A musician and sound tech accused of stealing equipment from an iconic music club in Athens, Georgia committed suicide two days after his arrest, a local newspaper is reporting.

Michael Simpson Wilson, 36, was charged with the July 28 burglary of the 40 Watt Club after a handful of the microphones, amplifiers and other missing items were stolen and then sold at a Guitar Center in South Carolina, according to the Athens Banner-Herald. Wilson, who had worked at the club, was identified through security camera footage.

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The stolen equipment is valued at about $20,000, police have said.

Authorities found more of the stolen items during a search of his home in Oglethorpe County.

Wilson was arrested Aug. 1 and released on $4,600 bail. He killed himself two days later.

Authorities told the newspaper that Wilson left a note. A neighbor who had bailed him out of the Clarke County Jail notified authorities that something was wrong at Wilson’s home after she went to check on him and found another note on the porch telling her not to come inside.

Wilson’s obituary lists him as a native of Cincinnati, Ohio who had a degree in Russian history and philosophy from Emory University in Atlanta, the newspaper reports.

The 40 Watt is considered in the same realm as the famed Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles and CBGB in New York City. It’s considered influential for helping launch the punk rock movement in the United States. According to the club’s website, the 40 Watt was a home base for many of Athens’ most widely-known musicians over the last three decades such as R.E.M., the B-52’s, Pylon, Love Tractor, Vic Chesnutt, Olivia Tremor Control, Five Eight, Neutral Milk Hotel, Jucifer, Drive-By Truckers, of Montreal, The Whigs and Maserati.

The day after Wilson’s arrest, the club’s owner released the following statement on its Facebook page.

Thank you so much for your support over the weekend! We are pleased to say that an arrest has been made, and that almost 80 percent of the stolen gear was recovered by Athens-Clarke Police.

In a situation that could have ended quite differently, we’d like to make a point of thanking the sharp-eyed Manager of the Greenville, S. Carolina Guitar Center, Shaun Williams, who spotted the gear. Shaun then contacted his friend, Zachary Thigpen, Manager of the Athens Guitar Center, who in turn called me Saturday morning. ACC Detective Paul Davidson then took the lead and resolved the mystery.

Thanks to the 40 Watt management and staff for rallying over the weekend (so that we could be open), and to Colm O’Reilly at the Ga Theatre, The Drive-by-Truckers, and Alex Baum for the loaners. Big Thanks to David Lowery, Jason Isbell, Mike Mills and Mt Goats for stepping up on social media to get the word out.

Clearly, this guy picked the wrong place to burglarize, and the wrong town, too. You just don’t mess with the Athens, GA music scene…

Thanks again everyone, and see you at the show,

Barrie Jayne Buck

Maggie O'Brien

Maggie O'Brien

Maggie O'Brien has been a journalist for more than 15 years. She's covered everything from from crime to politics to fitness. Writing about bands and shows takes her back to the days of going to punk rock shows in the Midwest.
Maggie O'Brien

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