Triple-ax murderer sentenced to
September 30, 1999
GOLDEN, Colo. (APBnews.com) -- Rejecting confessed
triple-ax murderer William "Cody" Neal's claims that he is a
changed man who wants to live so he can serve God in prison, a three-judge
panel instead sentenced him to death.
Neal, 43, pleaded guilty in February to bludgeoning to
death Angela Fite, Candace Walters and Rebecca Holberton with a logging
ax during a weeklong killing rampage in July 1998. He tied up a fourth
victim, forced her to watch one of the murders and then raped her.
In a sentencing hearing Wednesday, presiding Judge
Thomas Woodford told Neal his crimes were "brutal, needless
killings" that also emotionally devastated the victims' families.
"[The] panel has determined that the only penalty
that can be imposed in accordance with the law which these judges are
sworn to uphold is a death sentence," Woodford said.
'Depravity not commonly seen'
Prosecutors contended that Neal stole
the women's money and then killed them to cover his crimes. Neal, who
acted as his own lawyer, never refuted the charges and declined to
cross-examine prosecution witnesses during the 10-day sentencing
Neal told the judges in earlier
testimony that he knew he deserved no mercy but that he had turned his
life over to God and wanted to minister to other inmates if his life was
Jefferson County District Attorney Dave
Thomas said Neal's case was "tailor-made" for the death
"These extremely heinous crimes
were done with a cruelty and depravity not commonly seen," Thomas
told APBnews.com. "The testimony was unlike anything I've seen in
26 years [as a prosecutor] -- it was nothing short of chilling."
Carnage at the crime scene
But Neal's court-appointed legal advisor,
defense attorney Randy Canney, told APBnews.com that he wonders if
justice will be done if the state executes a defendant whom he believes
is mentally ill.
"[Neal] can't adequately represent
himself; he fired his public defenders and pleaded straight up to the
murders with no sentencing concessions," Canney said. "But you
have gutless prosecutors who want to kill people for their own political
Neal gets an automatic appeal, and
Canney said he would try in his limited capacity to see that independent
psychiatric testimony is included in the appellate trial.
During the hearing, the judges heard
grisly details of the crimes from police officers who viewed the carnage
at the crime scene, Neal's taped confessions and emotional testimony
from the rape victim.
Victim forced to watch bludgeoning
The 22-year-old woman testified that
Neal lashed her to a mattress in the town house where the murders
occurred and made her watch as he crushed Fite's skull with a log-splitting
maul. Neal then raped the woman at gunpoint.
Neal still faces sentencing on nine
other counts related to the crime spree, including sexual assault,
kidnapping and theft charges.
Neal is the sixth death-penalty
defendant to face the new sentencing law in Colorado capital cases that
requires a three-judge panel to unanimously agree to impose a death
Neal will become the fifth man on
Colorado's death row.
February 25, 1999
Triple murderer William "Cody" Neal
pleaded guilty to the rape, torture and ax slayings of three women in a
Golden, Colorado, condominium last summer. Forty-three-year-old Neal,
who recently fired his attorney and was representing himself, entered
the plea at his arraignment. Investigators had said he confessed to the
crimes less than a week after they
Neal was "very calm,
very collected, very sure" of himself during the arraignment, says
Russell. "He made these choices intellegently, very knowingly. He
seemed competent." Neal pleaded guilty to all 13 counts against him,
including three counts of first-degree murder; two counts of second-degree
kidnapping; two counts of first-degree sexual assault; two counts of
criminal extortion; two violent crime charges related to the kidnapping;
and one count of felony theft.