Killed by Satan's slasher

A day of love turned into slaughter

Published by: Sharon Ward
Published on: 28th April 2010

The second I walked through the front door, the air filled with excited squeals. ‘Grandma!’ shouted Sara, my five-year-old granddaughter. She launched herself into my arms, honey blonde hair streaming behind her.
Following was her little brother Seth, three, struggling to keep up. ‘Granna,’ he giggled.
‘Hello Princess, hello Trouble,’ I laughed. ‘Kevin, I’m here!’ I said, as my son appeared in the doorway.
‘Yeah, I guessed,’ he smiled.
He and his wife Tracie had split up, but had kept it friendly for the kids’ sake, sharing custody evenly.
It’d worked. My grandkids were the happiest things you could come across. Me and my husband Monty saw them two or three times a week.
Sara tugged at my sleeve. ‘Grandma, we went sledging today! Look, I drew a picture.’
‘Wow, that’s beautiful,’ I gasped.
She pointed to the stick figures. ‘There’s me, Daddy, and Seth. And Starlight Sparkles is there…’
That was the name of her favourite dolly. It was permanently clutched in her hand, it even went to bed with her.
‘Who’s that?’ I asked about the figure behind her on the sledge.
‘It’s Billy,’ she said. Oh, the teenager from next door.
I’d only met him once, but he seemed nice, and often mowed Kevin’s lawn for pocket money.
All too soon, it was time for me to go home. ‘Enjoy your date,’ I teased Kevin, waving goodbye.
‘Thanks,’ he blushed. Well, he deserved a happy Valentine’s Day.
He’d just started seeing a lovely girl Maria, who’d asked him to a dance just two minutes across the road – and Billy was going to babysit for him.
I expected a call from Kevin the next day to tell me all about it – but, at almost 1am, I was woken by the phone. ‘Mum!’ cried Kevin. ‘The kids, they’re gone!’
‘Slow down. What’s happened?’
I tried to make out words between the sobs. ‘…all fine when I checked at 11pm… Got back at 12.30am… house empty… blood in the bedroom…’
Blood?! ‘I’ll be right there,’ I said. Minutes later, we arrived.
Kevin’s house was surrounded by grim-faced police with flashlights.
‘Any sign?’ I asked, running over to Kevin. He shook his head.
‘When me and Maria got home, there was no sign of the kids.’
He paused, fighting to stay in control. ‘Maria went upstairs. Oh Mum, she found so much blood in Sara’s bedroom!’
I felt sick. This wasn’t real – couldn’t be real. ‘Maybe someone attacked them and Billy got them away safely,’ I said, desperately.
‘No – I found Billy  hiding in bushes waiting to jump me! I grabbed him, but he got away.’
So Billy Joe Shafer had done this? But Kevin had befriended him, he was just the boy next-door… Well, he was only 16, he couldn’t be capable of doing anything too bad to the kids, could he?
‘They’ll be fine,’ I insisted.
Sara was starting infant school soon and was so excited. 
‘When she’s found, we’ll sing The Wheels on the Bus song,’ I thought. ‘That’ll cheer her up.’
It was her favourite, because she was so looking forward to riding the bus to school – with her dolly, Starlight Sparkles, of course…
Suddenly, a shout. It was Kevin, running over to a shed.
‘Seth! That you, son?’
‘Here I are, Daddy,’ piped up a tiny voice. He was safe!
Locked in the shed, a little tearful, but fine. Thank God! Now all we had to do was find Sara.
‘I’ll wait here with Seth,’ I offered. Everyone else went out with renewed determination.
She’ll be fine. She’ll be fine. I started trying to convince myself. After all, Seth had been unhurt, so she would be, too.
My grandson shivered against me as we waited in a caravan set up beside the house – we weren’t allowed inside ‘the crime scene’, as Kevin’s home was now known… ‘I want Sara,’ Seth whimpered.
‘She’ll be here soon,’ I promised, wrapping a blanket around him and cuddling him. ‘Not long now. Hey, tomorrow we’ll bake cakes together. Sara loves that, doesn’t she?’
Seth snuggled closer, nodding, his eyes wide.
Monty took my hand. ‘Or maybe we could have a little dance. Remember at cousin Joan’s wedding when she leaped around to Achy Breaky Heart?’
How could I forget? She’d looked like a beautiful princess.
The caravan door opened, making us jump – we’d been lost in memories. It was a police officer.
‘We’ve found Sara,’ he said.
But my heart didn’t leap. It plummeted. The look on his face was terrible. ‘I’m so sorry,’ he said.
My precious granddaughter, my beautiful princess, had been found in not one but two bin bags, chucked down a ravine on to a local rubbish dump. Two bin bags?!
How do you deal with something like that? How do you take in the news? You don’t.
All you can do is what we all did – cling to one another, hugging to stop each other from falling apart.
The next few days passed in a blur of grief. When Kevin was allowed back into his house, he’d sit for hours hugging the last drawing Sara had done, remembering how happy she’d been sledging. ‘It’s my fault,’ he cried. ‘I should never have left the kids and gone to that dance.’
‘You thought you knew Billy,’ I soothed. ‘No one knew what he was capable of.’
But we were all haunted by questions. Had Sara felt anything? Had she been scared? Was it quick? All too soon, we got horrific answers. Billy confessed to everything – in great detail.
That terrible night, he’d got Sara out of bed and sat her up on the couch and, as he’d cuddled her, he’d shot her four times – twice, the bullets went straight through her head. Then he’d taken her body upstairs, cut her throat from ear to ear twice so that her head was barely hanging on.
I tried to block out what I had heard. I didn’t want answers – not those kind anyway. But there’d been more horror in store for my Sara…
Billy had dragged her downstairs by her hair and taken her into the bathroom. There, he’d slashed a deep pentagon and other satanic signs into her flesh.
