This is the second in a ten part series about serial killers from all fifty of the United States. In the first segment, I presented information on multiple murderers and their victims from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas. Now, in part two, I invite you to learn about serial killers from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, and Georgia.
COLORADO: William Lee “Cody” Neal
Self-nicknamed “Wild Bill Cody,” or Cody for short, had considered being a preacher when he grew up but his penchant for violence would get in the way of achieving those dreams.
Cody’s criminal attributes appeared before his teenage years, when he and a friend were caught shoplifting. It would also be a test of his ability to talk his way out of trouble. The smooth-talking devil wormed free of criminal charges for theft and thus began a long history of using words as a way to get the things he wanted in life.
And his “talent” worked like a charm on women. Cody played a game with the women in his life: Seduce, promise eternal love, physically and verbally abuse them, and, as a final insult, drain them of all their money.
One of the women who fell for this pathetic man, – a man who later proclaimed he was better than Ted Bundy, was Rebecca Lynn Holberton. A successful 43 year-old divorcee, Rebecca let Cody move in with her before she discovered he was an abusive, jealous, two-timing, and financially irresponsible loser.
On June 30, 1998, Cody was supposed to be moving out after Rebecca had told him it was over but he sweet-talked her into one last meeting at the townhouse they shared. Once she was in his web, there was no escape: Cody violently killed her by beating her about the head with splitting maul (similar to an axe) then wrapped her body in plastic.
With Rebecca’s mummified body present, Cody brought Candace Anita Walters to the townhouse on the evening of July third. Despite having previously made promises of love and marriage, Cody lured Candace to the home only to brutally murder her in the same fashion he had Rebecca. This time, however, he added a little something extra: he urinated on Candace. Laying her body next to Rebecca’s, he covered Candace with a sheet.
With the dead womens’ credit cards and cash, Cody calmly went on a shopping spree – only to return on Sunday, July 5, 1998, with another of his girlfriends, 21 year-old Suzanne Scott.
Suzanne was bound, raped, and beaten for hours before Neal left the townhouse; leaving Suzanne with the decaying corpses of Rebecca and Candace. His outing was short-lived, however, and he soon returned with 28 year-old Angela R. Fite.
Suzanne watched helplessly as Angela suffered the same torture to which she had been subjected. She cried uncontrollably as she watched Cody beat the already battered and bruised Angela until she was lifeless. Suzanne was certain she was the next to die.
Using impressive survival instincts, essentially giving Cody a taste of his own sweet-talking medicine, Suzanne convinced her kidnapper to take her home. Once there, he instructed Suzanne and her roommate to call 911 only after he left. Cody, police say, intended to commit suicide.
Of course, as too many killers do, Cody chickened out when it came to taking his own life and he was arrested on July 8, 1998 – only hours after Suzanne told her horrific story to police and the bodies of the three women were found.
Cody proved to be rather testy when it came to his trial, even firing his attorneys and attempting to representing himself. But eventually he just pled guilty. On September 29, 1999, a three-judge panel sentenced Cody to death three times – once for each murder.
Finding Jesus in jail (I think he’s there more than in churches sometimes) may have gotten Cody’s prayers answered (or maybe it was just the work of a few liberal judges) because Colorado declared the use of three-judge panels for death sentences were unconstitutional. As a result, Cody’s death sentences were commuted to life in prison without parole. As of this writing, Colorado’s serial killer William Neal is incarcerated at the Colorado State Prison in Canon City, Colorado.
CONNECTICUT: Michael Bruce Ross
Michael Ross was a very intelligent young man and excelled in school. Unfortunately, his home life left a lot to be desired.
The oldest of four children, two boys and two girls, Ross’ mother suffered from severe mental illness and frequently beat her children – Ross, as the oldest, was always getting the worst of his mother’s physical rages. The time she abandoned her family to be with another man in North Carolina or when she was institutionalized were probably a welcome reprieve for the Ross children.
There’s also been rumors among family and friends that Ross was sexually molested by his teenage uncle for several years before the uncle committed suicide when Ross was six years old.
Whether it was environment or heredity, or possibly both, no one can ever say for certain what caused Ross to become a serial killer but it goes with saying everyone can breathe a sigh of relief he’ll never hurt another woman.
Ross began stalking young women when he was a sophomore at Cornell University. In his senior year, he’d worked up the courage to commit his first rape. Soon thereafter, Ross moved on to murder.
From May 1981 to June 1984, Ross murdered eight women in Connecticut and New York. Seven of the eight victims were raped before their deaths. The women ranged in age from as young as 14 to 25. Most of the victims were accosted as they walked or hitchhiked along a roadway but Ross didn’t acquire the moniker The Roadside Strangler until after his death.
