feet were tied with nylon rope to two cement blocks, each weighing more than fifty pounds. A gun was tied to Knightsley’s right hand, and there were two bullet holes in the back of Knightsley’s neck.
When asked if foul play was suspected, Carey said he would not comment.
The police chief did confirm that Knightsley was left-handed.
Mrs. Knightsley is the dead man’s second wife. They were married six months ago in Barbados in a civil ceremony after a whirlwind courtship of three weeks, according to news reports at the time.
Mr. Knightsley’s first wife died last year at the age of 67. They had been childhood sweethearts and had bragged that they had never spent more than two nights apart since they were married 50 years before. They had six children.
Court records state that before Knightsley was married to his current wife, his children asked a judge to declare their father incompetent to manage his affairs and to declare them legal guardians of their father’s $300 million estate.
The elderly Knightley, however, married the former Eva-Marie Stingblatz before the judge could rule.
Knightsley met his current wife at a Wilmington gentlemen’s club called Dockside Dolls, 5671 Market St., in March where, club owner Gino Singer confirmed, she specialized in exotic dances and was “quite athletic” and “a real friendly girl.”
When asked if Feloni and Mrs. Knightsley were sleeping in the same cabin, Carey refused to comment but did confirm that the tall blonde captain routinely slept aboard the yacht, and he and Mrs. Knightsley often cruised the Atlantic waters off Wrightsville Beach when her husband was away on business.
The body has been sent to Raleigh for autopsy, and the results will be available in the next few days, Carrey said.
Knightsley was born in Stamford, Ct., and inherited Knightsley’s Oil and Grease 30 years ago after his father, the company’s founder, died.