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Christine BILLIS

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: She drove the family car into a tree
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 22, 2009
Date of arrest: June 2011
Date of birth: 1967
Victim profile: Charles Billis, 57 (her husband)
Method of murder: Intentional car crash
Location: Charleston, Orleans County, Vermont, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to 7 to 15 years in prison on November 21, 2012
 
 

 
 

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Christine Billis

On a clear, sunny day in September 2009, Christine Billis was driving with her husband Charles in Charleston, Vt., when the car suddenly swerved into a towering pine tree. Investigators attributed the crash to a previously undiagnosed medical condition that they believed caused Christine to black out at the wheel. Christine, who was belted in, was treated for minor injuries; Charles, unbelted, was badly injured and pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

Less than a year later, the truth came to light when Christine registered with an online dating service and began corresponding with one Kevin Leland. Christine and Kevin were still in the getting-to-know-you phase, chatting online, when Christine unburdened herself, allegedly confessing that the wreck had been no accident. Christine, noting that her husband was unbelted, had slammed the car deliberately into the tree. The new boyfriend, understandably perturbed by the fate of his predecessor, donned a recording device at their first face-to-face meeting, and Christine repeated her confession. The boyfriend took the tape to police who began their own investigation, obtaining confirming confessions at subsequent meetings on police wires. In June 2011, Christine was arrested for first-degree murder in the killing of her husband.


Family tragedy

By Christopher Roy - NewportVermontDailyExpress.com

November 4, 2012

NEWPORT – Christine Billis, 45, left the Orleans County Courthouse in tears after hearing her fate Friday afternoon. In a plea agreement, Judge Howard VanBenthuysen sentenced Billis to 7-15 years with credit for time served.

Last July, nearly three years after her husband Charles Billis died in a car crash, she pleaded guilty to an amended charge of manslaughter.

During the investigation, Billis told investigators that Charles Billis was abusive to her.

VanBenthuysen said, “It would appear that there are some ambiguities in this case that could render trying the case very much a gamble for all sides. This is a tragedy for all concerned, particularly for the relatives and friends of Charles Billis. Nothing the court can do, unfortunately, will bring him back today.”

The court can send a message to others who want to change a bad situation in one of the most horrible ways, the judge said. He said Billis may feel some ambiguity about the situation, but it’s not an unreasonable response, because it’s providing for a maximum sentence.

On July 22, 2009, with the intent of killing herself and her husband, Christine Billis crashed their car into a tree on Route 5A in West Charleston. Bills, who was wearing her seatbelt sustained minor injuries. Charles Billis, who was not wearing a seat belt, died.

At first, it appeared Billis crashed into the tree because of a medical condition.

Billis might of gotten away with it if she hadn't told an online friend about what she did. The friend, identified in court records as a concerned individual (CI), told Detective Sgt. Darren Annis of the Vermont State Police that Billis admitted she purposely crashed the car into the tree. The CI provided a digital recording between himself and Billis where she talked about her actions and years of abuse from her husband. During the conversation, CI asked Billis if she was sure she shouldn’t confess, to which Bills expressed a concern about going to prison.

During a recorded conversation, CI told Billis she was the only person he knew who had killed someone, to which Billis answered, “Yeah, it wasn’t easy.” Billis said she was protecting herself and her children. Billis also told the CI that she had expected to die in the crash.

On April 25, 2011, Billis told Trooper Annis that she had ovarian cancer and had had a hysterectomy in June 2009. She said a lot was going on that year and she had extreme emotional and mental issues. Billis told Annis that Charles was abusive to her and at once point she left him, but she returned because he promised to change.

On the day of the crash, Billis wasn’t feeling well and wanted to stay home but she had to take Charles, who was legally blind, to an appointment in Newport. Billis said Charles didn’t look or feel well, but still wanted to make his appointment. After the appointment, Billis drove toward the couple’s home, but never made it.

In a separate conversation, Billis told Annis that Charles was abusive to her and the children. She said a few times that she and Charles were mutually abusive to each other, but there were no serious injuries.

Billis said Charles was controlling and would not allow her to have friends or talk to her oldest daughter or parents on the telephone. Billis told Annis that she saw the tree and knew it wouldn’t move when she hit it. At the time, she thought the tree coming at her was the “most beautiful thing” she saw in her life. Billis said she started to cry when she realize she didn’t die in the crash. Billis said she didn’t preplan the crash.


