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Sunday, September 20, 2015

When Will New Britain Serial Killer Suspect William "Devin" Howell Go To Trial?

The most recent mug shot of Howell, in September 2015.
On Friday, William "Devin" Howell was charged with the murders of the remaining six victims found behind a strip mall in New Britain, Connecticut. He is currently serving a fifteen year sentence for the murder of the seventh victim, Nilsa Arizmendi. Her remains were discovered by FBI cadaver dogs in April 2015.

Back in January 2007, Howell was convicted for Arizmendi's murder based on a single drop of the victim's blood found in Howell's blue van, also known as the "murder mobile", along with some rather damning testimony from Howell's best friend, Joseph Masters.

At trial, Masters recalled helping Howell to clean out the infamous van in in the driveway of Master's home in Virginia in late November 2003, just four months after Arizmendi went missing. Masters testified that the interior of the vehicle had a foul odor, and the seat cushions on the back bench were very stained. In the cleaning process, Howell removed the bloody cushions, wrapped them in garbage bags, and left them on the sidewalk for trash collection. He went on to replace the cushions with new ones.

In recent months, Howell has written to me twice from prison. He now goes by the name, "Bill." His handwriting is quite neat. He occasionally misspells words (ex. "weather" rather than "whether".) Otherwise, he seems relatively well-spoken for a high school drop-out who spent his adolescence partying to the hilt in Hampton, VA.

The letters reveal an unbelievably lonely and depressed man, as the above mug shot clearly depicts. He has no contact with friends or family. He has put on a lot of weight. It's also fair to say that he is scared out of his brains regarding what's to come.

When Howell last wrote me, he had yet to be charged with the remaining six murders. That said, I strongly sensed that he knew it was coming. He told me that, two years ago, he refused to speak with police officers about the current accusations without a lawyer present, and so was stripped of his "industry job" in prison as a kind of punishment by the Department of Corrections (DOC). Not a big deal to a prison outsider, but for an inmate who lives for a few extra dollars a week to purchase better quality soap or tinned spicy tuna at the prison commissary, it was a big deal to Howell. He took pride in having an industry job, as it pays a whopping $1 per hour, as compared with the typical prison jobs that pay 75 cents per day. Howell explained to me that he has worked all his life, and it discouraged him to be sitting in isolation, doing nothing.

In his last letter, approximately five pages in length (single-spaced, small handwriting), Howell shared some interesting details about his life before his most recent imprisonment. Since I am writing a true crime novel about the New Britain Serial Murders, tentatively titled, "15 Acres of Horror", I am not going to freely share that information with the public via blog post at this time. The reader will have to buy my book when it comes out- hopefully in 2017. (If that's not a self-serving plug on my part, then I don't know what is.)

It seems likely that Howell's murder trial based on Friday's arrest warrant will not take place for at least another year or two. I'm just guessing here about the timeline, but as an attorney I know that a trial regarding the murders of six victims will no doubt involve a long parade of witnesses for the prosecution, mountains of evidence, and numerous pre-trial motions that will inevitably result in delay.

It doesn't look good for Howell. The prosecution is prepared to present a case that depicts a monster of the most loathsome kind. He allegedly slept next to the dead body of one of his victims, Melanie Ruth Camilini, calling her remains his "baby" after he raped and strangled her. According to the prosecution, he put one of the tools in his van to use, as well, when he hit that victim with a hammer and shattered her jaw. He went on to bury her body parts in Virginia. And yes, there's also the issue of his allegedly cutting off her finger tips, post-mortem.

As with many serial killers who prey upon prostitutes, Howell is said to have had a twisted moral agenda in mind when he conducted his grisly crimes. The women were not mothers, sisters, or even human beings. They were disposable creatures who should have known that they would die and be buried in Howell's "garden" (as a fellow inmate claims Howell called the burial ground behind the mall) due to the lives that they led.

Although a defendant has a Constitutional right to a speedy trial, this is often waived by the defense. It is probably in Howell's best interest to permit his attorney to move slowly and get all of his ducks in a row, so to speak. On the other hand, one can argue that a speedy trial may be in Howell's best interest as he is being considered as a suspect in another murder in Florida. As time goes on, who is to say that authorities may not link him to other crimes and further incriminate him with such allegations?

After Howell appeared at the New Britain Superior Court last Friday, his defense attorney reiterated a most basic Constitutional fact: Howell is presumed innocent of these crimes until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That said, the thirty or so grieving family members of the victims that filled the courtroom, along with the heinous nature of these six murders, makes one thing clear: Howell should be afraid right now. He should be very, very afraid.




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