ST. JOHNS, Ariz. – A scruffy 21-year-old walked into the police station in the small eastern Arizona town of Springerville, winded after running the 2 1/2 blocks there from his home. He wanted to tell the police chief that cops from out of town were in his jurisdiction.
"There's people in your town," William Inmon told Chief Steve West, then suggested that West run them off.
West saw no harm in hearing out the gangly young man's complaints about the officers from nearby St. Johns. He then listened for hours as Inmon told stories of a troubled childhood, the weapons he owned, and, finally, that the officers were investigating the killing of 16-year-old Ricky Flores from their town.
Then, authorities say, Inmon admitted killing the teenager.
Inmon had hoped to divert attention from himself by sprinting to the police station, authorities said. Instead, his world came tumbling down. On Sept. 30, he pleaded guilty to killing Flores and to two other murders. He proclaimed himself a serial killer, and said his plans to kill two more times had been thwarted.
The guilty pleas sent another collective shiver through St. Johns, where Flores lived and where the two older men who were killed were well known. In addition, just last November, an 8-year-old St. Johns boy was charged in a double homicide.
In each murder to which Inmon admitted, he had at least one accomplice, but authorities say he was the driving force, motivated by a desire to rid society of those who didn't live up to his standards. Four other people have been arrested in the three slayings that started in 2007 and ended with Flores in August.
Most residents say they're tired of having the town painted in a negative light.
They say St. Johns is like any other small town, with people helping raise each other's children and crime usually of the town-drunk variety. At a news conference Thursday, Apache County Attorney Michael Whiting highlighted the numerous state high school sports championships and a streak of regional wins at the academic decathlon.
"I've had a lot of members in the community ask me to express that to the media so people don't think all we do is run around and shoot people up here," he said.
Inmon's fall began when St. Johns police served a search warrant at the home he shared with his girlfriend. Inmon went to West "because everyone says you'll listen," he told the chief. "He thought that I would say 'it's my jurisdiction, get out of my jurisdiction,' but police departments just don't do that," West said.
"He was nervous because more than likely they were close," West said.
Inmon confessed to Flores' murder after Apache County investigator Brian Hounshell joined West in the interview. Hounshell said they repeatedly told Inmon he didn't have to keep talking and was free to leave, but he pressed on.
Weeks later, Inmon admitted to fatally shooting William "Stoney" McCarragher, 72, and Daniel Achten, 60, as part of a deal that spares him the death penalty. Now awaiting sentencing on three counts of first-degree murder, Inmon didn't respond to an interview request and his lawyer had no comment.
McCarragher was the first of Inmon's known victims. He lived on a small rural ranch outside of St. Johns and was known to carry large amounts of money, sometimes thousands of dollars. McCarragher often employed teenagers for odd jobs, and Inmon told police that he killed him after McCarragher inappropriately touched him in 2007.
McCarragher's daughter-in-law, Tiffany Stone, said she was shocked to hear of Inmon's allegations. She said he was a "gritty, crass old man who had a big heart that a lot of people never saw. But he would give you the shirt off his back."
Achten's remains were discovered in a shallow grave on his property outside of St. Johns over a week ago. Inmon told questioners he shot the nearly deaf Vietnam veteran, who locals called "Hummer Dan" for his constant humming, because he used drugs, shot Inmon's dog and generally mistreated people.
Prosecutors allege that Inmon killed Flores at the urging of the father of Flores' girlfriend, who along with Inmon's girlfriend, is charged with murder in the case. The mother of Flores' girlfriend also faces charges in the teenager's death.
Inmon never drew much attention to himself in St. Johns, home to about 4,000 near the Arizona-New Mexico border. Authorities say he described a childhood growing up in south Phoenix, with parents often absent because of problems with the law or drug abuse.
The closest thing he had to family was a dog that he had for more than a decade but that Inmon told authorities was killed by Achten.
Some locals recall Inmon working at a general store near the edge of town or hanging around a tire shop. Usually dressed in khaki-colored clothing, Inmon had a fascination with guns and the military.
When he showed up at West's office to chat, he had a head of curly, dirty blond hair that he later shaved, revealing large scars during a court hearing. He was dressed in a drab olive shirt, jeans and a baseball cap with two War II-type pins, both with swastikas on them.
Inmon's life as a serial killer is a stark contrast from how his mother, Dianna Inmon, remembers him growing up in south Phoenix. During a scheduled court hearing last month, she recalled the days when her son gave her a crown to wear and sang to her for special occasions and their own "Silly Willy" club.
"It put me on the floor," she said when she heard of her son's arrest in Flores' death.