NEW BRITAIN - More than 14 years after her motherâ€™s disappearance, Tiffany Menard had the chance Friday to finally tell serial killer William Devin Howell of the anguish he caused her family and others.
â€śI would see her on the street at least a thousand times, only realize it wasnâ€™t her,â€ť Menard told a courtroom packed with family, police, court staff and media. â€śI always hoped she could still be alive.â€ť
The 47-year-old Howell was sentenced to 360 years in prison Friday on charges that he had killed Diane Cusack, Mary Jane Menard, Joyvaline Martinez, Melanie Ruth Camilini, Danny Lee Whistnant and Marilyn Gonzalez during a 10-month span in 2003.
He was already serving a 15-year sentence in the death of Nilsa Arizmendi, who also disappeared in 2003, when he was arrested in 2015 and charged with six counts of murder and other crimes.
It took New Britain Stateâ€™s Attorney Brian Preleski and a team of New Britain police officers 10 years to find and identify the other victims and bring Howell to justice. All six bodies were found in woods behind a strip mall on Hartford Road in 2007 and 2015.
In the end, as Howell was about to be sentenced, Preleski refused to speak his name, saying it should be forgotten as the memory of his victims lives on.
â€śThese women and this man were parents and they were children and siblings, but whatâ€™s clearest of all was that they were loved,â€ť Preleski said â€śThey were loved fiercely and unconditionally by so many people, the people you see here today and the people whose hearts are so broken that they couldnâ€™t bring themselves to be here today.â€ť
Menard told the court that the disappearance of her mother in October 2003 resulted in two suicide attempts and bouts with drinking and despair.
â€śSince her disappearance my family and I had to endure countless years of not knowing what happened,â€ť she said.
She was a person who helped people who suffered with addiction, Menardâ€™s brother, Brian McKinney, said. She was a single mother who raised two children on her own and never met her two granddaughters, who were born after she disappeared, he added.
â€śShe was my sister, my best friend. She was strong and giving and beautiful,â€ť Mary Janeâ€™s sister, Anna Santiago, said. She went on to tell the court in a statement read by Tiffany that she had been waiting for this day for years.
â€śWhat has kept me focused all these years is the day when we would get justice for the murderer that killed her,â€ť Santiago added. â€śAlthough there is not enough time that could be given to him to justify the horrendous amount of pain heâ€™s caused.â€ť
April Rich spoke of her brother, Danny Lee, who was soft-spoken and easygoing and enjoyed listening to soft rock music in his room.
â€śThey were not objects for your disposal,â€ť Rich said. â€śThey all had lives, stories and families that loved them.â€ť
Howell dressed in a prison-issued orange jumpsuit, shackled at the waist and feet, sat quietly as the family members of his victims spoke. His gaze seemed to focus on a large framed photo of Joyvaline Martinez, with her black hair shining, a large hoop earring and red lipstick highlighting the smile on her face.
Martinez cherished holidays and birthdays with her family, said her sister, Sandra, who called Howell a â€śdemon.â€ť
â€śThose moments shouldnâ€™t have to be celebrated at the cemetery,â€ť Sandra Martinez said.
The family knew something was wrong when Joyvaline didnâ€™t show up for her 24th birthday party in late October 2003, she said before calling Howell â€ślow-life scum.â€ť
Howell told the court that he didnâ€™t have an explanation why he killed his victims.
â€śI donâ€™t have an answer for that,â€ť he said. â€śI wasnâ€™t raised like this. My actions should not be reflected on my family.â€ť
He went on to say, as tears streamed down his face, that he wished the state still had the death penalty and he hoped that the fact he had diabetes will be a consolation to the families.
â€śIâ€™ll probably die a slow, miserable death in prison,â€ť he said. â€śI hope that brings you comfort.â€ť
â€śThe acts I committed were monstrous, cowardly and selfish,â€ť he concluded. â€śIf I could bring them back, I would.â€ť
Each of the families showed â€ścourage in the presence of evil,â€ť New Britain Superior Court Judge Joan Alexander said as she prepared sentence Howell to six lifetimes in prison without the possibility of parole. â€śThey never gave up hope and their hope was for justice for their loved ones.â€ť
Sandra Martinez, who attended nearly every one of Howellâ€™s court dates since his arrest in September 2015, said she felt peace after the proceedings were over.
â€śI felt peace that I was able to speak what I felt and let everyone else in the courtroom know who my sister was,â€ť she said. â€śNow heâ€™ll get what he deserves, dying slowly in jail. I feel no pity for him.â€ť
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lisa Backus on Twitter @LbackusNBH