A suspected serial killer accused of slaying six women and a man in 2003 and dumping their bodies behind a shopping plaza in New Britain, Connecticut, appeared in court today through video conference and will appear in court again in December.
William Devin Howell, a native of Hampton, Virginia, who allegedly called himself the "sick ripper," is a 45-year-old drifter with a lengthy criminal record.
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He is serving a 15-year prison sentence for killing Nilsa Arizmendi, whose blood was found "soaked through the fabric into the foam underneath" a seat cushion in Howell's van, according to the warrant for his arrest. Howell was charged with six other slayings last month.
Howell's attorney, William Paetz, said the defense team has been deciding whether to invoke Howell's right to a probable cause hearing, which would force prosecutors to prove in court there was probable cause to arrest him. Paetz declined to comment on the pending charges.
According to the defense team, the time requirements have been waived because they are waiting on discovery from the state, which is expected within a month.
According to the warrant for his arrest, Howell called the plot of land where he allegedly dumped the bodies his "garden" and told a cellmate he had killed all seven people over a six-month span in 2003. He also sexually assaulted at least three of them, the warrant states.
Howell told a cellmate at least some of the victims were prostitutes and "they all should have known they were going to die because of the life style they were living," the warrant alleges.
Three of the victim's bodies were uncovered in in 2007 and the others were found last April and May.
Authorities have identified the victims as Diane Cusack, 55, of New Britain; Mary Jane Menard, 40, of New Britain; Joyvaline Martinez, 24, of East Hartford; Melanie Camilini, 29, of Seymour; Danny Lee Whistnant, 44, of New Britain; Marilyn Gonzalez, 27, of Waterbury; and Arizmendi, 33, of Wethersfield.
According to the Associated Press, authorities who were searching Howell's prison cell found notes referencing a serial killer memorabilia website, darkvomit.com that sells items of serial killers and murderers and a newspaper article about Florida's death penalty. Court documents also show police seized a cellphone bill with a handwritten statement that says, " This just shows that the day after I killed."
Search warrants filed in court show the items were seized this year from Howell's cell at Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown.
Howell's court hearing Wednesday was by video conference. His attorney said he needs more time to decide whether to have a probable cause hearing and that he's awaiting evidence from the state. Howell's attorney also said he expects to have that evidence in about a month and said that the only thing that's been given to him was the arrest warrant.
Howell is being held on $10 million bond and is expected to make another court appearance on Dec. 10, also by video conference.
Howell's lawyer has urged the public to remember Howell is innocent until proved guilty.