Although several incarcerated informants are likely to apply to receive a portion of a $150,000 reward, the state’s attorney general may have a hand in whether any will actually get the money, state officials said.
The reward is being offered for information that led to the conviction of admitted serial killer William Devin Howell.
The 47-year-old Howell was sentenced to 360 years in prison November 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 pleaded guilty to six counts of murder in September.
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. Arizmendi’s remains were found in 2015 with three other victims. The remains of Cusack, Menard and Martinez were located in 2007 in the same area as the others behind a strip mall on Hartford Road in New Britain.
It took New Britain State’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.
Gov. Dannel Malloy agreed in 2014 to offer three $50,000 rewards for information that led to the arrest and conviction of the person who killed Cusack, Martinez and Menard.
Court records show that at least three inmates helped authorities with the case.
Jonathan Mills, serving a life sentence for four murders that occurred in 2000, drew authorities a map of where Howell described he had buried four of the victims including Arizmendi. He also gave investigators detailed information on how Howell killed several victims, court records show.
State officials had initially told police and Preleski that Cusack, Martinez and Menard had been dumped behind the plaza at the bottom of a steep hill thick with brush and ground cover. It wasn’t until after Menard was identified in early 2014 and her DNA was compared to blood samples found in Howell’s van that authorities realized that Howell could potentially be a suspect in more than five killings.
Mills’ map, drawn just days before a cadaver sniffing dog searched the area in April 2015, proved to be accurate. Camilini, Whistnant, and Gonzalez were found with Arizmendi in the location were Mills led investigators. Howell was charged with the six additional deaths a few months later. Police were initially tipped off that Howell may be the killer behind the deaths of Cusack, Martinez and Menard in 2011 through a conversation with an inmate named Thomas Phillips, court papers show. At least two other inmates were interviewed by either police or members of the Greater New Britain Serial Murder Task Force leading up to Howell’s arrest, documents said.
Anyone who is interested in claiming all or a portion of the $150,000 reward must apply to Preleski by March 31. New Britain Superior Court Judge Joan Alexander, who oversaw Howell’s case, will make the determination on who gets the money, Preleski said Friday.
Since all the informants are incarcerated, according to state law, Attorney General George Jepsen can seek to have any reward money garnered go toward repaying the state for the cost of imprisonment, a spokeswoman for his office said. “When an incarcerated inmate comes into possession of an asset, state law does allow the attorney general to seek the recovery of the cost of incarceration against that asset,” said Jaclyn Severance, director of communications for the office of the Attorney General.
Severance could not comment on Howell’s case specifically. Alexander is likely to consider the reward sometime in the spring after the March 31 deadline.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.