Hicks pleads guilty to two counts
Friday, November 17, 2000
Amid tight security, admitted serial killer James R.
Hicks pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of murder. Hicks, 48, entered
the pleas in Penobscot County Superior Court in the slayings of Jerilyn
Towers in 1982 and Lynn Willette in 1996.
James R. Hicks
On 1 November 2000, Maine's
Penobscot County grand jury formally charged confessed killer James
Hicks, 49, with the murders of Jerilyn Towers and Lynn Willette.
Hicks served six years of a 10-year prison sentence for killing his
first wife, 23-year-old Jennie Hicks, who disappeared from the couple's
Carmel home in 1977.
Hicks was not arrested for her murder
until 1983 and was convicted in 1984. Before his arrest, Towers, 34, of Newport, disappeared after leaving a Newport bar with Hicks.
In fact the police investigation into Towers' disappearance prompted the
re-examination Jennie Hicks' disappearance and subsequently the charging
Hicks with her murder. At the time he was not charged with Towers' death
because police lacked adequate evidence.
After his release from prison in 1990,
Hicks met 40-year-old Willette of Orrington with whom he worked at the
Twin City Motel in Brewer. The two eventually lived together at a South
Main Street apartment where Hicks now claims he killed Willette 26
May 1996. Though also suspected in her dissapearence, Hicks was
never charged with her death because of lack of evidence. That is until
he was handed a 55-year sentence in Lubbock, Texas, and confessed to the
three killings and led authorities to their bodies.
Hicks was convicted in Texas of
holding a gun to the head of a 67-year-old woman, forcing here to write
a check to him and sign over the title to her car, and then write a
suicide note. He planned to drug and drown the woman to make it look
like a suicide, but she somehow managed to escaped. When he was
convicted to 55 years in prison Hicks asked to cut a deal with
authorities in Maine whereby he agreed to direct them to the bodies of
the three missing in exchange for serving his time in Maine instead of
Back in Maine Hicks located the
remains of his three victims after two days of digging around his former
home in Etna and at several roadside sites in Aroostook County, Maine.
The remains of his former wife and Towers were found 100 fett appart
next to the home where he grew up. Willette's remains were found in
concrete buckets buried next to the road in Aroostook County. Apparently
all the bodies were dismembered and some parts he allegedly tossed in a
Teeth often the surest way to identify bodies,
By David Hench, Portland (Maine) Press Herald Writer
Monday, October 23,
As they unearthed the remains of women murdered
decades earlier by James Hicks, crime scene investigators turned to a
team of dental experts - dentists and technicians from around the state
- to positively identify the victims.
Teeth are the most durable part of the human body.
The enamel is 98 percent inorganic and less susceptible to decay than
soft tissue or even bone. And like a fingerprint, no two sets of teeth
are identical. Unlike fingerprints, almost everyone who has visited a
dentist has a record of their teeth.
That's why investigators turned to dental records
after Hicks confessed to murdering three missing Maine women. Hicks, who
was facing a long sentence in a Texas prison for another violent crime,
agreed to lead police to the bodies with the understanding that he would
be imprisoned in Maine.
A handful of dentists in Maine make forensic
dentistry their avocation, using the unique configuration in the human
mouth to identify bodies and crime suspects.
"It's putting the pieces of the puzzle together to
solve the mystery,'' said Dr. Thomas Richardson, a Portland dentist who
heads one of three forensic dentistry team in the state.
Of the three means of positive identification -
fingerprints, DNA and teeth - a person's dental configuration is often
the quickest and easiest method, says Dr. Margaret Greenwald, Maine's
chief medical examiner.
"We try to do that as quickly as possible,''
Greenwald said. "There are a lot of people out there that are concerned
about making sure that the remains of a person is who we believe it to
be: for the family, for the detectives that are trying to determine what
happened to the person and for the public who are concerned about what
may be happening.''
Long after people are dead, their teeth can
communicate important information about their identity and even some of
the circumstances surrounding their deaths.
Teeth also can be the key to solving violent criminal
cases where a suspect or a victim has left a bite mark.
In cases like that involving Hicks' victims, members
of the forensic team match past X-rays and dental charts against teeth
found with remains.
Dentists were actually at the scene for the recent
exhumations because they can recognize small pieces of dental material
that could be important in an identification.
"You're hopefully given a known - X-rays of who they
think this person may be - then it becomes simply a matching game,''
said Dr. Bruce Gallup, an Auburn dentist whose interest in dental
forensics dates back to his years as a paramedic firefighter in Indiana.
Like other members of the team he helped form, Gallup
has trained at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.
"You use your dental skills, but in a totally
different light - and it's very rewarding,'' he said.
