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Serial Killer Index Short List
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Serial Killer Index
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  HANCE William Henry USA ... ... ...
Forces of Evil GA
 : ... ... ... ...
On September 6, 1977, the nude and lifeless body of an army private, 24-year-old Karen Hickman, was discovered near the women's barracks at Fort Benning, near Columbus, Georgia. Beaten with a blunt instrument, then run over several times with a car, Hickman had been killed elsewhere, her corpse transported to the spot where it was found. Investigators learned that the victim -- a white woman -- had dated black soldiers exclusively, picking them up in bars near the post. An anonymous call led authorities to her missing clothes a month later, but no new evidence was found. The crime was treated as an isolated incident, almost forgotten in the manhunt for the "Stocking Strangler" who terrorized Columbus between September 1977 and April 1978. By mid-February, the Strangler -- described as a black man from evidence found at the crime scenes -- had raped and murdered six elderly white women in Columbus. Georgia is Klan country, and racial tension was already mounting when, on March 3, 1978, the chief of police received a letter signed by the self-styled "Forces of Evil." "Since that coroner said the Strangler is black," the note read, "we decided to come here and try to catch him or put more pressure on you... From now on black women in Columbus, GA., will be disappearing if the Strangler is not caught." The first victim, a local black woman named Gail Jackson, had already been abducted by "an organization within an organization," and she was scheduled to die if the Stocking Strangler was not apprehended by June 1. Two more blacks would be killed, the author promised, if the murderer was still at large September 1. Police could find no record of a Gail Jackson missing in Columbus, but they did discover that a black prostitute, Brenda Gail Faison, had disappeared from a local tavern on February 28. A second letter to the chief, arriving March 13, suggested that a ransom of $10,000 might secure the hostage's release, if homicide detectives could not find their man before the deadline. When police made no reply, a third note was delivered two weeks later, claiming that a second hostage named "Irene" had been abducted, scheduled to die on June 1. Detectives learned that 32-year-old Irene Thirkield was indeed missing, last seen on March 16 in the company of an unnamed black soldier. In the predawn hours of March 30, 1978, an anonymous phone call led MPs to a shallow grave, just off the military reservation, where they uncovered the remains of Brenda Faison, her face and skull crushed into pulp by a savage beating. Four days later, another call directed CID agents to Maertens Range, on Fort Benning, and Irene Thirkield's headless body -- plus scattered skull fragments -- was found hidden behind a pile of logs. On April 4, an officer reviewing tapes of the anonymous phone calls recognized the distinctive voice, fingering a 26-year-old private, William Hance, as the caller. An ammunition handler for the 10th Artillery, Hance was arrested that day, charged with murder and attempted extortion on April 5. A civilian jury convicted him of Brenda Faison's murder on December 16, 1978, voting the death penalty (plus five years on the extortion charge). Convicted of the Hickman and Thirkield murders at a subsequent court-martial, Hance drew a sentence of life imprisonment at hard labor.
Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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