Family of James Tilson Says His Suspected Killer Was His Best Friend

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The family of the Rockford man gunned down in his car in early May say they finally have a chance to grieve now that the suspected killer has been caught.

The family of 27-year-old James Tilson say they were certain he was shot and killed by his best friend, 33-year-old Willie Barton, Jr. Tilson’s sister say the pair had known each other for years, but that over the last few months they had been fighting more and the friendship had changed. The family thinks Tilson told Burnett that he couldn’t use his hotel room and that’s argument is why Tilson was killed.

"He has been having some arguments off and on because he had told me about them and I said he’s not to be trusted," says Carlotta Thompson, Tilson’s sister.

Burnett made his first court appearance on Friday after being charged with first degree murder in the death of his friend. Winnebago County Sheriff's deputies found Tiilson early on May 4th. They say he slumped over the steering wheel of his car in the driveway of an empty home on Crandall Avenue and had been shot several times. Tilson's family says he had three daughters. His sisters called him a fantastic father who had a budding music career and a killer smile.

"We feel great because we now know his killer is behind bars but we are still very sad because our brother was taken from us too soon and he should never have been taken from us that way,” says Thompson. “He was an outgoing guy, he loved his kids. He stayed on his children, ‘you do your homework, then you go play’. He was a very good advocate for education and wanted the best for his kids.”

Thompson says she is grateful to the friends and family who pitched in to cover the costs of her brother’s sudden funeral. She adds, they are thankful the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department worked so quickly and made an arrest in the case.

Burnett will back in court Monday. He’s being held on a $100,000 bond.

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