NEW BRITAIN, Conn. – An East Coast drifter accused of being a serial killer told fellow prison inmates that he killed seven people in Connecticut in 2003, including one victim 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, also told a cellmate that "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, the document 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 brief 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 for the nine murder charges, but Howell is already serving a 15-year prison sentence for manslaughter for killing one of the seven victims. He did not speak or enter any pleas. The case was continued to Oct. 28.
His lawyer urged the public to remember that Howell is innocent until proven guilty.
The bodies of all seven victims were found in a wooded area behind a strip mall in New Britain, about 12 miles southwest of Hartford. Three bodies were found in 2007 and the remaining victims' remains were found in April.
"Let's remember each of these victims and their families," New Britain 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 found in Howell's burial area. 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 three 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 that the first person he killed was a woman whom he said 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, but "she wouldn't die," according to the warrant. So he hit her in the head with a hammer, the warrant said.
Howell told the fellow inmate that he kept the woman's body wrapped up in his van because it was too cold outside to bury her. He also said he cut off the tips of her fingers and dismantled her bottom jaw, and later disposed of the body parts in Virginia, the warrant said.
Howell told his cellmate that he slept next to the woman's body in his 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. The victims were identified as: Diane Cusack, 53, of New Britain; Joyvaline Martinez, 24, of East Hartford; 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 the van.
Howell's van was found in North Carolina in 2004. Authorities said tests on blood found in the van showed a match with Arizmendi, and he 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 also called the burial site his "garden" and said all the victims should have known they were going to die because of the lifestyle they were living, the warrant says.