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John Robert WILLIAMS

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Serial killer?
Characteristics: Long-haul trucker
Number of victims: 2 - 12
Date of murders: 2003 - 2004
Date of arrest: August 2004
Date of birth: 1976
Victims profile: Nikki Hill / Jennifer Hyman, 24
Method of murder: Shooting - Strangulation
Location: Mississippi/Oklahoma/Texas/Indiana, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to life in prison in one count in Mississippi in July 5, 2005
 
 

 
 
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Prisoner admits to murder of Toledo woman

Investigators say inmate knew details only killer could know

Saturday, August 11, 2007

From a sweltering Mississippi prison earlier this week, a long-haul trucker admitted that he killed a former Toledo woman and more than 30 others, authorities said.

Then John Robert Williams confirmed what any homicide detective knows all too well: Truck stop prostitutes are easy to kill.

On Wednesday, Capt. Clarke Fine and Lt. Roger Call, of Indiana’s Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office, interviewed Williams, who is being held in a “supermax” unit of the Parchman, Miss., prison.

They were investigating the death of Buffie Rae Brawley, a 27-year-old Toledo woman whose partially clothed body was found March 24, 2004, in a desolate parking lot about 10 miles outside Indianapolis.

Her murder was particularly cruel.

Duct tape was pressed over her face and her killer bashed in her head and strangled her.

Why? Investigators asked Wednesday.

The answer was simple: “He said, ‘She tapped on the cab of the truck,’” Lieutenant Call said.

The interview was triggered by a meeting last month in Reno, where federal and local law enforcement gathered to exchange information on unsolved crimes, especially victims of suspected serial killers.

An investigator from Grapevine, Texas, told Captain Fine that Williams confessed to him that he was responsible for killing a woman and throwing her off a bridge in Texas, Captain Fine said.

That woman, Casey Jo Pipestem, 19, also was last seen alive at a truck stop — that one in Oklahoma City.

Williams and his girlfriend, Rachel Cumberland, have admitted to killing a 20-year-old woman they met at a casino in 2004 and Williams is serving a life sentence, plus 20 years, for the crime.

Cumberland is serving a 20-year sentence.

On Wednesday, both of the Indiana investigators were suspicious that Williams might be confessing to crimes he didn’t commit.

But, the captain added, the 31-year-old man knew details that only the killer might know, like when Miss Brawley died.

He remembered something else without being asked — Miss Brawley’s rose tattoo with the name “Ebony” over it. It is the name of her daughter.

“You worry about a guy just saying, ‘Yeah, I did it,’ … but I think he’s telling the complete truth,” Captain Fine said.

Ms. Brawley’s is a story that spans, like so many hookers’ lives, cross-country.

In Portland, Ore., the news yesterday was particularly painful for members of her family.

The one-year anniversary of the death of Miss Brawley’s mother, Nadine Fechtner, who had cancer, is approaching.

Ms. Fechtner raised her granddaughter, Ebony, after her own daughter was murdered.

And she spent much of the year following her daughter’s death fighting with her son-in-law, convicted Toledo pimp Derek Maes, to have her daughter’s body returned to her. Eventually, Maes relented.

He is now in a Pennsylvania prison awaiting sentencing on unrelated pimping convictions.

A uniformed police crew appeared at 6:30 a.m. yesterday at Miss Brawley’s niece’s house in Portland, asking for Ms. Fechtner. Linda Lyons said her aunt had died, and an officer handed her Captain Fine’s phone number, Mrs. Lyons said.

“As soon as we saw the area code, [my husband] said, ‘Hon, it’s about Buffie,’” Ms. Lyons said.

Whether Williams will be charged with Miss Brawley’s death is not clear.

Williams already faces life imprisonment in Mississippi, and now is lodged in “Unit 32,” a super-maximum security facility on the Parchman prison campus.

It’s a unit that the American Civil Liberties Union has called filthy, unsafe, and one of the least humane in the country.

