Charmin' Billy

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

At the defense table, Neal shakes his head. "He was holding the gun to my head, and I asked him if I was going to die," Suzanne cries. "He asked if I wanted to die. I said no."

"How was he holding the gun to your head?" Tingle asks. He knows this is hard on her, but they've got to see it through to the end.

Suzanne lifts her left hand and points it like a gun to her temple. "Like right here," she says.

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.

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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,"
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The state's first death-penalty panel spares the life of Robert Riggan.

"Could you see that gun?"

"No."

"Could you feel it?"

"Yes, I could feel it."

Suzanne says she will never forget the feeling of a gun barrel pressed against her head, with her face just inches from the body of a dead woman, being raped orally. When he tired of that torment, Neal took her back to the mattress and finished raping her.

He tied her up again, this time binding her legs together and securing one wrist to an eyebolt; the other hand he left free. "Then he sat, and he watched TV. He asked me if I knew what the movie was, and I didn't. He said it was something like Portrait of a Serial Killer."

The longer Suzanne testifies, the more her courage comes through. The spectators in the gallery are crying louder than she is. Those who haven't heard the story gasp when she says she asked Neal for a blanket to cover her nakedness and then, after he'd complied, invited him to come sit next to her on the mattress.

"I just wanted to have him next to me so that I knew that he couldn't sneak up on me," Suzanne explains. "He sat with me all the rest of the time that we were there."

"All night long?" Tingle asks, although he knows the answer.

"Yes."

"Did you hold his hand?" he asks.

Suzanne nods, unable to speak at first.

"Why did you do that?"

Her answer suddenly pours out. "Because I thought even if I fell asleep, that I would feel him move his hand so that I could wake up and I would see what he was doing so he couldn't sneak up on me like he snuck up on Angie."

The only time they got up off the mattress was when she had to use the bathroom upstairs. That itself another terror -- she'd never seen the "others," but she'd heard something, and Neal had warned her. Now he did so again. "He told me not to ever look to my left...because those people were there, and they didn't like to be looked at."

Neal stood guard outside the bathroom door while she went in. After she'd finished, he took her back down to the mattress, tying one wrist to an eyebolt and holding her other hand in his. The television stayed on all night. At least, she thinks it did; she might somehow have dozed off.

In the morning, Neal untied Suzanne and let her go to the bathroom to change her clothes. Then they left the townhouse in Holberton's Toyota truck and drove to her apartment.

Once there, he moved quickly, picking up all the cordless telephones and Suzanne's cellular phone, checking the bathroom to make sure there wasn't another phone in there. Then he let her go in and shower. "He said that we still had to go places," she remembers, so she dressed and dried her hair. "Then he told me not to unpack anything, because it still had to look like we had gone on this trip and that we were coming back."

Later, Neal changed his mind. "He even remarked what a good packer I was and that I had packed really well for this trip."

They left again. Neal was hungry, so they went to a restaurant, where he ordered himself a drink and Suzanne a beer, then insisted they both order lunch.

"Do you have words that you could use to describe your mental state, Suzanne?" Tingle asks.

She hesitates. "I kept expecting...I kept thinking that Angie was going to move. I kept thinking that person that I saw, they were going to move. I just kept thinking that somehow this wasn't true."

They spent the afternoon shopping, buying cigarettes for the both of them, Tums for Neal's indigestion and Nyquil for his cough. He drove to Southwest Plaza, where he bought a tape recorder at a Radio Shack, then on to Blockbuster Video, where he had Suzanne rent The Jackal, a movie about an international assassin. He picked that one, Suzanne says, "because Beth was always asking what he did for a living, and he thought that movie was the only thing that could describe what he did for a living good enough."

They returned to the women's apartment and called Beth at work, to tell her about the trip to Las Vegas. "How good it was, and I think we asked when she was going to be home," Suzanne says.

When Beth arrived, they watched the movie. Neal was "being like himself, you know, he was not acting strange at all...He had promised me that once the movie was over, that we would tell Beth what happened.

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