He was expected to die in prison, but now a man who police suspect of being a serial killer is due to be released from prison and sent back to his home state of Hawaii after 46 years.
Back in 1970, when he was just 25 years old, William “Willie” Medeiros, Jr. was a suspect in four violent murders. In May of 1971, Medeiros pleaded guilty to killing 18-year-old Mitzi Iso Klotzbach and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
He was expected to spend the rest of his natural life behind bars, but a sweeping change was made to the Hawaiian penal code while he was in prison that allowed inmates who had been sentenced to life without parole prior to a certain date a chance to have their sentences reconsidered. So in a few months, Medeiros – now 71 years old – will be returning to Hawaii as a free man.
Police alleged that Klotzbach was killed because she had overhead a conversation about the murder of Charles Akana, which occurred a month before her death. After being shot in the head, her body was found buried in a shallow grave along the Waianae coast.
During the 1970s, Medeiros was allegedly part of a gang, and participated in a killing spree — targeting witnesses who were expected to testify against him. Police suspected Medeiros of involvement in three other murders — Akana’s death, as well as those of Ross Fitzjohn and Herman Marfil.
Two other young women who were Klotzbachs’ friends were in hiding, waiting to testify against Medeiros, but Medeiros pleaded guilty to her murder. In exchange, the murder charges involving Marfil and Akana were dropped, and the Fitzjohn investigation was closed.
Despite being incarcerated, Medeiros’ crime spree continued. He and five other inmates staged a dramatic escape from behind bars in April 1971 after a friend smuggled guns into the Halawa prison. Authorities staged an island-wide manhunt, and all five were later captured. Medeiros was reportedly involved in at least one other violent altercation while in prison: He used another gun that was smuggled in to shoot an inmate who reportedly attacked him with a knife.
Medeiros tried unsuccessfully for a judicial reprieve in 1976, but a judge upheld the initial ruling. But in 2001, Medeiros’ lawyer was able to convince Circuit Court Judge Michael Town that he should be given a chance at parole, and the parole board set his sentence at 40 years.
In 2011, he was finally paroled — but he was then moved to federal prison in Oregon to serve time for multiple bank robberies that he’d committed around the same time as the murders.
He is currently behind bars in Sheridan, Oregon, with a release date in February 2018. But investigators say he will most likely be brought back to Hawaii sooner than that, so that he can be held at the federal detention center in Honolulu until his release date.
The lawyer who helped get his sentence reduced believes that the septuagenarian is now a “low risk” to the public. Other experts — and the still-living witnesses to his crimes — disagree, and say that he has a history of violent and brutal behavior that is not likely to change.
Main photo: William Medeiros, Jr., leaving court [Hawaii News Now / Facebook(screenshot)]