It looks as though the New Jersey police may have found a serial killer. Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, a 20-year-old grocery store security guard, has been charged with the murder of three women in the Orange, New Jersey, area, and is currently under investigation of a possible fourth victim who earlier this week accused Wheeler-Weaver of attempting to murder her as well.
In early December, police apprehended Wheeler-Weaver for the murder of 20-year-old college student Sarah Butler, and has since been indicted on 11 counts including kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and desecration of human remains. When he was first caught, his alleged modus operandi was only beginning to taking shape – according to NBC New York, he appeared to be stalking young African American women, strangling them and leaving their bodies in remote locations around the Orange and Montclair areas. If proven guilty, Wheeler-Weaver may became the youngest serial killer to strike the Northeast since the David Berkowitz terrorized New York as Son of Sam in 1976-77.
The case is still unfolding as New Jersey state prosecutors hurry to fill in the gaps. Wheeler-Weaver had a clean record prior to these charges, falling in line with other unassuming male stranglers who prey on young women, like Ted Bundy did in the 1970s. Here, what we know so far about his captivating arrest and the growing list of victims linked to the alleged young killer.
Who is Khalil Weaver-Wheeler?
Not very much is known about the defendant at this point. According to a report from NBC New York, Wheeler-Weaver comes from a family of multiple law enforcement officials from both the East Orange, New Jersey and Newark police departments, one of whom reportedly lived in his home. He had no prior criminal offenses. At the time of his apprehension, Wheeler-Weaver worked as an employee of the Sterling Security firm, assigned to a ShopRite grocery store in the Union Township area.
How many victims have been identified so far?
While it was the murder of Sarah Butler that first led police to Wheeler-Weaver, authorities have now determined that his first victim was actually killed months before.
Robin Edwards, a 19-year-old escort originally from Philadelphia, was found burned to death and left in an abandoned home which, according to NewJersey.com, was allegedly set ablaze by Wheeler-Weaver. Edwards had reportedly been living at a Union Township hotel around the time of her disappearance.
On December 6th, the defendant was charged with the slaying of Sarah Butler, a 20-year-old New Jersey City University student whose body was found strangled and lying in a pile of leaves and debris on the edge of the Eagle Rock Reservation park located in West Orange. Authorities then began to suspect that Wheeler-Weaver may have been behind a second instance of strangulation: that of the Joanne Brown.
The body of Brown, 33, was discovered dead in an abandoned building in Newark on December 5th, a day before Wheeler-Weaver was arrested for the murder of Butler. Brown, who had last been seen on October 22nd, was also strangled, and fit the profile of young African-American women the defendant allegedly had been targeting.
Wheeler-Weaver was then linked to an ongoing investigation into the murder of Robin West, a 19-year-old escort from Philadelphia who was allegedly working in Orange. She was found in a vacant building by firefighters, after it had been set ablaze, allegedly by Wheeler-Weaver as well.
Most recently, a possible fourth victim, who survived a harrowing attack, has come forward with an allegation against Wheeler-Weaver, though the charges are currently under investigation. Though her identity has not been revealed, authorities have said that the encounter occurred in Elizabeth, New Jersey, sometime this November and that she is 34 years old.
Why is he being called a possible serial killer?
Typically, the FBI’s official analysis of serial killers has to do with the number of victims and the manner of their deaths, noting that these individuals tend to "differ on specific requirements, such as the number of murders involved, the types of motivation, and the temporal aspects of the murders." Yet if convicted, Wheeler-Weaver would fit the definition, as the term applies to killers with two or more victims on separate occasions.
Serial killers commonly slay their victims according to pattern, for example how Robert Ben Rhoades, aka the Truck Stop Killer, targeted hitchhikers, or how the Cleveland Torso killer had a habit of severing his victims in half. In this particular case, the victims – all young African American women – were strangled in similar ways and dumped in vacant spaces around northern New Jersey.
Did Wheeler-Weaver have any connection to the victims?
There is no evidence that Wheeler-Weaver had any prior interaction with West or Brown, although authorities did confirm that he was seen at several locations throughout the day with his third victim, Sarah Butler, who was home in Montclair visiting family for Thanksgiving break. She was last seen driving her mother's dark blue Dodge Caravan, which was later found in Essex County.
It is unknown whether or not Robin West, Wheeler-Weaver's alleged first victim, was strangled, due to her charred remains. She was discovered by firefighters called to the scene and identified via dental records.
What are the charges against him?
As it stands, the 11 charges against Khalil Wheeler-Weaver by the state of New Jersey include three counts of murder, desecration of human remains, kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, attempted murder and one count of aggravated arson. Wheeler-Weaver has pleaded not guilty in the murders of both Sarah Butler and Joanne Brown, and will be arraigned on March 13th for the most recent charge regarding the alleged fourth unidentified victim as well as indictment for the death of Robin West. He is currently being held on $5 million dollar bail.