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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Alleged New Britain Serial Killer Loses Case in Small Claims Court

If you are a serial murder suspect and currently serving time for murder, don't expect justice in a small claims court. William Devin Howell learned that lesson last month when a Connecticut Superior Court magistrate ruled against him in his bid for reimbursement from a friend in the amount of $1,976.88.

http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20140425021051/logosrupaulsdragrace/images/5/5c/Judge-judy.jpg
Tough-ass Judge Judy would probably have ruled the same way.
Howell is currently serving a 15 year sentence for the murder of Nilsa Arizmendi. Last September, he was charged with murdering six others, whose remains were found alongside Arizmendi's behind a strip mall in New Britain, CT. Howell was recently granted a two month continuance so his attorney can review the reportedly voluminous amount of evidence turned over by the State and determine whether to contest probable cause before proceeding to trial.

While the odds may be stacked against Howell in his future murder trial(s), in my humble legal opinion he should have won at least part of his case in small claims court last month. Plaintiff Howell appeared at Middlesex Superior Court via video conferencing alleging that from April 2012 to December 2013, he sent Defendant Cheyenne Hackett a total of $2,240.00 to deposit into a savings account with People's United Bank. Ms. Hackett is the older sister of Howell's now deceased ex-girlfriend, Dorothy Holcomb. Howell earned the money by working a low-paying industry job in prison six days per week.

Howell testified that he only authorized Ms. Hackett to use $200.00 of the funds to pay for the removal of Holcomb's body from the morgue, and $50.00 to go towards phone bills previously accrued by Holcomb when she phoned Howell in prison. His claim is mostly consistent with the paper trail. Holcomb died in August 2012. One month later, $200.00 was withdrawn from the account. Both parties agreed that this money went to the morgue for the removal of Holcomb's body. Howell also presented a letter indicating that he authorized Hackett to mail a friend from Georgia $130.00 to pay back a loan. This would have reduced his claim for restitution to $1,846.88.

Ms. Hackett argued that the remainder of the funds were applied to the cost of cremation, prayer cards and obituary, money gifts to two of Holcomb's daughters, and miscellaneous expenses.
Watch Judge Judy and you'll see that in small claims court, it's all about the receipts. Here, the defendant failed to present any of the receipts regarding the above referenced items. Safe to say that a simple phone call to the funeral home would have produced a few of those documents. A request to Holcomb's daughters to write that the money was received as a gift would also have been helpful.

Alas, Howell is no ordinary plaintiff. The media has been all over the additional murder charges recently laid against the Virginia native. Affidavits provided by the State relay grisly details that have no doubt poured salt on the wounds of the victims' grieving family members. If any of them are reading this post, they are likely thinking that the suspect deserves a lifetime of medieval-style punishment and/or death. So what if he was shortchanged some cash?

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/05/13/serial-killer-suspect-was-kindhearted-boyfriend.html
Howell and Holcomb in better days. 
In the end, the magistrate ruled for the defendant, finding that the absence of paperwork memorializing the agreement between the parties contributed to the plaintiff's lack of credibility. Moreover, the magistrate could not find proof of the defendant's intent to commit theft. Never mind the fact that Howell had presented proof in the form of a bank statement indicating that the funds were still existent on March 31, 2014, almost two years after Holcomb's death. It stands to reason that Hackett would have paid off all death-related expenses and monetary gifts to family members by that time. Additionally, the magistrate's decision made no mention of potentially relevant banking statutes addressing the defendant's possible breach of fiduciary duty as trustee of plaintiff's account.

For Howell, it's all water under the bridge. As in Judge Judy's court, the Howell vs. Hackett ruling is final; neither party has the right to appeal. Just as well for Howell. A drawn-out and sensational murder trial looms on his horizon. Fair to say, he has more important things to worry about.

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