The William Macumber Case

On May 24, 1962, 20 year old Timothy McKillos and his finance', Joyce Sterrenberg had been driving around in her car near Scottsdale Arizona.  They eventually stopped near an area that was considered to be a "lover's lane" of sorts.  It was here that investigators would later find their bodies laying next to the vehicle with bullet wounds.

It appears the police had little to nothing to go on and by 1974 the case apparently was not only not solved, but not active as there were no leads.  This is when Maricopa County Sheriff's employee, Carol Macumber told investigators that her husband, William, had confessed to the murders recently to her. According to investigators, they looked back at the evidence and found fingerprints belonging to Macumber on some of the evidence and arrested him a week after Carol informing them of his confession.

William was tried for the murders in 1975, convicted and sentenced to two life terms.  The following year his conviction was overturned.  Apparently the courts decided this due to the fact that defense attorney's were not allowed to allowed their own ballistic expert testify.  Prosecutors re-filed charges, although William had gotten out on bail.  In 1977 he was convicted once again and sentenced to two life sentences.  

Over the course of the next few decades of course there were appeals and court proceeding but at some point a team of lawyers with the Justice Project began looking at his case.  They became convinced that William, who had continued to always deny he murdered the couple, was innocent and likely had been framed by his now ex-wife, Carol Kempert (she had taken back her maiden name as well as changed all three of her and William's sons' names to Kempert also).  In 2009, while still denying his involvement a clemency board gave a recommendation that it was their belief that William was in fact innocent and likely set up by Carol (this had also been argued at his trials) and deserved to be free.  Governor Jan Brewer denied this recommendation.  In 2012 William again went before a clemency board but this time they decided not to recommend clemency.  That same year the Justice Project filed court papers in attempts to obtain a new trial for William.  It seems that the judge in that case felt there was enough evidence to at the very least hold hearings to examine that information.  Prosecutors at that time claimed that if a judge were to grant a new trial they would never be able to re-try William as evidence had either been lost or destroyed since the trials.  Instead they offered William a plea deal. If he would plead guilty to 2nd degree murder they would consider his prison time as "time served" and he would be released.  Despite spending over 30 years denying his involvement, as well as being told he would have been released earlier if he had admitted his role, decided this plea deal was his best option that allowed him to walk out of prison now that he was over 70 years old and had many health issues.  

There is more to William Macumber's story but before I go any further I want to address this case alone.  So what was the evidence in the case against him? Well, according to prosecutors, aside from Carol Kempfert's testimony that he had confessed to her, they claimed to have a palm print of William's on the victim's vehicle and that the shell casings found in the area matched a gun owned by William.  Let's first look at what Carol told investigators but to do so we also need to know a little background involving the Macumbers.  

Carol and William had been married in 1961, before the murders ever occurred. By 1974 they had three young boys but their marriage was not good.  In February of 1973 Carol had gone to work for the sheriff's department. She had studied criminal justice and was apparently training to be a corrections officer. By April of 1974 the Macumbers were no longer living together.  William had remained in the home with their three sons while Carol was sharing an apartment with a female co-worker.  It seems that a divorce had not been filed. In August of 1974 William had gone the sheriff's department claiming that someone had shot at his house (supposedly barely missing him with a bullet) the night before.  Now, my research here seems a bit sketchy.  Some information indicates that William was asked if he thought Carol could have been involved and he stated yes and that investigators began looking at her. Other information leads me to believe that by the time William talked to the sheriff's department Carol had already told them William had confessed to her that he had murdered the couple twelve years prior.  There were several references that I found that indicated that the separation had been caused by Carol having multiple affairs with members of the sheriff's department.  I found references that indicated this was common practice within the department and there was a conscious effort to not let this information go public.  It was said that at William's trial Carol was confronted about these affairs and denied them but that other information proved that to be false. 

Ok, so on with the information that Carol provided to investigators.  She would claim in her story, and apparently in her testimony at trial, that William had told her that the Army had commissioned him to assassinate two people but that he had killed the wrong people.  She claimed that he stated he had gone through Joyce Sterrenberg's purse in attempts to make the murders seem like a robbery.  She also stated that sometime in 1962 William had come home covered in blood claiming that he had stopped on the side of the road to help some disabled drivers and that three men jumped him and attacked him with a tire iron.  She would later say she was sure that had to have been the night in which he murdered the couple.

