The Serial Homicide Case of the Day, from "Hunting Humans, the Encyclopedia of 20th Century Serial Killers" , by Michael Newton
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Christenson, William Dean
A native of Bethesda, Maryland, born in 1945, Christenson logged his first felony conviction in 1969, charged with assault and battery in the stabbing of a teenage girl in Washington, D.C. Two years later, he pled guilty to raping a Maryland go-go dancer, serving nine years before his parole in 1980. On April 16, 1981, traveling as "Richard Owen," he was picked up for rape in Montreal, bargaining down to a guilty plea on charges of indecent assault. A year later, he was "inadvertently" released by Canadian authorities, despite a request that he be delivered to Maryland as a parole violator and suspect in other violent rapes.
On April 27, 1982, the decapitated, dismembered body of 27-year-old Sylvie Trudel was found in the Montreal apartment occupied by "Richard Owen." That same afternoon, the sectioned corpse of Murielle Guay, 26, was found wrapped in trash bags at Mille-Isles, 50 miles northwest of Montreal. Police were initially reluctant to connect the crimes, noting that Trudel's killer displayed "a certain amount of expertise," while victim Guay was "really butchered," but their doubts were resolved by April 29, with murder warrants issued in the name of William Christenson.
Back in the United States, Christenson met his parents at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, tapping their bank account for a $5,000 grub stake. (Both were later charged with harboring a fugitive.) With cash in hand, the killer started drifting over the eastern half of the country, spending time in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
He was living in Scranton, as "Stanley Holl," when go-go dancer Michelle Angiers was stabbed 30 times in a tavern parking lot at nearby Dickson, her body recovered on September 13, 1982. Nine months later, in Trenton, New Jersey, Christenson shot and wounded two black men whom he had befriended in a local saloon. On December 4 of that year, in Philadelphia, he used the same gun to kill another black, 51-year-old Jeffrey Schrader, in a barroom altercation. Arrested in that case, Christenson sat in jail while police searched his apartment, retrieving a bloody mattress and a hacksaw, matted with blood and hair. (No trace has been found to this day of the dancer with whom he had once shared the flat.) Convicted of the Schrader homicide, he drew a prison term of life without parole.
By the summer of 1984, felony charges were piling up against Christenson. Trenton authorities wanted him for trial on the double shooting, while Montgomery County, Maryland, sought to try him on another rape charge. That August, Canadian authorities closed their file on the Montreal murders, citing Christenson's present life sentence, but he was already suspect in two other slayings, the victims dismembered with a hacksaw. Nationwide, police named him as a suspect in at least thirteen deaths with suggestions that the final count might reach thirty. Pennsylvania officers dubbed him "a real American Jack the Ripper."
Christenson responded to the attention by striving to make himself mysterious, signing court documents with a check mark and challenging prosecutors to prove his identity. In November 1984, he spoke to Philadelphia newsmen about his "extreme mental and alcohol problems," voicing the fear that he would be charged by police in numerous unsolved murders.
On February 16, 1985, Christenson left state prison in a heavily armed convoy, complete with helicopter escort, bound for Philadelphia and his arraignment in the murder of Michelle Angiers. Convicted of third-degree murder in that case, on August 5, 1987, the killer faced a new term of twenty years on completion of his existing life sentence. The investigation in Christenson's case continues, with further prosecutions anticipated by authorities in several states.
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