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Monday, December 13, 2010

Former WV Prosecutor Recalls Killer Known As The Butcher

A Trail Of Severed Body Parts And Unsolved Murder Ends In Execution..by Jack Swint-Publisher
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William Wickline demonstrated the proclivity and expertise for committing murder. Law enforcement officials from three different agencies said that dismembering his victims was more than just an efficient means of body disposal for Wickline. "He really seemed to enjoy it," one investigator said. "It was like a sport to him."said another. Former Wood County WV prosecutor Harry Deitzler summed it up… “He was just a very bad man.”

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William Dean Wickline (pictured to the left at 19) was born March 15, 1952. He will go down in West Virginia and Ohio’s history as one of the most sadistic killers ever known in society. Nicknamed “The Butcher,” Wickline used his prison honed skill as a meat cutter to strategically disembowel and dismember his victims, bag the body parts and dispose of them in areas he felt no one would look. His methods were, to some prosecutors and homicide investigators, the mark of a professional killer. "He was the most dangerous criminal I've ever run across in this state" said a West Virginia police detective.
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Yet others believe he engaged in human butchery partly for sport. But whatever forces propelled Wickline's knife, several law enforcement agencies established his credentials as a serial killer of nonpareil savagery. He was convicted, indicted, or named as a suspect in five to six homicides in which the victims were dismembered, decapitated or both. And some police investigators believe that list could be expanded to include two killings for which another man has already been convicted.
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His philosophy? No corpse, no crime. He was sentenced to death for the August 14th, 1982 murders of Chris and Peggy Lerch of Columbus Ohio. Clemency was denied and he was put to death by lethal injection in Ohio’s death chamber on March 30, 2004. His last meal? Eight-ounce filet mignon cooked medium rare, potato salad, six rolls with butter, fresh strawberries over shortcake and butter pecan ice cream. He also received four packs of Pall Mall cigarettes and six cans of pop including three Mountain Dews.
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His final words, "May tomorrow see the courts shaped by more wisdom and less politics."
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In November of 1979, now Charleston attorney and city councilman Harry Deitzler, was the Wood County Prosecuting attorney in Parkersburg WV. Deitzler, who has worn numerous professional hats in his career since becoming an attorney in 1976, crossed paths with the man known as “the butcher” after Wickline brutally, but skillfully murdered known drug dealer Charles Marsh in Parkersburg, W.Va.
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The official record and what Deitzler recalls is that Marsh, known as “Swampy” was found with his hands handcuffed behind his back and he had been strangled with a telephone cord. His head had then been cut off and placed on a night table beside the bed (pictured to the left). The killer had even taken the time to comb the hair on Marsh's severed head. The medical examiners determined it had been severed with one or at the most two cuts, indicating the killer was a skilled butcher.
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The Sheriff’s department under Sheriff Lee Bechtold was the first on the scene and investigated the case extensively for about five years without being able to identify a suspect. They believed the murder was a contract killing and the decapitation was added as a warning to others in the drug trade who might be considering expanding their territory.
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But according to Deitzler, it would take WV state trooper William “Billy” Rectenwald to actually solve the crime and lead to the arrest and indictment of William Wickline in WV.
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“Rectenwald and another trooper spoke with Wickline's former girlfriend to whom he had confessed the details. I secured an indictment of Wickline based on Rectenwald's investigation. Wickline was facing execution in Ohio, statistics were as much on his side as ours and there was always a very real chance that his Ohio conviction would be overturned.
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When we served the extradition papers on Wickline and he realized that I really would drag him back to West Virginia, his attorney and I reached an agreement which Wickline signed waiving his right to speedy trial if we would agree to postpone extradition until the conclusion of his Ohio prosecution. That resolved our concern that the charges must be preserved in the event that he would later be released, and it also saved us the expense of bringing him back for trial.”
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Chris and Peggy Lerch
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According to testimony in the trial, the following story evolved: Chris and Peggy Lerch were a young couple heavily involved in drug trafficking in the Columbus area. On Aug. 14, 1982, they argued with Wickline over a $6,000 drug debt. During the argument, Lerch boasted that he had had sex with Wickline's girlfriend.
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After the argument, Wickline asked Lerch to come with him to the upstairs bathroom to help him fix a clogged tub drain. While Lerch was looking into the tub, Wickline slit his throat. He then apparently decided Mrs. Lerch would have to be eliminated as a possible witness so he strangled her while she slept. One of Wickline's girlfriends testified against him, claiming he threatened to kill her unless she helped him by holding Mrs. Lerch's legs while he strangled her.
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According to the girlfriend's testimony, both bodies were decapitated and dismembered in the bathtub and their body parts were placed in plastic garbage bags, and left in trash dumpsters around Franklin County. Almost two years passed before Wickline was indicted. The bodies of the Lerch’s were never found. Besides the testimony of Wickline's girlfriend, the case was supported by evidence that included Mrs. Lerch's wedding ring, which Wickline had apparently kept.
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After Wickline was indicted in the Lerch case, Columbus and West Virginia police shared information and Wickline was indicted in late 1985 for killing Marsh.
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Tony Muncie
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A 14-year-old resident of the eastern suburbs of Columbus, Tony Muncie disappeared in October 1983. His body was found two days later along a highway in Delaware County. His death was caused by stab wounds in the back. His arms had been severed at the shoulders and elbows. His legs and head had been partially severed from his torso. Investigators could not establish any drug involvement on Tony's part, but they did obtain information that he may have been killed simply because he refused to get away from a drugstore that Wickline intended to rob.
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Tory Gainer