Before we move on to the other evidence we should look at her story of his confession.  While obviously none of us can say that Carol was involved in any affairs in the department, it is apparently obviously that the couple was separated and living in separate households.  It is also apparent that William had custody (if not legally) of their three boys which is a bit rare even by today's standards, but especially in the 1970's.  Even today a mother in which does not have custody of her children is often looked down upon from society and as I said this would have been even more so in the 1970's.  It is a bit unlikely that had she filed for custody of her children, or even simply wanted them, she would have been given the children, and likely the home, for a few reasons, the least of which was that she had a career in law enforcement. Secondly, despite the fact that it seems unlikely that a man would confessed to his estranged wife, one that again works at the Sheriff's department, it seems even more unlikely that he would do so after twelve years. However, playing devil's advocate here, Carol has claimed (although I have found nothing to substantiate those claims) that she was given a polygraph on four different occasions in which she passed.  Only Carol and law enforcement can say if that is true.  Another problem that I have with Carol's story is that she stated that William had said he had gone through the victim's purse to attempt to make it look like a robbery and yet everything else I have read indicates that her purse appeared to be untouched and Joyce Sterrenberg was also found wearing jewelry.  

As we know, no one should ever be charged, or tried, solely based on someone's word that someone confessed, or for that matter go solely on a confession made by a suspect, and they also apparently believed this in 1974. It has been said that after Carol gave her story to investigators they looked back at the evidence that had been saved on the case.  At trial it was claimed that a palm print matching William was found on the vehicle and that shell casings and bullets at the scene matched a gun that he owned.  The defense would claim that these prints were planted and claimed that Carol had access to that evidence and the ability to plant the evidence.  So lets look at that.  Apparently it was claimed, and proven that within her training Carol had recently taken classes in how to lift fingerprints.  While some investigators claim that the evidence was not readily available to employees others claim that at the time of the investigation not only was the department having issues with inner office affairs they were very disorganized and that the fingerprint cards and evidence were available to Carol and that the shells and bullets found at the scene were in an unlocked drawer.  Investigators would claim they knew from the beginning that the victims were killed with a .45 caliber gun and that William's gun would be matched in 1974 as matching those shells and bullets.  Defense attorney's would claim that at the time of the murders William was fairly well known and had a good relationship with the sheriff's department and that during the initial investigation, as the case was not giving any leads, they had actually taken William's gun and tested it, only to return it to him claiming it was not a match. Now, obviously it could be argued that it is possible that things had progressed in the following twelve years in the area of forensics when it came to ballistics, but understandably it seems coincidental that it was not checked again until after Carol told her story.  Defense attorney's would also argue that the "palm print" that was later matched to William had initially been deemed as unusable and in the original investigation could not be matched to anyone yet after Carol's story it suddenly matched William.  

As I stated before, after William's first conviction the courts overturned his conviction based on the fact that the defense had not been allowed to have their own ballistic expert testify.  That did not seem to matter in reality though because William's defense attorney's decided not to use that evidence in his second trial anyway because they felt they had better evidence.  Prior to his William's first trial an attorney by the name of Tom O'Toole had written a letter to the judge.  In the late 1960's O'Toole had represented a man by the name of Ernest Valenzuela.  Valenzuela had been convicted of a double murder but had died in prison in 1973.  O'Toole would claim that Valenzuela confessed to him that he was responsible for the murder in 1962.  Due to attorney/client privilege O'Toole had not been allowed to divulge that information prior to Valenzuela's death but seeing now as a man was being charged for a crime he was convinced his former client convicted, and seeing as in his mind the attorney/client privilege died with Valenzuela he thought it his duty to come forward.  The judge however decided differently and refused to allow O'Toole to testify in William's trial or any mention of Valenzuela to be mentioned.  By the time of the second trial it seems that attorney's had found more information to collaborate O'Toole's story and claimed the investigators had it for years.  They claimed that three months after the murder an 18 year old woman named Linda Primrose had gone to investigators with a story.  Apparently at the time of the murders Primrose was a drug addict and claimed that on the night of May 24, 1962 she had been in the accompany of two men, one of which was named "Ernie" and had witnessed them commit the shooting.  According to the defense her story matched the evidence left by tire tracks, among other things and she was even able to take them to the scene and show them exactly where the cars had been parked and the victims had been found.  According to the defense investigators were unable to determine who the people were that Primrose had described and nothing ever led to an arrest.  And, although the original judge had dismissed O'Toole and not allowed him to testify in the first trial they were convinced he would have to let if not O'Toole's testimony in, but also Primrose's. Obviously if they could get both to testify at trial it would have been best but they apparently believed that even separate it gave William a good shot. However, once again, the judge did not allow O'Toole to testify and apparently Primrose began recanting the story she had originally given to investigators.

Apparently all of this evidence from the defense was used in William's 2009 hearing in front of the clemency board when they recommended he be released. Once again playing devil's advocate here, I found where there were arguments from not just the victim's families but also William's family that they had not been informed of the hearing and felt the board made a decision without hearing all of the facts.  

