Charmin' Billy: Part Two

Women kept falling for William Neal's story. But now, he'll finally take the fall.

"I hope it gives the families some closure," Tingle adds. "But it's not over for them. This will drag on for years. As for myself, my biggest emotion is that I'm glad it's over. It seems like for the past year, I've been walking around day and night with a big dark cloud hanging over my head. I hope it goes away now."

Both prosecutors wonder if there are other bodies buried in Neal's past. The question haunts investigators as well.

There are four other women who can attest to the damage William Neal has done: his former wives. Although they survived their marriages, they still bear scars.

The survivors: Members of the victims' families describe how William Cody Neal ruined their lives.
Brett Amole
The survivors: Members of the victims' families describe how William Cody Neal ruined their lives.

The first wants to stay far away from anything concerning Neal.

The third wife told Jeffco investigators that Neal was "very controlling" and tried to separate her from her family and friends. He told her about his first two wives and how he was the victim of their lies and infidelities. She knew that inside, Neal was "full of rage"; he had once pushed her against a wall and choked her.

The pair finally separated in November 1990, the day Neal told police that she was suicidal. She was plenty angry but far from suicidal -- and she never went to the "loony bin," as Neal told his fourth wife.

Still, she blamed herself "entirely" for the breakup. And when Neal left, he took more than her heart. He took a cash advance on her credit cards totalling $9,000 and another $1,500 out of her savings account. But because they were still married at the time, she never could recoup her losses. It made one of his favorite sayings resonate all the more: "Anybody stupid enough to believe me deserves to get fucked."

She had warned the investigators that Neal was such a good con, she was afraid he could beat the system on even this case. "I just knew I would see Bill's name in the headlines some day," she told them.

Jennifer, the fourth wife, stayed in touch with Cody's family even after he told her to stay out of his life. That's how she heard when he was arrested for the murder of three women.

For all she had been through with Cody, she just couldn't believe that he would kill. When she went to see him in jail the next day, he cried and choked over his words as he told her how much he missed and needed her.

"Why'd you do it?" Jennifer asked. "You have everything, you can do anything."

Cody had shrugged, the tears suddenly gone. He loved them all, he said, just like he loved her. "But that's what happens when you fuck with me."

It made Jennifer ill to hear how he'd sucked in Candace Walters with that story about wanting custody of their daughter. Of the two years between their daughter's birth and their divorce, if Jennifer totaled every day, every hour, every minute Neal spent any time at all with their child, it would have amounted to "maybe two months," she says.

"All the photographs I have of him and her, he has this expression of 'Hurry up and get it over with.' Only when he was in public and trying to impress people did he ever act like she was his."

Jennifer has met a young man closer to her own age, not particularly well-schooled in romance but absolutely dedicated to family life. Together they are raising her first child, his from a previous marriage and a baby that's theirs. They live in a little house, where Jennifer is a stay-at-home mom.

She couldn't be happier...except for the fear that Cody will find a way to get at her from prison. The fear is so great that she hardly lets their daughter out of her sight.

"She can't go to friends' houses. I won't even let her go on field trips, and that's sad," she says. "I won't take her to a babysitter except for my mom, and she's a bad-ass biker bitch who would tear Cody to pieces."

Karen was Neal's second wife. She'd been sitting on the front porch of her home in Tennessee when her husband came to the door and told her there was a telephone call about Neal.

When she found out what had happened, Karen fell to her knees, gagging. Guilt rose up around her like the stench of her vomit. She remembered Neal's threat to "fuck over every woman in my path." She'd thought he meant he'd ruin women financially and emotionally, as he done to her. Never had it crossed her mind that he would kill a woman.

Now she knew she'd been blind to the real man beneath charmin' Billy.

Over the next few weeks, Karen begged God to forgive her for not watching Bill, not warning other women to stay away from him. She'd think of a hundred ways she should have killed him when she had the chance -- and then ask God to forgive her for wishing Bill dead.

She, too, was afraid. If he'd killed these women, maybe he'd come after her. He was in jail, but he had always known how to find her and what she was doing from a thousand miles away. And he'd always seemed to know everybody and how to get them to do anything.

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