NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) — An East Coast drifter accused of being a serial killer told fellow prison inmates he killed seven people in Connecticut in 2003, including one whose body he kept for two weeks in a van he called the “murder mobile,” according to an arrest warrant released Friday.
William Devin Howell, a 45-year-old native of Hampton, Virginia, told a cellmate “there was a monster inside of him that just came out” and described himself as a “sick ripper,” according to the warrant. He said if he wasn’t caught, he was going to go cross-country and kill others, it said.
The document was released after Howell was arraigned in New Britain Superior Court on multiple murder charges related to six of the killings. Many relatives of the victims attended the proceeding, and several cried after Howell was brought into the courtroom in an orange prison jumpsuit, shackled on his arms and legs.
A judge set bail at $10 million, but Howell already was serving a 15-year prison sentence for manslaughter for killing one of the seven victims. Howell did not speak or enter any pleas. The case was continued to Oct. 28.
Howell’s lawyer urged the public to remember Howell is innocent until proved guilty.
The bodies of all seven victims were found in a wooded area behind a strip mall in New Britain. Three were found in 2007, and the other remains were found in April, authorities said.
“Let’s remember each of these victims and their families,” police Chief James Wardwell said after the court hearing. “Each victim was loved and cherished. They were people from our communities and in no way deserved the violence that ended their lives.”
The remains of Joyvaline Martinez, who disappeared in 2003, were among those found. Her sister, Sandra Martinez, said: “Today we had to face a monster.”
“I didn’t think this day would ever come, but thanks to all the hard work that was put into it they were able to catch him, and I hope he never gets out of jail and he rots,” she told WFSB-TV.
If convicted of the killings, Howell would be one of the most prolific serial killers in Connecticut history. Michael Ross killed six women in Connecticut and two in New York, and he was executed in Connecticut in 2005. The state no longer has the death penalty.
Police said in the arrest warrant that Howell sexually assaulted three of the women he killed. The women’s names weren’t disclosed in the warrant, which provides the first details of the killings that have been released to the public.
Howell told a cellmate the first person he killed was a woman he raped in his van, the warrant said. The cellmate, who described his conversations with Howell to authorities, said Howell told him he strangled the woman and hit her in the head with a hammer, the warrant said.
Howell told the fellow inmate he kept the woman’s body wrapped up in his van because it was too cold outside to bury her, the warrant said. He also said he cut off the tips of her fingers, dismantled her bottom jaw and disposed of the body parts in Virginia, it said.
He told his cellmate he slept next to the woman’s body in the van, calling her his “baby,” according to the warrant.
All seven victims disappeared in 2003, when Howell was mowing lawns and working other odd jobs in central Connecticut. They were identified as: Martinez, 24, of East Hartford; Diane Cusack, 53, of New Britain; Mary Jane Menard, 40, of New Britain; Melanie Ruth Camilini, 29, of Seymour; Marilyn Gonzalez, 26, of Waterbury; Danny Lee Whistnant, 44, of New Britain; and Nilsa Arizmendi, 33, of Wethersfield.
Howell pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Arizmendi’s death in 2005 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The warrant says Howell also beat her to death with a hammer in his van, which was found in North Carolina in 2004.
Tests on blood in the van showed a match with Arizmendi, and Howell was charged in her death after being arrested in North Carolina. Also in the van, police said, were videotapes of Howell having sex with women.
Authorities have said drug use was a main connection among most of the victims.
Howell called the burial site his “garden” and said the victims should have known they were going to die because of the lifestyles they led, the warrant said.