Detectives investigating the deaths of at least seven people in a suspected serial killer case in New Britain, Connecticut, have zeroed in on a 45-year-old convicted killer as their main suspect, according to an NBC report.
William Devin Howell is serving a 15-year sentence at the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown following his 2007 conviction over the death of a woman in Wethersfield, according to the Connecticut Division of Justice. Howell pled guilty to a manslaughter charge in order to end his murder trial over the homicide of Nilsa Arizmendi, 33, who was last seen entering his van in 2003.
"DNA analysis conducted by the Connecticut State Police Forensic Laboratory determined that blood evidence found in Howell's van was from the 33-year-old victim," according to the Connecticut Division of Justice. Arizmendi's body was never recovered.
However, investigators have continued to suspect Howell in at least one other homicide due to an additional blood sample found in his van. "Additional evidence recovered from the van indicated that a substantial amount of blood from a second, unidentified individual was present," state justice officials said.
When Arizmendi disappeared on July 25, 2003, Howell had been working "odd jobs" and cutting grass for businesses and homes in Wethersfield, Hartford, West Hartford, and New Britain.
It was in New Britain on Monday that officials announced they had discovered the remains of four more women behind a shopping plaza, bringing the total death count to seven in the city's suspected serial killer case.
Investigators made clear they had identified a suspect, however they declined to name the suspect during Monday's press briefing.
NBC Connecticut reported Tuesday that "multiple sources familiar with the investigation" had identified Howell as the main suspect in the case. Law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation also told the Hartford Courant on Monday that authorities were focusing on a single suspect who is already in prison.
BuzzFeed News has sought comment from New Britain Police and the Connecticut Division of Justice. An FBI spokesperson involved in the investigation referred inquires to local officials.
While declining to confirm the reports of a suspect already in custody, Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane told reporters that the ongoing investigation "supports our strong belief that the person responsible for this is not able to continue this conduct at this time."
Monday's developments come eight years after partial remains were first discovered behind the shopping center at 593 Hartford Road by someone who was looking for a place to hunt. Over the next several days in August 2007, the remains of three women were discovered in the vicinity. The victims were identified as Diane Cusack, 53; Joyvaline Martinez, 24; and Mary Jane Menard, 40.
Menard's daughter, Tiffany, told the Hartford Courant that knowing the person who may have killed her mother is behind bars provided some small comfort.
"We have all the hope…that they're going to convict someone," she said.
On Monday, officials said they had identified a fourth victim as 29-year-old Melanie Camilini, of Seymour, and were working to identify the partial remains of three other victims that were unearthed with the assistance of cadaver dogs.
New Britain Police Chief James Wardwell announced the identity of Camilini — a mother of two — on her birthday.
"It's appropriate we remember Melanie today and begin the process of bringing her home," he said.
So far, all of the victims who have been identified went missing in 2003, but were killed at different times, according to the Greater New Britain Serial Killer Task Force, which was established last year to investigate the homicides.
Cusack, Martinez, and Menard were believed to have frequented the downtown New Britain area bordered by Main Street, Lafayette Street, and Washington Street, according to the task force.
The state of Connecticut has been offering a $150,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction in the case.