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Timeline: Court paperwork paints clearer picture of a suspected New Britain serial killer

WETHERSFIELD — Court documents obtained by Fox CT detail the murder case investigators built against William Devin Howell, 45. Howell pleaded guilty to th...

WETHERSFIELD -- Court documents obtained by Fox CT detail the murder case investigators built against William Devin Howell, 45. Howell pleaded guilty to the 2003 manslaughter of Nilsa Arizmendi, 33, whose remains have just been identified among six others found behind a New Britain strip mall. Sources close to the investigation into the serial killings have confirmed that Howell is a suspect.

Here is a timeline that is detailed in the court documents:

  • July 31, 2003: Nilsa Arizmendi’s sister, Brenda Torres, filed a missing person report for her with Wethersfield Police. Court documents state that Torres told police that Arizmendi was involved in drugs and prostitution, but she would not desert her four children.
  • August 14, 2003:Arizmendi’s boyfriend, Angel Sanchez, wrote a letter to Wethersfield Police and Connecticut State Police stating that he had not seenArizmendi since July 25, when he stated she got into the van of a man he knew as “Devin” in the parking lot of a Wethersfield Stop and Shop. Sanchez said that he and Arizmendi knew “Devin” because they had smoked crack together.
    • Police were able to identify “Devin” as William Devin Howell, “a multi-state criminal offender having criminal arrests in Virginia, Georgia, New Jersey and Connecticut,” who had a “propensity for violence towards women,” according to court paperwork.
  • November 12, 2003: After identifying the van as belonging to Dorothy Holcomb, police tracked down Howell, who was her boyfriend. New Britain Police tried to interview Howell at Holcomb's home in New Britain, but she said he wasn't home, though police could see him through the window.
  • November 28, 2003: Police found Howell and his van in North Carolina.
  • February 19, 2004: Howell is extradited back to Connecticut on charges of violating probation for a previous conviction, and he is interviewed about Arizmendi. At some point before May he is released from custody.
  • April-May 2004: Police obtain a warrant to seize the van and search it. They find blood, which is later matched to Arizmendi’s DNA profile. The blood of another unidentified woman was also found in the van and “numerous VHS format video tapes depicting William Devin Howell with unknown females engaged in sexual acts,” court paperwork stated.
  • May 16, 2005: Howell was arrested and charged with Arizmendi’s murder.

While waiting for trial, police charged Howell with intimidating a witness after he threatened to kill a fellow inmate who was reporting Howell’s conversations to the police.

“I’m going to kill Tom and his family, and make sure that you give the message to the Rodrigues,” Howell reportedly told another second inmate about the “snitch,” Thomas Rodrigues.

In a conversation with Wethersfield police, Rodrigues said that Howell described assaulting Arizmendi in the back of his van.

“He said he beat the &*%$ out of her in the back of the van. Broke her nose and threw her out of the van,” Rodrigues said. “He said he has to hurry up and rush the case because it’s all circumstantial right now. He doesn’t want there to be a body found,” he continued.

Click here for our complete coverage of the search for the New Britain serial killer.

In January 2007, Howell pleaded guilty first-degree manslaughter in connection to Nilsa Arizmendi’s death under the Alford Doctrine. That means he did not admit to killing Arizmendi, but did admit that the prosecution had enough evidence to possibly convict him if the case went to trial.

According to the Connecticut Department of Correction website, Howell’s is scheduled to finish his sentence and be released from prison in 2019.