Police have identified two more victims of the serial killer who they say buried at least seven bodies behind a Connecticut shopping center.
Police said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon that the bodies of Danny Lee Whistnant and Nilsa Arizmendi are among the four most recently discovered in New Britain. Authorities identified Melanie Camilini as another victim earlier this week, leaving one body unidentified.
"The office of the chief medical examiner and the state forensic lab are working as I speak to ensure the speedy identification of the remains they still have," New Britain State's Attorney Brian Preleski said during the press conference. "This investigation is moving forward and each additional victim identified opens new investigatory avenues to us."
Investigators previously named three other victims – Diane Cusack, 55, Mary Jane Menard, 40, and Joyvaline Martinez, 24 – after a hunter stumbled upon the first set of remains behind the plaza at 593 Hartford Road in 2007.
Multiple sources have told NBC Connecticut the suspected serial killer is 45-year-old William Devin Howell, who is currently serving a 15-year sentence in connection with Arizmendi's death. Howell was initially charged with her murder but pleaded down to manslaughter under the Alford doctrine.
All six of the victims police have identified disappeared in 2003. Whistnant, 44, of New Britain, was last seen June 25, 2003, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. The Charley Project reports that Whistnant was known to "dress and live as a woman" and also went by the name Janice Roberts.
Arizmendi, 33, of Wethersfield, vanished exactly one month later, on July 25, 2003, after getting into a 1983 Ford Econoline van registered to Howell's girlfriend, Dorothy Holcomb. Arizmendi's blood was later found in the back cabin, according to court documents.
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"Devin, Nilsa and her boyfriend of 20 years had associated with one another in the past. Prior to this night, Nilsa had maintained regular contact with her family, including her children and her mother. Since July of 2003, none of them have heard from Nilsa," Preleski explained.
Preleski said Wethersfield police attempted to interview Howell at Holcomb's New Britain home on Nov. 12, 2003.
"Although those detectives could see Mr. Howell through a window, Ms. Holcomb denied he was there. This was the first time Mr. Howell could have known that police wanted to talk to him concerning the disappearance of Nilsa Arizmendi. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Howell left Connecticut," Preleski said.
Investigators confiscated the Ford Econoline van in North Carolina in April 2004 and took Howell into custody in Virginia in May 2005, according to Preleski. He has been in custody ever since.
Although authorities previously said they believe a single person is responsible for the deaths of all seven victims, they stopped short of calling Howell a suspect on Wednesday.
"He's been convicted of killing Nilsa and that's it as far as any conclusions can be made at this time," Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane said during the press conference Wednesday.
Although they have not publicly named Howell, investigators have said that the suspected serial killer is no longer a threat to the public.