While doing my research I came across a Topix website.  If you are not familiar with this type of site, it is one that is often ran through a local newspaper that has a variety of subjects.  Some come from articles that had been posted while others are just simply created by people in the communities about issues at hand.  In 2010 a topic was started there in which a woman claimed that in the 1960's she had been molested by William Macumber when she was around twelve years old and asked if there were other victims.  She went on to say that he was in prison for murder and that just recently the Governor had denied a clemency request from the board.  The timing of this post is very important as you will see later.  I read through the comments made and they spanned from 2010, when the original was posted, until mid 2014.  By this time William's son, Ronald had been advocating for his release and believed that his mother had in fact been involved in framing his father.  There seemed to be a lot of discord with in the family and apparently Ronald stood alone in claiming his father's innocence.  By the time the original post was made in 2010 there was a lot of "buzz" about this case and of course you had people coming out of the woodwork claiming William's innocence not just in the murders but in chastising the original poster for making this claim 40 years after the supposed occurrence.  I want to note here that apparently not only did Ronald speak on this site but so supposedly did one of his brothers, to which he as estranged from at the time.  That being said the "other" son, who I could not tell you if he was Scott or Steven, claimed that William had slept with a young girl who had babysat them as children at that at some point after his convictions he and another brother found a box full of "kiddy porn" and "adult toys." This son also went on to claim that the shots fired into the home in 1974 were actually from William who would go on to blame Carol.  I tell you here what this son said for a few reasons.  First, I think it is important to hear what others from the other side of this case think nearly 40 years later, but I also think these comments should be taken with a grain of salt.  Ronald would claim that his mother had spent most of their lives telling them their father was manipulative, did not care about them, that he would use people and that his only concern was for himself.  Keep in mind that these boys were all under the age of 10 at the time of their father's conviction and could have been easily molded by someone who is obviously going to hold some resentment towards William.  Now, I do not say this because I believe or disbelieve her story but either she told the truth and then watched as defense attorney's attempted to blame her for planting evidence as well as bringing up her social life and bringing skeleton's out of the closet; or she had really done as they said she had done which takes a large amount of hate that does not simply go away.  

So why was this post on Topix important?  Well, after William was released from prison in November of 2012 he went to go live with his son, Ronald eventually in Colorado.  They were apparently trying to build a relationship, and remember Ronald had alienated his mother and brothers in his belief of his father's innocence.  However, in October of 2013, less than a year after his release, William Macumber was once again arrested.  This time it was for the molestation of some young female family members.  While for whatever reason I could not determine who his victims were within my research, as I recall from previous information, as well as reasonable deduction the victims would have been likely his grandchildren or great grandchildren.  It was alleged that the abuse had occurred between April of 2013 until August of that year.  Ronald Macumber (who had so believed in his father's innocence had changed his surname back to match his father) would claim that in August, after he had been made aware of the allegations that he confront his father and then kicked him out of his home. It seems that William then went to go live with other relatives but Ronald told them of the allegations and they too made him leave their home.  Soon after the other family members who had a sheriff's employee and a social worker within their family heard of the information and was required by law to report it. By this time he was living with a person who had produced a documentary on his case back on 2010 called Life: The Bill Macumber Story.  In 2014 William was convicted on the molestation charges in Colorado and given a sentence of 8 years to life.

His son, Ronald, who was obviously very much involved in the latter case maintained that while he absolutely knew his father was guilty of this crime, he still believed he was innocent of the 1962 crime and set up by his own mother. 

I want to be very clear in this record.  If you were to go through information on William Macumber on your own, of course you're going to be bombarded by information about a man who served time for a crime he claimed he did not commit and was then later found guilty of this second crime.  Some will claim that he was in fact innocent of the 1962 crime and some even use the word exonerated when describing his release.  This in fact, is not true.  As far as his release it is very similar to the West Memphis 3 case.  Defense attorney's were very close to being granted a new trial and the prosecutors knew after the length of time and the poor investigation that they would not have the evidence or tools to secure a conviction so they offered a plea in which the defendant pleaded guilty (which prevented them suing the state for wrongful conviction) and leave prison.  This closes their case from a legal standpoint.  Just as in the WM3 case, the 1962 case is officially solved and Macumber is the one responsible.  That does not mean that I think he is guilty, or innocent, but it does not matter from a legal standing.  Despite what anyone thinks of the case, legally William Macumber murdered two people in 1962 and now he sits in prison for child molestation and will likely die in prison.

Comments

  1. This is a very interesting article on the case. However, it needs to be proofread for grammar and punctuation.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If he was still in prison for the murders those girls would have never been molested.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, just think about it. Now either he's always had a dark side or it developed. If you believe the acrimony of his wife, he was controlling, which leads to abuse (people are objects to be owned and controlled and used) by the person who feels the need to control or he developed dark sexual appetites in prison or his inhibitions have diminished due to brain aging.
      Frankly,I don't know why people think that because someone behaves himself in prison, this makes him innocent. Controllers are bullies and bullies are cowards in the face of greater authority.
      I believe the wife broke loose and did sleep around. I believe he tried to frame her with the shots outside the house. He owned guns. I don't believe she tampered with the evidence. I believe he murdered those young people. He came home covered in blood, told a story about it so the fact he came home covered in blood was not denied although he attached a different reason for the blood, his palm print matched, and bullets at the scene matched his gun.
      What else did they need? It's the defense's job to throw up smoke and mirrors of cheating wives and cops in cahoots and evidence that was tampered with.
      He did it, making him a sleaze his entire life. He's where he behind - in jail for life. They got it right the first time.

