Charmin' Billy: Part Two

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

He says he loves animals, yet he pitchforks a cat and punches in the skull of a "mean" puppy. He claims to have been raped and haunted by the trauma of it, yet he rapes the most innocent girl he can find. He says he loves Rebecca, Candace and Angie, yet he robs them, dupes them into thinking he's got a surprise waiting for them, then splits their skulls open with an ax.

William Cody Neal was right about one thing, Bachmeyer thinks. He's certainly a predator -- if not "better than Bundy," then out of the same mold.

The prosecution closes its case with "victim impact" statements from the families of Rebecca Holberton, Candace Walters and Angela Fite.

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.

One by one, family members make their way to the witness stand. They recall how each victim met the killer who sits a dozen feet away. The promises he made. The vulnerabilities he exploited.

Then they tell of how they knew before it was official that something was horribly wrong. And of the anguish they have felt since the murders were discovered.

Rebecca Holberton was the first to die. A 25-year employee of US West, she'd moved to Lakewood from Oregon in 1995, leaving her ex-husband and family behind. Her mother, who has Alzheimer's, hasn't been told about her murder; she still asks her other daughter, Debbie LaComb, why Rebecca doesn't visit or call.

After the murders, fellow workers described Holberton as an exemplary employee who "would show up for work with a big smile on her face every day." She had circled July 5 on her calendar, because she was to begin a new job with the company that Monday. But by then she'd already been dead five days.

Rebecca Holberton's ex-husband, Rodney, an airline pilot, remembered her as filled with joy and warmth for others. "She always had a smile on her face. I mean, she was a kind, gentle person."

But there were problems. Rebecca's former sister-in-law, Tammy, had remained one of her best friends. In September 1997, Tammy and her husband had met Rebecca and Cody Neal in Las Vegas; she thought Neal was a "moocher" who was living off Rebecca.

Neighbors said Holberton did not return greetings and kept to herself, even covering her windows with brown paper. Co-workers, when they reported her missing, told the sheriff's department they were worried because she had suffered from depression -- a depression other friends claimed was a result of realizing she'd been ripped off by Neal. She had told one co-worker that she was ready to get Neal out of her life.

On the witness stand, Debbie LaComb reads the first of several letters that Tingle had asked family members to write as though addressing the deceased.

"Dear Rebecca," Debbie begins, "I want to tell you how much I love you. I'm sorry I never really told you that before. I miss you so much. I even miss the arguments we used to get into sometimes. I miss talking to you about Mom and the funny things she does.

"She asks about you quite often, wondering where you are, but I don't tell her...I have your ring. I wear it all the time. It makes me feel close to you, like you are with me...

"It makes me so sad to think of how awful your life must have been those last few months. So full of pain and sorrow. I wish you would have told me what was going on...maybe, in some way, I could have helped.

"You will always be with me. I will see you again in another place, a happier place free of pain and sadness."

Holly Walters takes the stand to talk about her mother, Candace. The only child of a single mother, "I was fortunate to have a mom who spent a lot of time with me," she says. "We were extremely close. The older I got, the closer we got."

Candace and her husband had divorced soon after moving to Colorado 26 years before, but they had remained friends. When her father died and left her a small inheritance of a few thousand dollars, she'd used part of it to buy her ex a household full of furniture, since he'd left everything behind for her and Holly after the divorce. "She was the most generous person I knew," he said.

On the witness stand, Holly recalls how she and her mother enjoyed going on almost daily walks on Green Mountain. "Her dreams were simple: a house and a dog and as much free time as possible to enjoy her hikes." She had been working as a bartender at the Sheraton Hotel for many years when she met Cody Neal shortly after Christmas 1997. He was very charismatic and caring...sitting with her all night after work, just talking in a booth. He invited her to a New Year's Eve party. "He was renting a whole floor at the hotel," Holly says.

The relationship got "fairly intense fairly quickly," which was unusual for her mother, who'd last been in a committed relationship several years before and had said "she was going to stay away from men." Holly pauses, then looks at Neal. "I wish she had."

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