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Tory Gainer was well-known to police as being heavily involved in illegal gambling operations in central and southeastern Ohio. He disappeared in 1978 or 1979, and though no missing-person report was ever filed, police believe he was murdered. Informants told Columbus police Gainer was killed and dismembered, then his body parts were left in different landfills around Fairfield County.
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Unknown Victim
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Informants told Columbus-area police that Wickline may have accepted a contract to execute a man in Florida in early 1983. Police then contacted Dade County (Miami) police, who confirmed that in January 1983, the body parts of a man had been discovered in a canal in a rural section of the county. The man, whose identity still has not been determined, had been stabbed to death then decapitated and dismembered.
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A Dade County detective said that the medical examiner who assisted in the investigation had suggested police consider looking for suspects among the hog farmers of the area because of the obvious knowledge of butchery displayed by the killer. "He really knew what he was doing” said police. Some points in their theory included the notion that there could have been two such sadistic killer-butchers operating at the same time in the same area of Ohio stretches coincidence too far. Only rarely is a killer capable of the behavior exhibited in these murders, police said.
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Wickline continued living an active outlaw life after he moved and police sources claim he was part of a burglary ring that specialized in breaking into drugstores, then dealing the stolen narcotics. Wickline's last arrest, in January 1984, when police arrested him during a thwarted drugstore burglary.
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The Younger Years
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During his youth in the middle- class community of Reynoldsburg Ohio, just east of Columbus, Bill Wickline was little more than a suburban bad boy. He began his crime career by egging his high school principal's car. But by the time he'd grown into a bull-necked 6-foot-3-inch man, police records show he had graduated to drugstore burglaries, pimping, running a narcotics house and then on to postgraduate crime, murder and beyond.
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Wickline was regarded as a good student and potentially an outstanding athlete. Although he was a member of the wrestling team for a while in high school, he never lived up to his athletic promise and he did not earn good marks in his high school classes. Public school officials in Reynoldsburg recall him as having affectionate, even doting parents.
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Though he was not a flagrant troublemaker, some of his best friends were. There was some suspicion he might have been involved with drugs during his school years, but he was never charged. The worst offense he was caught in was egging his high school principal's car. Wickline and an accomplice cleaned up the car the next day, even waxing it as an unrequested bonus.
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His exploits have earned him stints in at least six state penal institutions. During one confinement, he took some college-level psychology courses; during another he was taught to be a butcher. A friend who has known Wickline about 15 years, but asked not to be identified, said he did not become a criminal straight out of high school. "He was more like a flower child" she said. "He had maybe two pairs of jeans and some T- shirts, and hair down to the middle of his back. He was anything but a charmer." His first arrest came in 1971 when he was 19. He was arrested at least nine more times in Ohio between then and 1984. During that period, he served time in state prisons in Columbus, Mansfield, Chillicothe, Orient and London.
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Typically, Wickline would enter a guilty plea and do his time when caught. One investigator remembered that Wickline didn't seem bothered by the prospect of returning to prison. It gave him time to concentrate on pastimes such as lifting weights. Police and friends agree on one point about him, his intelligence set him apart from the run-of-the- mill criminal. "What makes him so dangerous is that he's so smart," a woman friend of Wickline's said. "He had everything going for him."
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Though his arrests include drug and prostitution-related charges, his specialty was burglary. In this pursuit, he was also a pro knowing if he never carried a gun during a break-in he couldn't be charged with the more serious armed-robbery felonies. But during a decade spent more inside prison than out, Wickline became more and more deeply involved with what one friend of his called the "prison mainstream.” This is a group of inmates who use fear and violence to control most of the illicit activities within prison populations.
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Wickline developed an affinity for knives, police believe he used a 15- inch-long folding knife with a serrated blade to dismember the Lerches while building a reputation as a man not to be crossed. One prosecutor said it was practically impossible to offer any potential witnesses deals attractive enough to convince them to testify against Wickline. "They were terrified of him" the prosecutor said.
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The girlfriend who testified that Wickline threatened to kill her remained loyal to him for another couple of years. She tried to make bail for him after his arrest in Nelsonville and went there to pick up his impounded car. Another said Wickline threatened her on at least two occasions but she still loved him. "Nobody ever says anything good about Bill," she said.
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Wickline was reportedly involved with a group that engaged in animal- sacrifice rituals in which a male member of the group would use his chest as a human altar on which the animal was sacrificed.
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In Closing….
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Harry Deitzler attributes the arrest and closing of Charles “Swampy” Marsh’s decapitation murder and other killings in Wood County WV to former Trooper William "Billy" Rectenwald. (now a city judge in Ripley) He also noted appreciation for Sgt. Russ Miller and Bill Rhodes, then police chief of Parkersburg. All three “were the best criminal investigators in the state. By comparison to most other jurisdictions, the West Virginia State Police detachment at Parkersburg and the Parkersburg Police department were both light years ahead during the time when I was prosecuting attorney from 1979 to 1988.”
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End Of Story…
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Research and development for this story was made possible by documents provided by Ohio Board of Parole, Department of Corrections and The Akron Beacon Journal. Special thanks to Attorney Harry Deitzler for his involvement.
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Jack Swint-Publisher
West Virginia News
E-Mail:  WestVirginiaNews@gmail.com
Website: http://WVNewsOnline.com
Blog: http://WestVirginiaNews.blogspot.com
Twitter:  @WVNewsOnline
LinkedIn: Jack Swint

Links

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