      Delete
  3. I believe his wife knew he was not capable of living a moral life among his family and properly set him up. She deserves an award.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It takes training and skill to lift a palm print off of a surface but there is no conceivable method to apply a palm print belonging to someone else, onto a surface. There is no physical way to transfer someone's print by any method other than having the person put their own palm print there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. His wife worked at the sheriff's department & had access to all the evidence in the case. She had taken up fingerprinting classes & practiced many times on her husband so had plenty of access to his prints. She could've easily swapped out the original & replaced it with his

      Delete
    2. The original detective stated on Investigation ID, he was there and authenticated that print. He did not believe it had been swapped out.

      Delete
  5. "Palm" prints are notoriously INaccurate as an identification. Just look into it if you doubt.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This woman was opening her legs to half the males in that department, and then committed perjury when she denied it. No awards given for that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just watched a rerun of Dateline where she said he confessed to her 12 years earlier. Wouldn't that make her an accessory after the fact as well? I wonder why that was never brought up.

      Delete
  7. There are a lot of ignorant people out there. Bill is completely innocent of both sets of charges and was set up both times by his ex-wife. Sadly he will die in prison before his innocence can be proven.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How was he set up for molesting children. Please explain. Give us the details. Otherwise...

      Delete
  8. I feel this man is guilty as sin! The ex wife lied and is also low on the morals issue too, but when this fool molested kids he should be locked up and throw away the key. There is no excuse for child abuse and that alone should be a life sentence and put him with other paedophiles and let him enjoy the same!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Susan Skinner: I don't know how much you've studied our criminal justice system, but over the 40 plus years I have I find it to be questionable at best. Just because a law entity says a crime is solved doesn't mean squat; it means they are going to look no further and close the file (whether one is guilty or not). Bill Macumber is no more guilty of the old murder or of the new child molestation charges than I am. I'll bet even money those kids came from Carol's side of the family, and it is sad that Ron abandoned his father after all they went through. Crooked people, crooked prosecutors, and corrupt courts have made it impossible fo r poor and innocent victims to be found guilty of charges that are untruthful and unfounded. If the family really believed Bill had committed the child molestation, why did it take until it reached a family with law enforcement in it to have him arrested? Why was it not reported way earlier? Because it's not true, that's why. And in the end Carol gets what she originally wanted and had until she was proven a liar. So she then gets her family involved to get him thrown back in prison. Talk about vile and hateful. And many will say it sounds to conspiratorial, but then that's the whole idea behind it. A good conspiracy is hard to prove and difficult to believe; and it's why it is used again and again in this country.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well said. I don't know if he's guilty of the molestation charges, but given how angry some family members are towards him, I have to be highly suspicious of those allegations. Especially for such an old man: testosterone levels decrease with age.
      And child molestation is one act which is so reviled in our present world that someone accused of it is immediately believed guilty, making it almost impossible to prove one's innocence.

      Delete
    2. Child molestation isn't about sex, it's about power. People claiming his innocence on here are blind. This is how people like Bill Macumber get away with murder and molesting children, they are the best con men in the world, the best, and ordinary people cannot see it. Victims can see it though, they know the truth.

      Delete
    3. I agree. Just about everything points to his being a controller and manipulative. I believe the wife did sleep around once she got out from under his thumb, but I alsobelieve she told the truth about his controlling nature. She said she "grew up". As having been a very young bride myself, I know exactly what she meant. While I didn't sleep around, it was a heady experience to know you were your own person after finally leaving. I can understand why she would lie about sleeping around, especially in that day and age, but it didn't mean she lied about her marriage or swapped out the palm print which was authenticated by the original detective 40 years later. Here's a question. Aren't the print card signed by someone? Are we saying a signature was forged? The original detective said that's the same card. He was there. Was the print card tested for the wife's print?

      Delete
  10. It was stated Ron con fronted his father about the molestation...I don't think Ron would have thrown him out if it was not true! He would not have trusted his mother or other estranged family members so easily.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly, he always stood by his dad and was estranged from his mom and family for that. If mom and family were setting up dad, he'd suspect that and he still maintains his innocence about the murder. Pop-pop is a child molester at the least and a murderer at the most.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Matthew Heikkila

The Quinn Hanna Gray Kidnapping

Patricia Rorrer