Charmin' Billy

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

Suzanne has held together remarkably well, but now comes the tough part. It is time to open the wound. "I would like to talk about July the 5th, Sunday."

Neal was supposed to pick her up that night about 7 p.m.; they would drive to the airport together for the flight to Vegas. Suzanne was dressed in conservative business attire -- a peach blouse and navy blue slacks -- and she'd packed another business outfit for the next day.

In the car, Neal told her they were running a little early, so they stopped for a drink at Fugglies. In the bar, he told her that before they left for Las Vegas, he wanted to show her the surprise he had for Beth. He drove her to a townhouse on West Chenango Drive, not far from the bar.

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.


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.

Neal pulled into the garage and shut the garage door as soon as the truck was parked. "He explained that it would be more or less like a dress rehearsal...that he wanted me to be blindfolded and he wanted to put duct tape on my mouth because that was how Beth was going to do it when she walked into her surprise."

"What was his attitude and demeanor like at that time?"

"He seemed excited and, you know, like this was a great thing that we were going to be working on together." Neal had talked about getting Beth a new SUV, and there was a new Ford Bronco in the garage.

"He had me take off my glasses. Then he tied a piece of bath towel around my eyes and asked me if I could see out of the blindfold."

Suzanne told him no, she couldn't see -- but if she looked straight down, she actually could see the floor at her feet. He then put duct tape over her mouth, which was uncomfortable but not painful.

Neal had her take his arm as he led her through the garage and up the steps into the townhome. Inside, he picked up a cat. "He wanted me to meet his cat, and he had me pet his cat." He led her down a hallway. It was then that Suzanne knew that something was wrong. For one thing, there was no carpeting in the hallway, just bare plywood. More than that, though, "It just didn't feel right."

When they reached a room, Neal turned her around and told her to sit down. The seat was further down than she had figured; she realized she was sitting on a mattress.

In court, Suzanne can't remember if Neal told her he was going to tie her up or if he just did it. Soon she was spread-eagled and on her back. Helpless.

Suzanne hesitates and, finally, begins to cry. Tingle waits until she pulls herself together. "I didn't want to be...I didn't want to be tied up," she says, "so I started to cry, and I asked him to just let me go. And I promised that I wouldn't say anything to anybody about what had happened so far...He just told me to shut up, and he said that I hadn't seen him be cold and mean and that I didn't want to.

"Once he tied me up," Suzanne continues, "he opened my blouse and cut off my bra, and he cut off my pants, and he cut off my underwear." She couldn't see the knife he was using, but she could feel the cold steel against her skin.

"Do you remember what you were thinking?" Tingle asks.

"Mostly I was thinking about not crying."

"Did you know what was going to happen to you?"

"I had a feeling about what was going to happen."

Neal took off her blindfold and duct tape. "He asked me if I had ever seen a human skull. I said no, and he left the bed and came back with an ice cream wrapper," Suzanne says quietly. "He pulled out a piece of bone...he held it in front of me, and he was touching it...there was hair on it and he said, 'Can you see that?' And then he laid it on my stomach."

"What was his attitude and demeanor like when he did that?"

"Just like he was showing off, like, 'Look at what I have.'"

"What did he do when he put that piece of human skull on your stomach?"

"I think that he just watched me to see what my reaction would be."

Neal had been crouching at her side, but now he stood and walked past a chair at the end of the mattress toward the fireplace.

"He lifted up a blanket that was by the fireplace, and he held up a leg," Suzanne says. "I could see a leg and a sock and a shoe...that's when he said that the black plastic was a body, too...Then he kicked the black plastic bag. He kicked it hard."

"What was going through your mind at this time?"

"I just thought I was going to die, because I didn't understand why he would show me what he did and then let me live."

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