By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
All men have the spark of the divine in them, Plumley concludes. "I believe that you have the spark of the divine in you as well," he says to Neal, but only time will tell if his "transformation" is a permanent one.
The rest of Neal's witnesses are Jeffco investigators and guards who are called to testify regarding his behavior. Courteous and forthcoming, never threatening.
One of those called to the stand is Aceves. Neal asks him if, "knowing me" from their interactions, he would say that Neal "fits the description" of the man who committed the murders.
"No," Aceves acknowledges, looking as though he'd rather have his teeth pulled than be there.
Does Aceves believe that Neal has killed other people?
"Based on information from you?" the investigator replies. "No...but we don't know for sure."
Soon Neal has called his last witness. It's Friday afternoon, and he asks the court for the weekend to think over whether he will testify. Judge Woodford grants him the time.
On Monday, Neal announces that he's decided not to testify. It he did, the prosecution would have the right to cross-examine him. He would like to make a statement of allocution, however, one not given under oath or on the witness stand -- and one not open to questioning.
During this allocution, Neal essentially repeats his opening statements, noting that he lived up to his promise not to cross-examine the victims' family members or other prosecution witnesses. He acknowledges that his crimes deserve no mercy, but says he wants to live so that he can "serve God in prison."
"How could anyone have mercy on someone like me?" he asks. "To those three beautiful women that I ruthlessly murdered, I gave no mercy, or they would be here today. So I find it difficult to ask that of this court. The man that did that deserves none."
But he is not that man anymore, William Neal says. "My heart was stone, and only God can change a heart."
Tingle rises from his seat for his closing arguments. "Mr. Neal stated in his opening that when he committed the brutal, heinous murders of Rebecca Holberton and Candace Walters and Angela Fite, that on some level it was like casting a stone into a pond, that the ripple effect touched the lives of everyone.
"In retrospect, that stone was more like a bombshell and those ripples more like tidal waves. People have not been merely touched by the heinous murders that Mr. Neal committed. People's lives have been shattered, their futures have been destroyed.
"It is not merely enough to say that they have been touched, or that there is pain, or that there is suffering."
Tingle looks at Neal, who is listening carefully, leaning forward and glancing up at the judges. "I stand before you this morning with an impossible task," the prosecutor says. "That is, to adequately summarize how the defendant's vicious slaughter of innocent women has impacted the family, has impacted this community, and to describe the magnitude of the loss of life for Rebecca Holberton and Candace Walters and Angela Fite.
"All too often in this business, this sometimes horrible business that we are in, we begin to distance ourselves from what has truly happened from the real human impact...We sit here in the courtroom, a sterile environment, removed by many months, yet we try to, through the evidence, recall what happened, and we try to understand the impact of those crimes...I have struggled and struggled to try to find words that adequately somehow relate what has happened in this case, and I can't."
Instead, he asks the judges to recall the words of the victims' family members. Dear Rebecca, I want to tell you how much I love you. I'm sorry I never really told you. We love you and miss you. We will never forget you...Mom, there is so much I want to say to you, so many things I want to share. I am hoping that this letter finds its way to you somehow. There is no bond so sacred as a mother and daughter share...My dearest little angel Angie, I miss you so much. I wish I could physically just see you and talk like we used to, hold you and let you know everything will be okay, even if only for one minute. When Cody took your life, he also took a huge part of me that can never be replaced.
And what do Neal's own words and actions say about his character? That's one of the aspects that the judges must base their final ruling on. "He talked so calmly months later," during his interview with Aceves and Zimmerman, "about how with each swing, Rebecca's head got 'sloppier and sloppier.'"
On July 1, Neal gave Holly Walters a big hug. "He was in a great mood as Rebecca Holberton lay dead in the living room of her townhouse."
On July 3, with Candace Walters dead only a few hours, Neal is in such a good mood that he playfully asks Beth to marry him. "That someone can play a practical joke, hours after committing two savage murders...Does that say something about his character?