Still not satisfied, he’d basically filleted my granddaughter.
Cut her open, removed all her organs, drank her blood, and sexually assaulted the body.
In a final insult, he’d chucked her remains out like some rubbish.
Her funeral was held a week later. The funeral director said hers was the worst body he’d worked on – it had taken him three days and nights to piece her back together.
The grief was like a physical pain, and it tore the family apart.
Each of us disappeared into our own bubble of personal agony as we tried to carry on just waking up every day and breathing…
Some days, I wasn’t sure where we’d find the strength. As I tried to figure it out, I absent-mindedly picked up Kevin’s post – I often went around to his now. There was a letter for him in handwriting I didn’t recognise. I opened it… Oh God, no! I’ll do to you what I did to your little girl, Billy had written. I’m going to kill you all.
Terror shivered through me. Would Billy get the chance to carry out his threat? Was he going to somehow escape prison and wipe out my whole family?
I clenched my fists, angrily. I’d fight with every last breath in my body to keep everyone safe.
Six months passed, six months of hell. Kevin was a basket case, and blamed himself.
Monty suffered a heart attack. Me? I couldn’t stop hugging Starlight Sparkles and crying.
It was like a living nightmare that wouldn’t go away. As months turned into years, though, we slowly rebuilt our lives. But we never forgot – how could we?
Each time I peeled potatoes I’d stare at the knife and tremble, remembering how Sara had been mutilated and dismembered…
Each time I read a news story involving a child, I’d think of that family, then relive my own pain…
Each July 1, Sara’s birthday, I’d wonder what she’d have been like. It seemed to get harder, not easier.
Then, one day, the police got in touch. Billy had one more trick up his sleeve to torture my family.
‘He’ll apply for parole as soon as he’s eligible,’ an officer said. ‘It won’t be until 2010, but…’
It was 2000, so that gave me 10 years to put a stop to his evil plan. He could never be allowed to walk the streets again – for Sara’s sake, for my family’s sake. He’d kill us all!
I’d keep my vow and fight to my last breath to protect everyone. First, I read everything I could about Billy. His confession, psychiatric reports, police reports.
It was sickening. Billy had talked about killing himself since he was six. Aged nine, he’d claimed to be in a satanic cult, and had often tortured and killed animals for pleasure.
His dream was to be a serial killer. That was why he’d targeted my family, planning to murder the two kids, then Kevin when he came home.
The more I read, the more sickened I became.
I pushed my chair back, shaking. I was an old lady, I should be baking cakes and babysitting grandkids, not taking on sickos.
‘But you have to keep going,’ I told myself. ‘Fight Billy – for Sara.’
Suddenly, I decided on a plan. ‘I’ll start a petition,’ I said. ‘I want to get 10,000 signatures – that should keep him in jail!’
Writing down details of Sara’s murder and the death threats Billy had sent from prison, I then hit the streets. Everyone in my little town signed it. For the first time since Sara’s death, I had a purpose again.
Years flew by and word of my petition spread across the country. 2010 was drawing closer. I got 10,000 signatures, then 20,000! But what if it wasn’t enough?
Billy’s parole board meeting was set for February 11 – almost 17 years to the day since Sara’s murder. So I organised a rally in town in January, put posters up, and sent out letters and emails.
A few days before, my phone rang. ‘Shirley West?’ asked a man. ‘I, ummm, I’m Billy’s dad, Danny.’
My throat tightened. ‘What do you want?’ I demanded.
‘To help,’ he said, simply.
He explained he hadn’t spoken to his son since the murder, and believed Billy would kill again if he was released. ‘My son should die in prison,’ he said, his voice breaking.
Tears were spilling down my own cheeks as I spoke. ‘Calling me took courage. Yes, I’ll accept your help.’
The night before the rally, I was in bits, though. I kept thinking of Sara, wondering what she’d be like now, aged 22. Whatever, she’d have made me proud.
A clever girl, she’d have had a bright future ahead of her – with her long, honey-blonde hair, she’d have been a real looker, too. She’d have met a nice lad, settled down.
But Sara never had a chance to grow up, go on a first date, fall in love, go to the school prom. Instead, she’d been brutally murdered, then dumped in two bin bags.
That was it! Suddenly, I had an idea. Horrible, but it would graphically show people what my poor granddaughter had suffered.
So, at the rally, I brought with me two stuffed rubbish bags, which sat beside me and my family as a gruesome reminder of Sara’s fate. Everyone was in tears as we spoke about our little princess. And Danny Shafer was great. ‘Sara is never going to climb out of that grave, so Billy should never climb out of that jail cell he’s in,’ he said.
The crowd roared approval. By the end of the day, the petition had grown to 33,000 signatures!
Days later, the Ohio Parole Board met with Billy – and turned down his request. We’d done it! He’ll have to wait until at least 2020 to have another parole hearing.
It’s been a tough fight, though. Monty’s had three heart attacks, and he still gets chest pains. Kevin is a shadow of his former self, and Seth, 20, is haunted by the death of his sister. And I’m obsessed with keeping Billy behind bars.
I’ve cried so many tears, there aren’t any left. But what keeps me going is fighting on for Sara’s sake, holding this family together for her. Giving up would be like quitting on her memory – and I could never do that.
Shirley West, 75, Zanesville, Ohio