In a patch of swampland behind a strip mall a New Britain, Connecticut a hunter stumbled upon what appeared to be a human skull. It was this discovery in 2007 that would lead police back to the same location again and again, each time returning with more remains, more potential victims, and more questions.
Police suspected the area had become a serial killer’s dumping grounds. The state of Connecticut offered $150,000 for capture of the unknown perpetrator, the largest bounty in Connecticut history. They had no idea the man they were seeking had already been in custody.
It was shortly after the discovery of the human skull, in August 2007, that William Devin Howell was sentenced to 15-years when a jury found him guilty of manslaughter.
Nilsa Arizmendi, Howell’s first known victim, was last seen stepping into a 1985 Ford Econoline van in July of 2003. Her remains were later found in a swampy grave behind a Subway restaurant. It was during this period that six more people disappeared under mysterious circumstances, all later found in that same patch of swampland. It would be nearly a decade before police could connect the dots back to Howell.
Howell later confessed to a fellow inmate that he often dreamed of his seven victims. Living in his van at the time of the murders, Howell picked up odd jobs in the area of New Britain. When he wasn’t mowing lawns, Howell was picking up people, primarily women, who led troubled lives marred by drug abuse and sex work in what he called his “murder mobile.” These victims would later be identified as Melanie Ruth Camilini, Diane Cusack, Marilyn Mendez Gonzalez, Joyvaline Martinez, Mary Jane Menard, and Danny Lee Whistnant.
Howell admitted he raped and brutally tortured his victims before leaving them in what he called his “garden.” He referred to himself as a “sick ripper” and confided in his cellmate that if he had not been caught he would have gone cross-country to kill more.
Court records detailed how Howell kept one of his victims wrapped in plastic for a period of time because the ground had been too cold to bury her. Howell said he referred to the corpse as “his baby” and slept next to the victim’s body for weeks on end.
In the case of Howell’s only known male victim, he told his former cellmate that he had been preparing to perform a sex act when he realized the victim was a male. Howell confessed that he murdered the man immediately.
Howell’s confession also included exact locations where his seven victims were buried. He made his cellmate swear to an oath of secrecy and hoped that his cellmate would help him commit suicide before forensic testing on his van secured the evidence prosecutors needed to pin Howell as the most prolific serial killer in Connecticut’s history.
Instead, his cellmate turned. It was his testimony that helped prosecutors charge Howell with six counts of murder. Howell later pleaded guilty to his crimes and will be spending the rest of his natural life behind bars.