Woman sentenced for killing husband in intentional crash

By Matt Henson - Wcax.com

November 2, 2012

NEWPORT, Vt. - It was almost the perfect crime. For two years 45 year Christine Billis got away with killing her husband. Until she met Kevin Leland on a dating website.

"She confessed to me she killed her husband," Leland said in an interview with Matt Henson in July 2011.

The Brownington woman reportedly admitted to him she drove the family car into a tree on Route 5A in Charleston in September 2009. She wanted to kill her 57 year old husband Charles, claiming he was controlling, had threatened to kill her, and she couldn't take the mental and verbal abuse.

"I recorded our conversation on my digital recorder on how she planned it for months," recalled Leland during the interview.

With his personal recordings, plus ones he helped investigators obtain, Billis was charged with first degree murder. She faced the possibility of spending the rest of her life in prison. But instead, accepted a plea deal for manslaughter and was sentenced to 7 to 15 years behind bars.

"A gamble for all sides here," said judge Howard VanBenthuysen.

The plea deal came after doubts were raised about Leland's credibility. He was caught at the border with a gun and drugs. And there was speculation he was trying to financially benefit from blogging about the Christine Billis case.

"I think the state had developed some doubt how credible Kevin would be in front of a jury, so you take the statements by him out of the mix, the state's case for 1st degree murder has some real weaknesses," said Billis' lawyer David Sleigh.

Her lawyer was also attempting to get the taped statements thrown out, citing legal issues with the warrants. But in the end felt a plea agreement was still in the best interest for Billis.

"From our point of view, anytime you are trying a 1st degree murder case you are dealing with an incredible risk," Sleigh commented.

During the 20 minute hearing Christine Billis did not apologize for killing her husband. She just shook her head when the judge asked if she had anything to say.

Charles Billis' two brothers had little to say as they left the court, but said they do not support the plea deal.

Kevin Leland was unavailable for comment about this story.

The Billis' two children are now with family.


Christine Billis Meets New Dude on Dating Web Site Then Confesses to Killing Hubby a Year Prior

By Cory Zurowski - TrueCrimeReport.com

July 26, 2011

On a cloudless autumn day almost two years ago, Christine and Charles Billis' car rumbled south along Vermont Route 5A. Christine was driving; Charles rode shotgun, minus his seatbelt. At the intersection of Line Farm Road, the car veered hard and struck a giant pine tree...

At the scene not long after the single-car crash, emergency responders rushed Christine to North County Hospital, where she was treated for her non-life threatening injuries. Her groom did not fare so well.

Trapped in the car's mangled wreckage, Charles had to be extricated. He too was rushed to North County Hospital. Medical personnel pronounced him dead on arrival.

In the ensuing accident investigation, Vermont State Police noted the dry weather conditions and eliminated speed as a crash factor. The investigating trooper in charge of the inquiry believed Christine suffered a medical episode that may have caused her to lose control of the wheel.

Only Christine Billis knew what really happened that sunny fall day. And it was a secret she would keep guarded. That is, until she introduced herself to the glorious, wild jungles of Internet dating.

Fast forward to last year -- less than a year she had been "widowed." Billis was shopping herself on the web dating site OK Cupid, when she electronically introduced herself to Kevin Leland.

Over the following weeks, Billis and Leland got to know each other through phone chats and text messages. The courtship was still in its nascent stages when Billis told Leland she wanted to share a secret with him.

"... [S]he confessed to me very remorsefully that she had killed her husband," said Leland.

The car accident accident was no accident at all, Billis allegedly told Leland. Knowing her husband wasn't strapped in, she had purposefully rammed the car straight into the monster pine.

Blown away by the revelation, yet feeling obligated to bring the crime to justice's doorstep, Leland agreed to meet in person with Billis. Again, she offered up a confession to the murder.

This time Leland was recording the entire conversation.

Despite death threats from Billis if he ever turned her in, Leland went to authorities with the recorded goodies. Police then obtained a search warrant and armed Leland with a wire to record more conversations between the two.

Last month Billis was arrested for first-degree homicide for the September 2009 murder of her husband, Charles. She is currently being held without bail.


Suspect claims husband's death was failed murder-suicide

Wcax.com

June 30, 2011

It's a crime that has shocked the small community of Brownington.

"They were a nice, normal family," neighbor Lea Whiting said.

For nearly two years the public thought Charles Billis, 57, died in a tragic car crash just a few hundred feet from the family home. His wife Christine Billis, 44, went off Route 5A and hit a tree.