Michael Ross’ murder spree came to an end when a witness to the abduction of Wendy Baribeault told police the perpetrator drove a blue Toyota and provided a detailed description of the man.
Ross confessed to a total of eight murders but was only charged and convicted of murdering his last four victims, which included Wendy, Leslie Shelley, April Brunais, and Robin Dawn Stavinsky. He was sentenced to die for his crimes on July 6, 1987.
During his incarceration, Ross became a devout Catholic (there’s Jesus again!) and, after years of legal wrangling trying to save his life, hired an attorney to speed up the execution process. Claiming he was a death penalty opponent, Ross said he wanted to be executed to give closure to his victims’ families.
Ross got his wish on May 13, 2005 – exactly 24 years and 1 day since his first murder – when he was executed by lethal injection at Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut. He is buried at Benedictine Grange Cemetery in Redding, Connecticut.
Surprisingly, no books solely about Ross’ crimes have ever been written. However, several have profiled him in serial killer collection books, including Serial Killers Up Close and Very Personal: My Death Row Interviews with the Most Dangerous Men on the Planet by Victoria Redstall and Vulture: Profiling Sadistic Serial Killers by Deborah Schurman-Kauflin.
DELAWARE: Steven Brian Pennell
November 29, 1987, was only the beginning of Delaware’s first and only recorded serial killer to date. On this date, the sadistically tortured and brutally beaten body of Shirley Ellis was discovered.
For the next year, Steven Brian Pennell, a man who had applied to be an officer to numerous Delaware agencies, cruised the Interstate 40 corridor in search of female victims.
His victims were prostitutes lured into his van, better suited to be called a rolling torture chamber, where he would spend hours subjecting them to vicious torture before, in some skewed sense of mercy, he murdered them.
Delaware authorities were desperate to catch this horrific killer and requested the assistance of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit to help. It was at their suggestion that undercover officer Renee C. Lano bravely prowled the I-40 route and eventually caught the attention of Pennell. Officer Lano was invited into Pennell’s van where, after making excuses to get out, she submitted fibers she had managed to smuggle from the vehicle. The fibers were a perfect match to ones found on some of the victims’ bodies.
After a one-month around-the-clock surveillance on Pennell, he was arrested on November 29, 1988 – exactly one year since the discovery of his first victim.
In another ironic twist, on November 29, 1989, Pennell was found guilty of murdering Shirley Ellis and Catherine DiMauro and was sentenced to life in prison. Then October 31, 1991, Pennell pled guilty to the murders of Michelle Gordon and Kathleen Meyer and was sentenced to death.
Pennell is believed to have murdered a fifth victim, Margaret Lynn Finner. However, her body was so badly decomposed when it was found that any potential evidence had long been destroyed.
Having spent his incarceration proclaiming his innocence, Pennell had said he was ready to die in order to end the victims’ families suffering. (Amazing how these folks become humanitarians at the end, isn’t it?) At 9:49 a.m. on March 14, 1992, Pennell was declared dead after a lethal cocktail was administered by the Delaware Department of Corrections.
What became of the remains of the The I-40 Killer or The Corridor Killer, both monikers assigned by the media to Pennell, is unknown.
Again, this is a prolific serial killer no author has attempted to write about. However, just as with other serial killers who haven’t had a book written about them, he has been given cameo profiles in case collection books such as those shown below:
FLORIDA: Daniel Harold Rolling
The son of a cop, Danny Rolling was constantly reminded that he was an unwanted child both verbally and physically. His brother and mother suffered the abuse as well.
Rolling grew into an angry man; at one point, he even tried to kill his abusive father in a heated dispute but daddy dearest walked away alive – less one ear and one eye, however.
On August 24, 1990, the anger boiled over. Rolling broke into the apartment of University of Florida students Sonja Jane Larson and Christina P. Powell. Rolling watched Powell sleeping peacefully on the couch and then decided to explore the rest of the apartment. Upon discovering Sonja asleep in her room, he decided to rape her. Returning to the living room, he taped Christina’s mouth shut then killed her before returning to Sonja’s room where he bound her with tape, cut her clothes off with a knife and sexually assaulted her. Killing Sonja too, Rolling posed the girls bodies before leaving the apartment.
The next day, Saturday, August 25, 1990, Rolling broke into Christa Hoyt‘s apartment. She wasn’t home at the time so Rolling waited for her. When she entered the apartment, Rolling surprised her from behind and bound her with tape before raping and killing her. Rolling killed her and, like Sonja and Christina Powell, he posed the remains before departing.
Fear was spreading among the college students of Gainesville, Florida. Some parents insisted their children transfer schools, others did so of their own accord. Many students began staying together in larger groups. One University of Florida student, Tracy Inez Paules, had invited her boyfriend, Manuel “Manny” Taboada, to move in as a safety measure. But on Monday night, August 27, 1990, Rolling forced his way into the apartment and finding Manny asleep on the couch, a struggled ensued and Rolling killed the young man.
