William Howell, a 45-year-old career criminal who was described by the daughter of a former girlfriend as a “kind-hearted giant” who was “really funny… always smiling and laughing,” was charged Friday in the serial-killing murders of five women and one 44-year-old man whose bodies were found dumped in a swampy marshland behind a Connecticut strip mall — and according to newly released court records, he confessed in gruesome detail to his crimes.
Already behind bars for the murder of a sixth woman, Nilsa Arizmendi — who disappeared in 2003, and whose remains were also later found in the same swampy area — Howell spilled his guts about his horrifying and depraved crimes to prison informants whose anonymity was protected in police affidavits, the court records say.
Three bodies were found in the area behind the New Britain strip mall in 2007. Those remains were identified as Mary Jane Menard, 40; Diane Cusack, 53, of New Britain; and Joyvaline Martinez, 24, of East Hartford. Menard, Cusack, and Martinez are pictured above, left-to-right.
Four more sets of human remains — Melanie Ruth Camilini, 29, of Seymour; Marilyn Gonzalez, 26, of Waterbury; Danny Lee Whistnant, 44, of New Britain; and Nilsa Arizmendi, 33, of Wethersfield — were discovered in April of this year.
According to the court records, as detailed by New Britain TV station WVIT, Howell referred to the area where he disposed of his victims as “my garden,” and gave himself the nickname, “The Sick Ripper.”
He told a prison informant that he killed all seven victims over a six-month period in 2003, and that he raped three of the women, because “there was a monster inside of him that just came out,” the records say.
Howell also said that he had planned to continue his killing spree on a cross-country journey, but he got caught before he could kill again.
According to a report in the Hartford Courant newspaper, Howell gave an especially grisly description of how he murdered one female victim, telling the informant that he raped and strangled her in the back of his van, but “she wouldn’t die.” So he killed her by smashing her face and head with a hammer.
But because it was too cold at the time to bury his victim, Howell confessed according to the reports, he kept the body in his van — which he referred to as the “murder mobile” — for two weeks, sleeping next to the body which he called his “baby.”
He later cut off the victim’s fingertip and removed her jaw, getting rid of those body parts somewhere in Virginia, according to the account of his prison confession.
Police are now investigating whether William Howell committed any other unsolved murders — in particular the 1991 slaying of 21-year-old April Marie Stone of South Apopka, Florida. Howell, also 21 at that time, lived just 15 miles from where Stone’s body was found wrapped in a blanket and dumped along a roadside, and he was arrested a few months later in Florida for soliciting a prostitute who turned out to be an undercover police officer.
[Images: New Britain Police Department]