“He spends 23 hours a day [in a small cell] with no TV, no radio, no air conditioning, and nothing to read but religious tracts,” Captain Fine said.

Moreover, Williams faces charges in Texas, where prosecutors might seek the death penalty.

At the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation in Oklahoma City, senior intelligence analyst Terri Turner has built a database of murder victims, many of them prostitutes.

She knew the Brawley case well.

Yesterday, she said she could not comment on the specifics of the investigation, nor say how many other victims might be linked to Williams and Cumberland. But, she added, “it’s still an ongoing investigation.”


Serial killer confesses to murdering Toledo woman in Indiana in 2004

Friday, August 10, 2007

A long-haul truck driver and serial killer has confessed to the murder of a Toledo prostitute outside Indianapolis in 2004 — a slaying that authorities said most likely would never be solved.

John Robert Williams, 31, who is in prison for another death and is a suspect in a string of others, confessed to killing Buffie Rae Brawley, 27, whose body was found March 24, 2004 in a desolate parking lot, said Capt. Clarke Fine, of Indiana’s Hendricks County Sheriff’s office.

The captain said he visited Williams on Wednesday in his Parchman, Miss., prison.

Williams not only confessed to the murder, but knew of details that only her killer would know. He knew, for example, how Miss Brawley’s body had been left and when she died, the captain said. Williams also remembered one of Ms. Brawley’s tattoos: a rose with her daughter’s name, Ebony, on it.

"You worry about a guy just saying ‘Yeah, I did it,’ … but I think he’s telling the complete truth," the captain said.

John Robert Williams and defendant Rachel Cumberland were arrested in 2005 in Mississippi after a year-long investigation by federal and local authorities investigating a string of cross-country murders.

Whether Williams is charged in Miss Brawley’s death is not clear. Captain Fine said Williams already faces life imprisonment in Mississippi and is facing charges in Texas, where investigators most likely would seek the death penalty.

Still, he said his discussion Wednesday with Williams was a relief. Captain Fine, like other investigators, said investigating the murders of prostitutes is especially difficult because of the transient nature of their business and of truckers who kill them.

He didn’t hold out a lot of hope for solving Miss Brawley’s death, he said: "I have to be quite honest, I didn’t."

The conclusion is still a painful one for family members. Miss Brawley’s mother, Nadine Fechtner, died of cancer Aug. 20, 2006. Ms. Fechtner had been raising her granddaughter, Ebony, since her own daughter had been murdered.

She had fought with her son-in-law, convicted pimp Derek Maes, to have the body buried near the family so that Ebony could visit the grave. Eventually, Maes relented.

He is now in a Pennsylvania prison waiting sentencing on unrelated pimping charges.

Local authorities appeared at 6:30 a.m. today at Miss Brawley’s niece’s house in Portland, asking for Ms. Fechtner. Linda Lyons said her aunt had died, and an officer handed her a phone number.

"As soon as we saw the area code, [my husband] said ‘Hon it’s about Buffie’" Ms. Lyons said.


Tip led to serial killing suspects

August 23, 2005

As law enforcement officials from seven states searched for a serial killer last summer, John Robert Williams and Rachel Cumberland sat in the Neshoba County Detention Center in Philadelphia, Miss., accused of killing a woman they had met at a casino.

No one had linked them to the torture, rape and murder of several other women who had been kidnapped from truck stops across the country and then dumped, including one off a Grapevine bridge.

An officer or two had scanned their files in connection with the truck stop slayings of women believed to be prostitutes. But there seemed little similarity between those and the death of a casino patron.

Luck and a relative who liked watching real-crime TV shows changed all that. Williams' relative watched the June 4 episode of America's Most Wanted detailing the death of Casey Jo Pipestem, whose body was found in Grapevine. The relative called the program's 800 phone number and said the killing sounded like one that her relative bragged about when she had talked to him.

"As much work as all the investigators had done on these cases, I just knew that one day we would get a break," said Grapevine Detective Larry Hallmark, assigned to a multi-state task force investigating the truck stop killings. "That tip was it."