Tracy, hearing the commotion, had rushed to Manny’s room. Seeing Rolling, she rushed back to her room and attempted to barricade herself inside but Rolling forced his way into that room as well. Binding her with tape as he had done his previous victims, Rolling sexually assaulted the young woman before forcing her onto her stomach and murdering her. While Tracy was posed, Manny was discovered in the exact position into which he had fallen after death.
Rolling was later arrested and held on a burglary charge in Ocala, Florida. Investigators soon discovered Rolling’s tools in the robberies were the ones used in the murders. Additionally, Rolling was living in a one-man camp in a wooded area near apartments rented predominately by college students – including the victims. Among his camp items were audio diaries alluding to the murders.
Rolling was officially charged with the five murders in November 1991, although it would take four years for him to stand trial. But, just before testimony was to begin, Rolling pled guilty. Following a presentation of evidence in the penalty phase, Rolling was sentenced to death on all counts.
At 6:13 p.m. Eastern Time on October 25, 2006, Daniel Harold Rolling was pronounced dead following a lethal injection at the Florida State Prison in Raiford, Florida.
Just before his death, Rolling wrote a detailed confession to the murders of 55 year-old William Grissom, his 24 year-old daughter Julie and 8 year-old grandson Sean, in Shreveport, Louisiana, for which he had long been suspected.
The book considered to be the authority on Danny Rolling is John Philipin’s Beyond Murder published in 1994.
GEORGIA: Wayne Bertram Williams
On May 22, 1981, a loud splash resounded off the Chattahoochee River from the James Jackson Parkway and South Cobb Drive Bridge off Interstate 280 between Fulton and Cobb County, Georgia.
The sound of a 13 year-old’s body hitting the water may never have been heard had it not been for investigators staked out along the riverbanks because of a series of murders that began in 1979.
Officers below notified Atlanta police and stand-by FBI agents of a white 1970s Chevrolet station wagon which was pulling slowly away from the bridge. Pulling the car over just half a mile from the bridge, detectives found the driver to be Wayne Bertram Williams, a 23 year-old black man and son of the vehicle’s registered owners.
Having worked as a music records promoter and a freelance photographer, Williams claimed during questioning by police that he was on his way to audition a female singer named Cheryl Johnson. However, police were unable to locate the woman Williams claimed he was to meet. Despite their suspicions of Williams’ story, there was no evidence to hold him. Williams provided them with a phone number where he could be reached and was released.
Two days later, the body of 27 year-old Nathaniel Cater was discovered floating just a short ways downriver of the bridge where officers had heard the splash. When the medical examiner determined Cater had been in the water no longer than 36 to 48 hours, officers came to believe Williams had dumped Cater’s body on the night he was questioned.
Attempting to contact Williams at the number he provided resulted in detectives learning he had provided a nonexistent number and only increased their suspicions of the man. Eventually, however, they managed to catch up to Williams and, following a search warrant executed on the car, hairs from the family dog and fibers from the station wagon matched those found on April 1981 victim Jimmy Ray Payne and Cater.
The Atlanta Child Killer, as Williams was dubbed by the media because of the young ages of some of his victims, was arrested on June 21, 1981. Although suspected in the 28 deaths of black children, teens, and young adults in the Atlanta area, Williams was only indicted on the murders of Cater and Payne.
During the high profile trial, a jury of nine women and three men was selected with a racial composition of eight blacks and four whites. The trial lasted almost two months with jurors hearing the forensic evidence and listening to testimony of witnesses who said they had seen Williams with the victims – even implying Williams had solicited sexual favors.
On February 27, 1982, after eleven hours of deliberation, Williams was found guilty of the Cater and Payne murders and sentenced to two life sentences with the Georgia Department of Corrections.
In May 2005, 23 years after Williams’ conviction, newly-elected Dekalb County Police Chief Louis Graham ordered the murder cases of five local male victims attributed to Williams (but never charged) be reopened, stating he believed Williams had been associated with more murders than for which he was actually responsible.
Williams has always maintained his innocence and there has long been rumors he was framed by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). White supremacist and KKK affiliate Charles T. Sanders has been accused by some journalists of being responsible for murders but no real evidence has ever emerged to support these claims.
World renowned criminal profiler John Douglas once said he believes Williams is responsible for many of the murders of which he has been accused but not all of them. Douglas also said he believes law enforcement most likely knows the identity of some of the killers, then cryptically added, “It isn’t a single offender and the truth isn’t pleasant.”
As of this writing, Williams is serving his sentence at Hancock State Prison in Sparta, Georgia.