The forensic teams also have trained to make
identifications in a disaster, such as a plane crash in which dozens or
even hundreds of victims might need to be identified.
"With the Hicks case, you have three people and
you're pretty sure who they are and it's a matter of making a visual
match,'' Richardson said. "When you have a plane crash, it's a different
In a major disaster, the group would use portable X-ray
equipment and dental mapping techniques to develop profiles of the
victims. In some cases, those profiles can be compared to prior dental
records that have been scanned into a computer, allowing experts to make
matches or at least narrow the possibilities.
Because teeth are incredibly resilient even in
intense heat, remains can be identified even when victims are burned
beyond recognition. While extreme heat sometimes causes a tooth to
explode, large molars often survive. In some cases identification can be
made based on the twist of the root remaining inside the jaw, Richardson
Another facet of forensic dentistry is gleaning
information from bite marks.
In 1997, Richardson was called in after John
L'Heureux of Sanford was arrested for the murders of his stepdaughter
and former landlady in Augusta. Police believed a red mark on his arm
was a bite and could be important to the case.
Richardson rushed to the Kennebec County Jail.
Investigators, he said, have no more than 72 hours before bite marks
lose their evidentiary value.
A colleague of Richardson's made a cast of the 16-year-old
murder victim's upper and lower jaw. Richardson began denoting the peaks
of the teeth on a transparent sheet which he then laid against
L'Heureux's arm, alongside a tattoo of a skull. The map of the girl's
teeth matched perfectly against the short red lines forming a semicircle
on the forearm.
Richardson could tell from the bite not only that
L'Heureux's stepdaughter had bitten his arm, but that his arm had been
wrapped around her from behind, pulling back sharply.
Richardson, who worked as a dentist in the Alaskan
bush and earned a law degree from the University of Arizona, has also
helped develop information about murder suspects based on the bite mark
on a victim.
Forensic dentistry shares similarities with the more
common form of dentistry. Both start as mysteries, solved through
analysis and experience.
"It's always an investigation,'' Richardson said. "A
person comes in with a toothache and you need to find out what the
problem is and how to cure it.''
Robber admits to several Maine
Dirk Fillpot -
Friday, September 29, 2000
James Hicks, who pleaded guilty to a robbery in
Lubbock on Friday, told authorities he was responsible for three New
England women's deaths, a Lubbock prosecutor said just before noon today.
Hicks was convicted of killing his former wife,
Jennifer Hicks, 23, of Maine, in 1984 and served six years in a state
prison there for the crime.
He was suspected in the suspicious disappearances of
two other Maine women, but had not been charged, authorities said.
Hicks, 49, agreed to serve 55 years for an April
robbery here, prosecutor Susan Scolaro said.
Hicks forced a Lubbock woman to write him a check for
$1,250 and sign over the title to her car, a Lubbock police report
states. He also forced her to drink cough syrup, intending for her to
fall asleep, the report states.
Scolaro said Hicks will serve out any jail time he
may now receive for the admitted murders in Maine before he serves the
55-year Texas sentence he received in Lubbock on Friday.
Hick's former wife, Jennie Hicks, diappeared some 23
years ago. Her body was never found. Hicks, the woman's husband of seven
years at the time, was convicted of fourth-degree murder and sentenced
to serve 10 years in prison. He served six before being released.
Hicks was living with his current wife, Brandie, in
Levelland when he was arrested in Lubbock in April. Then, Hicks was
arrested and accused of holding a Lubbock woman at gunpoint, forcing her
to drink cough syrup and attempting to rob her.
Since the disappearance of Jennie Hicks, authorities
in Maine have linked James Hicks to the disappearance of two other women
from Maine whose bodies have never been found.
Though Hicks has not been charged in connection with
either case, he has been classified as a serial killer, said Jim Ricker,
police chief in Newport, Maine in April.
Ricker said his department frequently followed new
leads into the cases of the missing women, but they have failed to
uncover tangible information.
*July 19, 1977: Jennie Lynn Hicks, 22, is missing
from her home in Carmel, Maine.
*Oct. 16, 1982: Maine resident Jerilyn Towers, 34,
leaves a bar with James Hicks. That is the last time she is seen.
*1983: James Hicks is convicted of fourth-degree
murder in connection with the disappearance of his wife, Jennie Lynn
Hicks. He's sentenced to 10 years in prison and serves six years.
*May 26, 1996: Maine resident Lynn Willette, 40, is
reported missing. She and James Hicks lived together and worked together
at a motel.
*April 8, 2000: After moving to Levelland, James
Hicks allegedly attempts to rob a Lubbock woman while making her drink
*April 12, 2000: Hicks is indicted on a charge of
aggravated robbery in connection with the Lubbock case.