Serial killer turns 160 after helping the victim’s sister and her friends solve the case
When Sarah Butler didn’t return home in Montclair, New Jersey, after borrowing her mother’s minibus in November 2016, her family immediately realized she might be in trouble.
Using Ms. Butler’s computer passwords to log into her email and social media accounts, one of her sisters and two of her friends found one of the last men she spoke to online. Then they had a meeting with him at the Panera Bread Café in Montclair, where the police were waiting in the parking lot.
At the time, police considered the man, Khalil Wheeler Weaver, then a 20-year-old security guard from Orange, New Jersey, to be only someone significant in Butler’s disappearance.
But a trap set by Butler’s sister and her friends on November 26, 2016, helped investigators identify Mr. Wheeler-Weaver as a suspect and, eventually, a serial killer, authorities said.
On Wednesday, nearly five years later, it was Mr. Wheeler Weaver, 25 He was sentenced to 160 years in prison for killing Mrs. Butler, 20 years old; Robin West, 19, from Union Town; and Joanne Brown, 33, of Newark. He was charged with kidnapping, sexual assault and attempted murder, Tiffany Taylor. The four were attacked from August to November in 2016.
Adam b. Wells of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the lead prosecutor in the case, credited Mrs Butler’s sister and her friends with organizing the first personal meeting between Montclair Police and Mr. Wheeler Weaver, giving investigators a “great opportunity for an early ‘break-through'” in the investigation.
“They’ve really gone further than people often do,” he said in an interview. “It is a testament to their love for their friend and sister.”
Ms. Butler was a student at New Jersey City University when she began speaking to Mr. Wheeler Weaver on Tagged, a social networking site, called LilYachtRock.
Authorities said that after they borrowed her mother’s pickup truck to meet him on November 22, 2016, Wheeler Weaver strangled her. Her body was found at Eagle Rock Preserve in West Orange on December 1, 2016.
Before finding her body, the police opened an investigation into a missing person. At the same time, Mrs. Butler’s sister Basanya Daly and two friends, Lamia Brown and Samantha Rivera, started their detective business.
Since Ms Brown knew Ms Butler’s computer passwords, they were able to log into her social media accounts and discovered Ms Butler had been talking to LilYachtRock on the Tagged website, Mr Wells said.
Ms. Rivera created her own Tagged profile. Wells said within an hour, LilYachtRock called her and began pressuring her to meet him in person.
Ms Rivera was at the Montclair police station, hoping to tell detectives that she had just been called by the last man who had contact with Ms Butler, when he called her on her phone, Mr Wells said. Mrs. Daly took out her phone and recorded the conversation.
Mrs. Rivera arranged to meet him at Panera and waved to him as he stopped in a BMW, said Mr. Wells.
That was when the police, who were waiting in the parking lot, stopped Mr. Wheeler Weaver and questioned him about Butler’s disappearance.
Mr. Weller Weaver was not immediately arrested because Mrs. Butler’s body had not yet been found, and he was only considered a VIP, not a suspect, Mr. Wells said.
Mr Wells said the manner in which he quickly reached Ms Rivera raised investigators’ concerns about him, and gave an excuse that later collapsed.
“Getting that initial contact with Wheeler Weaver was a big early break,” said Mr. Wells. “It gave us more reason to doubt him.”
Mr. Wheeler Weaver was arrested days later after Mrs. Butler’s body was found. Ms. Daly, Ms. Brown and Ms. Rivera did not respond to messages left on the numbers listed under their names. Their role in resolving the case was previously reported NorthJersey.com.
Authorities said that although he could be an ostensible witch, Mr. Wheeler Weaver tortured and strangled poor, homeless, mentally ill or sex workers.
Police found that he searched the Internet for anesthetics and drugs to “put someone to sleep,” as well as for homemade poisons, authorities said.
Authorities said investigators also found a body fluid cleaning kit, zip ties and lighter fluid in the trunk of the car where he assaulted Ms Taylor in November 2016.
After Mr. Wheeler Weaver killed Ms. West on September 1, 2016, he set her body on fire and set fire to the abandoned house where he had left her, authorities said.
Her remains were so charred that they had to be identified with dental records.
Judge Mark S. Ali during sentencing of Mr Wheeler Weaver in Essex County High Court on Wednesday: “He believed that not all of the victims would be noticed.” “It was believed that eventually all victims would be forgotten.”
Mr. Wheeler Weaver, reading from a paper, asserted his innocence.
He said: “I have clear and convincing evidence that I have been hired, have been lied to and have been framed by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.”
During the hearing, Ms Taylor dismissed Mr. Wheeler Weaver’s allegations. Mrs. Taylor, who was kidnapped by Mr. Wheeler Weaver seven days before Butler’s murder, recalled that she had previously met Mr. Wheeler Weaver at his home and recognized him when he assaulted her.
During the attack, Mr. Wheeler Weaver handcuffed her, put duct tape around her head and began covering her nose and mouth, Judge Ali said. But Mrs. Taylor managed to get one of her hands out of the handcuffs and then escape when she shut the door to her hotel room, leaving Mr. Wheeler Weaver outside.
Ms Taylor said that since the attack, she has not styled her hair or used make-up and had no or wanted friends.
She said, “I don’t trust anyone.” “I am always paranoid. But I am happy to be still here and to be able to find out what happened so he can be locked up for it.”