Fourth Zachary Wood murder suspect ‘cheered on’ assault

21-year-old Ashley Esselborn.
21-year-old Ashley Esselborn.(Wichita County Jail)
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 11:25 AM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - The Wichita Falls Police Department and arrest affidavits have revealed new details on the Brown St. murder investigation following the arrest of a fourth suspect.

UPDATE: Wednesday, May 25 at 11:11 a.m.

The WFPD has released new details on the arrest of a fourth suspect in the murder of Zachary Wood.

Police said 21-year-old Ashley Esselborn was in a relationship with William Bell, who is another suspect in this case. Esselborn reportedly did not take part in the assault, but did cheer it on, yelling about missing items such as drugs and money.

She allegedly left the scene and later returned to grab items and discard bloody items, according to police. A witness reportedly told a detective that they overheard Esselborn brag about not going to jail and that she did take part in the assault.

Esselborn remains jailed for murder on a $1 million bond.

ORIGINAL STORY: Tuesday, May 24 at 1:26 p.m.

Arrest affidavits have revealed new details on the Brown St. murder investigation following the arrests of three suspects on Tuesday morning.

WARNING: details in this story may be graphic or upsetting for some readers.

Police say victim Zachary Wood was living on Brown St. with Payton Mackenzie Collier and two other roommates at the time of his death. Wood’s body was found on May 21 at around noon, when police responded to a check welfare call and found a “ransacked” house with “evidence of a massive bloodletting event that occurred, in multiple rooms,” according to an affidavit.

An affidavit states police were called to Brown St. and Avenue K for reports of people fighting, but that they weren’t able to find the disturbance. The report didn’t specify a date, but a list of 911 calls provided to News Channel 6 lists a high-priority “check suspicious person” report at those two streets at 10:28 p.m. on May 20, the day before Wood’s body was found by authorities.

Investigators spoke with the person who had called 911. The witness reportedly said Collier had reached out to him asking him to help her or pick her up, but that he had called police because he didn’t want to get involved. A search of the witness’s phone revealed text messages with Collier.

According to an affidavit, at 10:38 p.m. the witness texted, “What’s going on?” and Payton allegedly responded, “Im beating the [expletive] outta him rn [sic]” and “he stole my [expletive] sh**.” At 10:50 p.m., she reportedly sent another message saying, “come and help me!! I’m beating the [expletive] out of him.” A minute later, she sent a photo of her hand covered in blood, according to court documents.

Collier initially denied any involvement in the murder, telling police she wasn’t there and didn’t know what had happened to Wood, according to an affidavit. However, she gave a statement to police on May 23 saying her boyfriend Ronnie Lang and one of his friends, William Bell, beat Wood until “they noticed that Zachary was no longer breathing,” according to court documents. In police statements, both Collier and Bell said Lang also used a baseball bat to assault Wood; Bell also stated that Collier also took part in the assault.

Peyton Collier, Ronnie Lang, and William Bell have all been charged in connection with the...
Peyton Collier, Ronnie Lang, and William Bell have all been charged in connection with the murder of Zachary Wood.(KAUZ)

In addition to this incident, Lang has also been charged with an aggravated assault that took place on May 16 at the same Brown St. address. Police say he struck a man in the head with a gun after learning he wanted a relationship with Collier. The arrest report states Lang is also known as “RJ,” which another document lists as the name of one of Wood’s roommates.

Collier, Lang and Bell have all been charged with murder. Lang also faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon from the May 16 incident, as well as unlawful carrying of a weapon and theft of a firearm from May 24.

All three remain in the Wichita County Jail.

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