Now law enforcement officials from throughout the country believe the couple -- who recently were convicted in the casino patron's death -- are responsible for the truck stop killings.

Williams was a long-distance hauler who had worked for several companies during the past three years; Cumberland rode with him.

They were arrested and charged in August 2004 with the fatal shooting of Nikki Hill of Shuqualak, Miss. The couple met her at a casino.

Hill's body was found July 18, 2004, off a Neshoba County road near Philadelphia, Miss. She had been shot once in the back of the head and once in the back with a shotgun.

One of the two suspects called Mississippi authorities to report that they found the body, police said.

Williams pleaded guilty July 5 to kidnapping and murder in the Hill slaying. He was sentenced to life in prison. That same day, Cumberland pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the case and received 20 years in prison.

"He claimed he shot her by accident and decided, 'Well now I've got to go ahead and kill her,' which makes no sense," said Mark Duncan, the Neshoba County District Attorney in Mississippi. "Exactly what their motivation, nobody knows."

News of their arrests reached Grapevine last summer, but the pattern of the slaying didn't seem to fit the truck stop killings, Hallmark said. Investigators continued to look for clues.

Their break came with the telephone tip last month. With the new information, Hallmark and Grapevine police Sgt. Bob Murphy went to Mississippi in late June to talk to the couple. The Grapevine officers took along six photos of women who had been kidnapped from truck stops and later killed.

Murphy and Hallmark spent 11 hours interviewing the couple -- eight hours with Williams and three hours with Cumberland.

"They were very talkative," Hallmark said, enough to persuade officials that he was involved in Pipestem's death.

Williams also discussed other cases in his interview with Grapevine police, some involving slayings that police were not aware of, leading to new investigations.

"You have to be careful because when you get someone that talkative you discover that 30 percent is the truth and 70 percent is not," Hallmark said.

Mississippi authorities have declined to make additional comments about the couple, although they have filed charges in a second murder case, said Warren Strain, a spokesman with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.

The couple have been moved from the Neshoba County jail to the Lafayette County Jail in Oxford, Miss.

The other cases in which the couple are suspects:

* The slaying of Jennifer Hyman of Oklahoma City. A railroad engineer found her nude body Aug. 20, 2003, below a Tallahatchie River railroad bridge near Oxford, Miss.

* The killing of Samantha Patrick. Charges are expected to be filed against the couple in Patrick's slaying in Yukon, Okla., about 12 miles west of Oklahoma City.

* The death of Pipestem. Pipestem's nude body was found Jan. 31, 2004, in Big Bear Creek. Her body had been dropped from a Texas 360 bridge. She had last been seen three days earlier at an Oklahoma City truck stop.

Duncan, the Neshoba County district attorney, said he's not surprised that the couple are accused serial killers.

"Anybody that cold-hearted, I suppose it wouldn't bother them to do it again," Duncan said.


Mississippi Department of Public Safety

Capital Murder Suspect Sought in Jackson Area

08/16/2004

Agents from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation believe a capital murder suspect from Neshoba County may be living and working in the Jackson area. Agents say 28-year-old John Robert Williams, originally from Carthage, is armed and considered dangerous. Last week, 35-year-old Rachel B. Cumberland of Carthage was arrested. "Our investigation led us to Ms. Cumberland who was subsequently charged with capital murder and kidnapping. As we progressed with the investigation, a warrant for John Robert Williams was issued," said Director of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Berthay.

The two are wanted in connection with the discovery of the body of 28-year-old Nikki Hill of Shuqualak. The victim's body was found July 18th at approximately 11:00 a.m. off Neshoba County Road 2606 near MS 16 West in Philadelphia. "She was fully clothed and appeared to have been shot several times," said Neshoba County Sheriff Larry Myers. "This cooperative effort between our office, the Leake County Sheriff's Office and MBI shows what can be accomplished when we work together with a comprehensive approach to an investigation," Myers said.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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