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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

His Garden: Conversations with a Serial Killer

© 2017. Anne K. Howard, all rights reserved. 
People see him as a monster, and rightly so. William Devin Howell, known to his Virginia acquaintances as "Devin," killed seven Connecticut residents during a 10-month killing spree in 2003 and left their bodies behind a strip mall in New Britain, Connecticut.

I have been in close written and face-to-face correspondence with Howell since July 2015, shortly before charges were pressed against him for the remaining 6 murders. At all times, Howell has been aware of the fact that I am writing about him and that information he provides to me will be used in my upcoming book. He has openly shared with me details regarding his childhood, adolescence, and his early years in Connecticut starting in 2001. Since pleading guilty to all charges on September 8, 2017, he has also confessed details of his crimes to me in letters, prison visits, and audio phone recordings.

"Does he come across as crazy?" people ask me. "Is he like Charles Manson, or Jeffrey Dahmer?"

Hardly. As you can hear by listening to the audio link provided below, which contains just a smidgen of the confessions that he has exclusively given to me, Howell has an ironically gentle and "normal" demeanor. Perhaps that is why seven unsuspecting individuals stepped into his van, trusting that he would do them no harm.

Sorry, this audio clip has been removed.

A serial killer expert recently asked me if Howell possesses the Macdonald Triad, a set of three behavioral traits common to serial killers and other types of sociopaths: bed wetting as a child; cruelty to animals; and arson. While there is no way of knowing if Howell was a bed-wetter, I can say with certainty that he did not display any tendencies to injure animals or light fires. If anything, he is quite fond of animals, including dogs he had in childhood, and the frogs and mice that visit the outdoor recreation area at the prison where he resides. He has even given them names: "Marvin the Mouse" and "Freddie the Frog." An acquaintance from Virginia told me that she had heard through the grapevine that Howell once set fire to the apartment that he lived in with his girlfriend at the time. I asked him about it. He clarified, for the record, that he was incarcerated at the time of that fire. A child was playing with matches and accidentally lit the drapes on fire, he said.

"Why?" people constantly ask me. "Why did he kill his victims and leave their bodies behind the mall?" 

I have the answer to that question, at least in part, but I am afraid that you will have to wait until my book is published in 2018. Until that time, I am not willing to show all my cards. 

One local media outlet interviewed an older woman in New Britain who hired Howell in 2003 to do yard work. At the time, Howell ran a lawn care service from the back of his van, the infamous "Murder Mobile," where seven individuals met their demise. The law abiding woman sat in the passenger seat of that van and traveled with Howell to Home Depot to pick out bushes for her yard. She trusted him that much. Was she naive? No. I too would have felt safe to get into Howell's van and go to Home Depot were he doing yard work for me back in 2003. I can see why the woman in question, along with her husband, were absolutely shocked when the news came out that Howell was suspected of killing so many people and burying them behind the strip mall. He presents in our prison visits as a friendly, Southern gentlemen. He is easy going, courteous, and yes‒ even funny.
© 2017. Anne K. Howard, all rights reserved. 

"I am a nice guy, Anne," he once told me. "I'm the guy that opens the door for you at The Dollar Store." 

Thank God that I am not a drug-addicted prostitute, however, because Howell would not consider opening the door at The Dollar Store for any of his victims. For those poor souls he possessed an unbridled hatred and rage. They belonged to his "target group." I, on the other hand, like the woman who drove with him to Home Depot, and many of his prior girlfriends, am "a good girl." (His words, not mine.) He has an odd way of categorizing women as being "good" or "bad." The good girls follow the rules. They don't do drugs, they stay loyal to their man, and they certainly don't turn tricks along The Berlin Turnpike.     

How did Howell end up hating prostitutes? Again, I have the answer to that question, but it is a card that will be revealed in my upcoming book, and perhaps also revealed in my interview with Chris Hansen from Crime Watch Daily. (By the way, that show was set to air in November. However, Chris Hansen was not available to do the interviews at that time, so it has now been postponed and will likely air during Sweeps in May, 2018. I will keep you updated when I know more.) 

The Macdonald Triad aside, is there even such thing as a "typical" serial killer? If so, then Howell defies all the norms. I write in my book that Howell's childhood was relatively normal. No significant abuse- sexual, physical, verbal, or otherwise. A lot of spankings, to be sure, but he describes his parents as "old school." In 2015, Howell's older brother responded to a newspaper article, "Devin had a good childhood." Based on my research, that is an accurate portrayal. Nonetheless, as you will read in my book, the lengthy illness and death of Howell's mother when he was fifteen years of age had an emotionally devastating effect on him, and dramatically altered the course of his life‒ resulting in years of heavy drinking and incarcerations.

Yesterday an associate producer from The Dr. Phil show asked me if Howell was in touch with any of his family members. I explained that many family members are no longer alive, but the ones that are still around want absolutely nothing to do with him. She wondered if they might want to appear on the show to discuss how they feel about him, as the show is interested in bringing families together and reconciling differences in high conflict situations. The idea struck me as absurd. When a family member is a convicted serial killer, the last thing you want to do is talk about it on Dr. Phil. You just want to put the shameful situation out of your mind and go on living your life... maybe even change your name.

Disclaimer: William Devin Howell will be sentenced at the New Britain Superior Court on November 17, 2017. Anne K. Howard reserves all copyright to the photos and audio file contained in this blog post. 



  1. I could not get the audio part to play on either of the places you had posted this. I use a cell phone, instead of a computer or I pad, but that shouldn't make any difference. I wonder if it is just on my end or if others too, have had that problem? Otherwise great article. You are SO making me want that book to hurry up and be available!!! You certainly have a way with words, and know how to capture ones full intrest and attention.

  2. Interesting....Can you tell me what local schools he attended....and if he was aware...or interested in the several homicide victims left in Harwinton off rt 8 in the early 90's?..thank you