A true-crime story about a lawyer’s correspondence and conversations with a convicted New England serial killer.
William Devin Howell is currently serving six life sentences for ghastly crimes committed over nine months in 2003, in which seven people in and around New Britain, Connecticut, went missing. All were sex workers, and most were drug abusers. Howard, an attorney who wrote a blog called Serial Murders in Connecticut, focused her attention on Howell in 2015, when he was named a person of interest in the New Britain cold cases while already serving a 15-year sentence for one murder. Unlike I’ll Be Gone in the Dark author Michelle McNamara, whose famous obsession with identifying the Golden State Killer was rooted in a grisly cold case from her youth, Howard is hard-pressed to explain why she reached out to Howell other than that she “needed to figure out what made the man tick.” She’s candid about feigning concern for Howell as a ruse to get his permission for an initial interview, and she reveals feelings of sympathy and repulsion during their correspondence and monthly prison visits. Howard shared the manuscript with him, and she includes his objections to her interpretations of events in the book’s endnotes. It’s odd that she describes their relationship as “surprisingly intense”—the man is a convicted serial killer, after all, albeit one who was apparently able to mask the monster within (“He actually sounded kind of nice,” Howard’s paralegal reported after hearing a voicemail). Howard’s book is meticulous, however, and as it explores how Howell became a serial killer, it also does his victims and their families justice; the book not only offers up transcriptions of Howell’s recorded confessions, as well as Howard’s prison conversations and voluminous correspondence with him, it also presents highlights from “thousands of pages of trial transcripts, affidavits, police interviews, newspaper articles, [and] discussions with victims’ family members.”
A grimly compelling account of multiple murders.