"There were a lot of people that knew the Billis and had some suspicions but there was nothing we could substantiate," Vt. State Police Sgt. Darren Annis said. "The investigation came to a standstill."

But the case was cracked wide open in recent months.

"We discovered some additional evidence that led us to believe this was not an accidental crash, it was done on purpose by Ms. Billis," Annis said.

Detectives say that information came from a person who recently met Christine Billis online and claims she admitted killing her husband. That person eventually met Billis in person and recorded conversations. Those tapes were turned over to police. In one of the recordings Billis said it "took months finding a way they couldn't prove it."

According to court papers, Billis went on to tell this person that her husband was controlling and threatened to kill her, she couldn't take the mental and verbal abuse, and wanted a divorce. When police confronted her about the taped conversations they say Billis eventually confessed, saying, "I saw the tree... the crazy part was that was the most beautiful thing I saw in my life... I couldn't take it anymore... Not gonna leave him with the kids... My intent was to kill both of us."

Billis is charged with first-degree murder. She suffered an anxiety attack just before the hearing, so Vt. Superior Court Judge Robert Bent wouldn't let her enter a plea.

"I am going to hold her without bail and she is remanded for evaluation at the State Hospital for competency," the judge said.

The judge also wants Billis to be examined to determine her sanity at the time of the crash. She has a history of mental illness.

Police wouldn't elaborate on the nature of the relationship between Billis and the informant, but clearly she trusted this person because according to court papers, after she was questioned by police, she told this person, "I'm busted."


Police say fatal car crash was no accident

By Molly Smith - Wcax.com

June 28, 2011

A scarred pine tree is the only sign left that a fatal crash happened in Charleston almost two years ago.

The accident happened in Pamela Helenek's front yard. She says she remembers it vividly.

"I went over to get the mail, because you usually do. I went and looked at the hole again and thought about how that poor man died," she explained.

Police say Christine and Charles Billis were traveling south on Route 5A in Charleston when their car hit a pine tree, less than one-quarter mile from their home in Brownington.

"It sounded like dynamite going off," said Raymond Helenek.

The Heleneks say they were sitting down for dinner when they heard the crash.

Pamela Helenek said, "I had no idea what happened. But when I looked toward the window you could see dust everywhere. That's when we came out and saw the car over there."

Christine Billis, 42, was driving. She sustained minor injuries, but her husband, Charles Billis, 57, who was in the passenger seat died. And now police are saying, the crash was no accident.

Originally police believed the accident was caused by a medical condition, but about one year later the evidence started to point in a different direction.

Vermont State Police Sgt. Darren Annis said, "There is nothing at the crime scene that would point directly that it was intentional, but there is evidence at the crime scene that would corroborate that it was intentional. For example; the scene was a straightaway, the weather at the time was clear and sunny, roads were dry, daylight hours, no brake marks on the pavement. Stuff like that kind of made it suspicious"

State Police say tips and witness testimony lead them to the arrest Tuesday. Annis said Ballis did not resist arrest. She is due in Orleans County Court Thursday.


STATE OF VERMONT
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY
VERMONT STATE POLICE

PRESS RELEASE

Homicide Arrest Related to 2009 Crash Fatality in Charleston

Charleston, VT - 6/28/2011 - On September 22, 2009 at approximately 4:16PM, Vermont State troopers investigated a single vehicle crash that occurred at the intersection of Line Farm Road and VT Route 5A in Charleston, Vermont. Several fire and rescue agencies were called to the scene. The driver, Christine Billis age 42 of Brownington, sustained injuries and was transported to North Country Hospital. The passenger, Charles Billis age 57 of Brownington, Christine's husband, was trapped in the vehicle and had to be extricated. Charles Billis was also transported to North Country Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The initial crash investigation conducted at the scene by the Vermont State Police indicated that the Billis' vehicle was traveling south on VT Route 5A when it struck a large pine tree near the intersection of Line Farm Road. The crash occurred during the day, under clear skies, and dry road conditions. Speed was not considered a factor by the investigating trooper; however Charles Billis was not wearing a seat belt. At the time of the crash it was believed that the driver may have experienced a medical episode that might have contributed to the crash.

Recently information became available regarding the investigation which led police to believe that the crash may not have been accidental. As a result of the continuing investigation by the Vermont State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, detectives determined that the crash was the result of an intentional act by Christine Billis.

Christine Billis was arrested for Homicide in the 1st Degree, a violation of Title 13, Vermont Statutes Annotated Section 2301. Billis is lodged at the Northern State Correctional Center in Newport and is being held without bail.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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