By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
His other choice was to be a minister. Neal had been named after a family pastor, William Lee, and one of his uncles was a minister. "He was kind and gentle," Neal remembers, "and he helped people who were hurtin'. I loved the Word and Lord Jesus, and I liked going to Sunday school, 'cause people just seem to be nicer on Sunday."
Neal pauses, furrows his brow. "Never did like mean people...My sister told me there was a bad storm when I was born, and that was the reason there was a light about me. I always got along with everybody and loved people."
But when he was twelve or thirteen years old, he says, "the light went out."
By then, his father was drinking pretty heavily, and he was quicker to lay it on with the belt. But it wasn't the occasional beatings his son minded so much as the efforts to embarrass him in front of the other drunks at the bars his father would drag him to. "He'd think it was funny. Then he'd black out and forget all about it."
The darkness settled around Neal when an older married woman seduced him, he says. The woman's husband was running around on her, and she used him as a way to get even. "I couldn't wash myself enough," he says. Nor could he talk to anybody about what was going on. "She said if I ever told, my family would disown me."
Then again, sex with a beautiful woman wasn't all bad. "It was such a contradiction," he says. "I enjoyed it, but afterward I would feel so guilty." In the interview room, Neal rubs his hands across each other. "It was like the two sides in me was sanding each other and there wasn't much left in between."
After six months, the older woman called things off. She and Neal didn't talk about it again until he got out of the Army, which he'd joined shortly after his seventeenth birthday. The woman was now divorced, he remembers, and eager to resume their affair. "I told her, 'You had me as a boy; now have me as a man.'" She started talking about them staying together, even marrying. "But that's where it ended," he says. "I turned and walked away.
"I have no ill feelings towards her. Lord knows what she's goin' through now, wonderin' if she was the cause of all of this. She was just passin' on her anger and pain, almost like it was a demon, and givin' it to me. I don't blame her, but that's when the light went out.
"I became more distant from my family, not as cheerful. I started gettin' into trouble more. I knew I couldn't be a minister or an FBI agent...not after what I done."
And he'd done more than get involved with an older woman. Soon after that affair began, he'd turned the tables and molested a younger girl. He also says he was an unwilling victim in a few other instances of sexual abuse -- by a church elder while in his teens, by an Army sergeant -- although he doesn't blame his rampage on any of that.
But in September 1998, when Neal sat down with the two Jeffco investigators, he had plenty of complaints about the women in his life -- from his married seducer to his sisters to his four wives to his four victims that summer. He wasn't angry when he lifted his ax, though. It was a warning: "Don't fuck with me."
There was one thing females did to him that he resents to this day, he says. When they were all kids, his sisters used to lie and say he hurt them to get him in trouble. "They'd make up stories that I hit or choked them. They'd even do things like squeeze their arms or necks and then say, 'Look what Bill did.'
"Then Dad would beat the tar out of me with his belt while my sisters would peek in at what was goin' on and laugh. I'm not sayin' I never did any of that...but 90 percent of what they said I did wasn't true...Just like what people are sayin' about me now -- a lot of it ain't true."
Years later, when their mother was dying of cancer, his sisters confessed how they had framed him. "My mother was furious with them for getting me beat for something I didn't do." He tears up again at the thought of his mother.
Suddenly, the man in the cubicle next door shrieks with laughter as his own mother wipes her eyes. Neal pauses mid-sentence and looks over, scowling, as though he can't believe he has to live with people who act, well, so damned crazy. "It's like going to bed one night," he says, "and waking up in the pit."
Last September, Neal told Aceves and Zimmerman that while he was still in his twenties, he lost count at a thousand sexual conquests -- although he also claimed to have killed more than 500 people. But while there are still questions about whether he has left other bodies behind, it is clear that William Neal began hunting women for his own purposes long ago.