Tonight my special guest is author Ann K. Howard who's here to discuss her book called His Garden that details the bodies left behind a shopping mall by serial killer William Devin Howell.
"You want to know what happened? Ask Anne."—serial killer William Devin Howell
A monster was on a killing spree. In just nine months, seven people went missing; all of their bodies eventually discovered in a wooded lot behind a suburban strip mall. But the investigation that led law enforcement to their suspect, William Devin Howell, is only part of the story behind HIS GARDEN: Conversations With A Serial Killer.
A practicing attorney, author Anne K. Howard first contacted Howell while he was serving a fifteen-year sentence for the murder of one of his seven victims. He was about to be charged for the remaining six murders. A unique and disturbing friendship between the two began, comprised of written correspondence, face-to-face prison visits and recorded phone calls. Howell, who had been unwilling to speak to any members of the media, came to trust Howard.
In the years that follow, the suspect shared his troubled history with Howard but refused to discuss the charges against him, promising only to tell her everything when the case was over.
That time has come.
HIS GARDEN probes the complicated and conflicted mind of William Devin Howell--Connecticut’s most prolific serial killer. Both sacred and profane in its narrative style, the story on these pages explores the eternal question of human evil and its impact on others, including the woman he chose to hear his horrific confession.
William Devin Howell (born February 11, 1970) is an American serial killer who was convicted of murdering seven women in 2003. He is one of the most prolific serial killers in Connecticut history. In November 2017, while already serving a 15-year prison sentence for manslaughter, he was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences (a life sentence in Connecticut is 60 years in prison, meaning he was sentenced to 360 years in prison), which he is currently serving at Cheshire Correctional Institution.
The victims were identified as seven women, including one transgender woman, Janice Roberts. Their bodies were discovered in two locations, including an area behind a shopping plaza on Hartford Road in New Britain, referred to by Howell as his "garden". The person who discovered this principal body dump, at the start of 2005, by which time the remains were mostly skeletal, had been looking for an area to hunt in. The ground is wooded and marshy and inaccessible by car, which delayed the investigation and recovery of the victims.
Melanie Ruth Camilini
29-year-old Melanie Ruth Camilini, a mother of two from Seymour, went missing on January 1, 2003. She had recently been living in Waterbury and was last seen in that area with two men. Camilini was known to have a substance abuse problem and would regularly disappear for long periods of time. Her body was discovered buried behind a New Britain shopping center and was identified in 2015.
Janice Roberts was the working name used by Danny Lee Whistnant, (b. October 5, 1958), a 44-year-old transgender woman from New Britain. She was last seen alive on June 18, 2003, when observed getting into Howell's blue van outside a Stop & Shop in Wethersfield. She was reported missing on June 24.Howell later told an informant that he tried to engage Roberts in a sexual act and, when realizing that she was transgender, strangled her.
Diane Cusack, a 55-year-old New Britain resident, disappeared in mid-2003. Police last had contact with her on July 9, during a landlord-tenant dispute. Her remains were found behind the New Britain shopping plaza in 2007, and she was identified in 2011.Cusack, who had had a substance abuse problem, had been out of contact with her family for years and had never been reported missing.
On July 31, 2003, a woman told police that her sister, 33-year-old Nilsa Arizmendi, had not been heard from for 7 days. Arizmendi's boyfriend, a convicted drug dealer, was immediately a suspect in her disappearance but was ultimately cleared after passing a polygraph test. The sister told police that Arizmendi was a heroin user and sex worker who was living in a motel in Wethersfield along with her boyfriend. He told investigators that he and Arizmendi had allowed Howell to stay overnight in their room and that he last saw Arizmendi at 2:30 .a.m on July 25, 2003, when she got into Howell's van. Arizmendi's body was found on April 28, 2015, along with the bodies of three other women.
Marilyn Gonzalez, a 26-year-old woman and the mother of two children, went missing in 2003 after she left her home in Waterbury. Her body was found behind the WestFarms shopping mall in Farmington, Connecticut on April 28, 2015.
Joyvaline "Joy" Martinez, 23, went missing on October 10, 2003, but was not reported missing until March 29, 2004. Suspicion arose when she did not show up for her birthday party. She was last spotted in her hometown of East Hartford, where she lived with her mother. In high school, she had been a track star and, at the time of her disappearance, was unemployed. Her remains were some of the first to be recovered from the shopping plaza area in 2007, and she was identified in 2013.
Mary Jane Menard
Mary Jane Menard, 40, a mother of two from Waterbury. A former addict, she had turned her life around to become a substance abuse counselor. She went missing from New Britain in October 2003 and her remains were found behind the shopping plaza in 2007.
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