Charmin' Billy

William Cody Neal knew how to spin a story. Believing him was murder.

On July 1, 1998, Candace Walters saw her daughter, Holly, for what would be the last time. Holly, who had hired her "best friend and mother" to work for her real-estate financing company and had also offered Neal a job, was leaving in a couple of days to set up a branch office in Missouri.

Holly had her doubts about Neal, particularly his tales of being a former hitman and the magnanimous gift. But it had been a long time since she had seen her mother so happy, and Neal was so warm and attentive toward her that Holly ignored the feeling that something wasn't right.

At Neal's suggestion, Candace Walters called her bank and asked how to go about wiring a large amount into her account. And on July 2, with Rebecca Holberton dead three days, she sold her car to an auto broker. She wouldn't be needing it: Cody was bringing that new 4-Runner that they would drive to Las Vegas.

Life of the party: "Wild Bill Cody" Neal.
Life of the party: "Wild Bill Cody" Neal.
Rebecca Holderton, Candace Walters and Angela Fite all made fatal mistakes: They believed William Neal.
Rebecca Holderton, Candace Walters and Angela Fite all made fatal mistakes: They believed William Neal.

Details


Previous Westword articles

"Judging the Judge,"
September 30, 1999
After a year on the Jefferson County bench, Brooke Jackson knows it can be a real hot seat.
By Steve Jackson

"Judgment Day,"
May 6, 1999
The state's first death-penalty panel spares the life of Robert Riggan.

The next morning, Holly called. Candace told her that Cody was running late but that she expected him anytime. And in fact, a little while later Neal showed up and took her to the townhouse on West Chenango Drive, where the 4-Runner had been delivered, he said.

Whatever sunlight made it in through the covered windows of the townhouse probably wasn't enough to illuminate the fine drops of blood on the wall and ceiling above the chair where Neal had Candace sit. Nor, apparently, did she see the mummy-like object in black plastic a few feet away. She happily sat in the chair, wearing a white sundress, waiting for her surprise. But she wouldn't accept being covered with a blanket. She didn't want her hair messed up for their trip.

Neal disappeared, Tingle tells the court, and returned carrying the maul, "which he brought crashing down on the back of her head with a tremendous impact." This time, however, he used the blade side of the maul and struck four times.

"Candace Walters died a horrible, violent death," Tingle says. "For what?...Unarmed, defenseless...hoping for a better future and life."

Even after that, Neal couldn't leave her in peace. He urinated on her head and shoulders, "an ultimate act of debasement and disrespect for human dignity." Then he wrapped her head in white plastic and moved her body a few feet off to the side, covering her with a blanket.

The man now sitting in front of the judges' panel had killed two women in four days, "but that did not satiate his appetite," Tingle says. "It was far from over." He took Holberton's and Walters's credit cards and accessed their bank accounts. "It was time to party and have a good time."

A time that left another young woman dead and a fourth raped.

The people will be proving six "aggravating factors," Tingle says. Whatever mitigators the defendant might offer to counter the weight of the prosecution's case will "pale in comparison." It is Tingle's hope that the court will look at the "horror of this murder, the brutal contempt for human life" and render the appropriate punishment.

It can be only death.

William Neal walks over to the lectern to make his opening statement. The freedom to move across the courtroom is part of the deal he's worked out as he plays the part of his own lawyer, but the deputies take a couple of steps closer, just in case. As with most defendants who appear in today's courtrooms, Neal was offered the opportunity to dress in civilian clothes. But he'd turned it down, saying he deserved only to wear his inmate orange.

"September 20, 1999, Monday morning, a day that's much more to some, much less to others," Neal begins. It's Yom Kippur, "a special day." The day of atonement, he notes, a day for "reconciliation, forgiveness...peace."

He shakes his head in apparent disbelief. "This is one of the most horrendous things I ever heard of," he says. "How could someone do what I have done? I wish I could say I was innocent. There is no excuse for this crime. I can't wash my hands enough for this."

He is guilty as charged, he says. "Mr. Tingle is an honorable man, and he speaks the truth. He has been honest with me and did not exaggerate anything. I would not change what he said, except maybe to fill in some blanks."

By doing so, he will be the voice for "three wonderful, trusting, beautiful women."

But first Neal launches into his now-standard spiel about the truth setting him free. He had been molested as a child, he notes, an excuse that let him spend his life blaming someone else while refusing to "look at myself."

Now he's a changed man, one who would gladly exchange his life for those of his victims if he could. There's an old Turkish proverb, he says: "No matter how long you've gone down the wrong road, turn back, turn back."

He's turned back, he says. "Even a wretched life means something," he implores the judges. "Even a wretched life can change. I do not want to die, for I know I've turned around."

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