Woman sold former Cocoa councilman’s wedding ring after his murder, police say

Ring was inscribed with couple's initials, wedding date

Jim Wallen, 75, was a retired teacher and former Cocoa City Councilman. (Image courtesy of the Wallen family) (WKMG 2020)

COCOA, Fla. – The second person arrested in connection with the death of former Cocoa City Councilman James Wallen pawned the victim’s wedding ring with a custom inscription, according to the arrest report.

Wallen’s wife returned home on Aug. 21 to their home on Manor Drive to find him covered in blood in the garage, according to the report. Wallen was pronounced dead when paramedics arrived.

Detectives arrested Matthew Inklebarger, 42, late Saturday in connection with the slaying. He is being held without bond on federal charges, according to police. Officers determined Inklebarger was in town visiting Cecilia Poteet, 44, who was also arrested Saturday, and charged with dealing in stolen property.

During his visit, it is believed Inklebarger randomly broke into the Manor Drive home and encountered Wallen, who was killed, police said.

According to Poteet’s arrest report, the Wallens’ home was ransacked and a window on the rear door was broken and the door was ajar. One of the items stolen was Wallen’s wedding band that included an inscription LLW 2 JAW and their wedding date 8/24/68. Detectives said the ring was taken off the victim’s finger and Poteet sold it at Cash America Pawn for $175 the same day of the burglary and homicide.

Poteet told detectives she sold the ring and knew it didn’t belong to her. She said the ring was given to her by a live-in boyfriend and that he had “eluded to the item being stolen.”

Poteet was arrested and booked into the Brevard County Jail.

Wallen was a retired teacher and spent his time volunteering. His family shared this statement on his passing:

“Jim was much more than a crime victim. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. Additionally, he served the community he lived in and loved by working as a teacher for 37 years, serving on the Cocoa City Council and volunteering for Meals on Wheels. No one expects something like this to happen. But, it brings home the fragility of life and the importance of conveying your love to those around you at every opportunity.”