updated 3/14/2005 12:06:01 AM ET 2005-03-14T05:06:01

The immigration agent allegedly shot by a man who opened fire in an Atlanta courthouse was killed while remodeling a future home for himself and his wife on his day off.

David Wilhelm, 40, had devoted weekends to fixing the five-bedroom house so it would be ready by June. He was found shot to death Saturday inside the home in north Atlanta. His blue pickup truck, pistol and badge were missing.

Police believe he was the last victim of Brian Nichols, the suspect in the courthouse killing of a judge, a court reporter and a deputy the day before.

New to Atlanta area
Wilhelm and his wife moved to Atlanta in November, where Wilhelm was second-in-command of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.

Candee Wilhelm said goodbye to her husband Friday evening and returned to their apartment while he continued working on the house.

“I tried to call him later, but I couldn’t get an answer,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Friends remembered Wilhelm as a hard worker who earned money by milking cows as a teenager and repossessing cars and cleaning carpets while studying criminal justice at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Wilhelm had been a customs agent for 18 years, working previously in North Carolina and Virginia on cases involving financial investigations, narcotics and human smuggling.

'He was the real deal'
He won the agency’s Blue Eagle Award for his work in 2001 on a narcotics investigation that resulted in the seizure of about two tons of marijuana and $2.4 million in cash.

His sharp investigative skills and work ethic caused his friend and former boss, Jeff Jordan, to hire Wilhelm’s brother as an agent. “He came from Wilhelm stock; that was good enough for me,” Jordan said.

Jordan described the Salisbury, N.C., native as a laid-back country boy who stayed until the job was done. “He had a unique ability to get everybody to work together, to rally everybody and get them to pull the rope in the right direction,” he said.

Terry Osborne, Wilhelm’s teacher and coach at West Rowan Senior High School in Mt. Ulla, N.C., said Wilhelm wanted to excel, even as a student.

“He wasn’t satisfied to be mediocre in anything he did,” Osborne said. “He was the real deal.”

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