The Intersection of Life and Death-The Murder of Melissa Millan

When I endeavor to tell a true account of a homicide, I try to look behind, under and around what has already been reported. What is it that is so intriguing?  What is the human side of the story? Although I do not “blame the victim,” there is always a certain level of responsibility all victims carry, in the final scenes of their lives.. I always endeavor to showcase the victim more than the perpetrator. (a rare event in 2020). 

Melissa’s Background and her Passion for Running

There is no doubt that Melissa Millan, at age 54, was a renaissance woman in the true sense in which her life pursuits harnessed talents embodying all things mind, body and spirit.

Chamber orchestra, cross country, hiking skiing, biking, a mentor to others, caring and compassionate family member and tremendous business leader.   

Melissa rose to the top of the corporate executive ladder in the insurance industry. She was previously married and had two children. It was noted that the divorce was fairly amicable, although she was ordered to pay her ex-husband $8,000 per month in alimony.

Her murder occurred on a typical fall night on November 20, 2014.

At that time, she had a 13 year tenure as the Senior Vice President for Massachusetts Mutual Insurance Company in the Retirement Services Division – just 30 miles from her Simsbury, CT home. 

As an avid runner, Mellisa used the Simsbury Greenway-a paved strip parallel along Ironhorse Blvd, separated from traffic by a low wooden fence and intermittent street lamps. It is  an interconnected series of bike trails spanning from Southwick, Mass to Collisnville, CT – filled with history, maintaining the character of New England with splendid scenery. In fact, Simsbury was designated the first bicycle friendly community in Connecticut, holding their first event in 2011- a 48 mile trek. The section in Simsbury is 9 miles long, paved, “easy terrain” and takes about an hour by bike. It officially closes at sunset. 

On the evening of November 20, 2014, at 7:36 p.m; Melissa had her usual gear with her- a headlamp and bright reflective clothing.  But, little did she realize a predator was lurking in the dark and he had a plan to kill after he decided without any real interaction with Melissa, that  “she was out of his league.” 

The perpetrator didn’t stalk her in the sense of having a personal history and a well thought out plan. This was a crime of opportunity- one solely cooked up in his warped mind in a matter of a minute or two.

Although Melissa was extremely physically fit, she was not prepared. 

She was not safe, as we have seen in other examples such as experienced hikers. You can plan and have experience, but it may not save you in a crisis. (See this blog – https://donnagore.com/2016/11/29/taking-a-wrong-turn-too-many-times-the-tragic-death-of-an-appalachian-hiker-gone-missing/)

The hard truth was quoted as by an expert fitness trainer- 

“The Only Way to Guarantee You Won’t be Attacked While Running is to Not Go Running.”

On this sober note, I can only speculate that Melissa Millan had a false sense of security.  She had probably run this route many, many times.

With the severity of her wounds and the fact that she actually removed the weapon- a knife from her chest, her chances of survival were slim without stopping the bleeding and the extent of internal bleeding.    

The Circumstances of the Deadly Encounter; and the Perpetrator-

This was not ‘just another attack’” on that dark fall night in Simsbury. 

Yes, the victim was clearly an exceptional woman who never deserved her fate. But the history, actions and behavior of perpetrator William Winters Leverett and his family serve to make this story incredulous!

  • William Leverett was 23 at the time of the crime and initially lived with his grandparents in Windsor Locks, CT;
  • He had a prior conviction as a sex offender in Colorado -an 11 year old girl-  a family friend whom he molested several times. He “got off” with probation, a $438 fine and registed as a sex offender;
  •  His grandfather, a poet, wrote a letter to the surrounding neighbors, in an effort for “transparency” saying his grandson’s past offenses “were only a misunderstanding;” (Hardly!)
  • The perpetrator came to Simbury,Connecticut in 2011, registered as a sex offender in CT  and started his own produce stand. He was then hired by the Fresh Market in Avon as an Assistant Manger where he had a clean record for the intervening five years. However, co-workers described his affect as “weird” while others said he was “child-like.”
  • Leverett’s routine was to attend sex offender  therapy sessions in Harford as well as a church based in Windsor Locks called OpenGate Ministeries. ( Apparently a very conservative congregation based on information from their Facebook content).

Meetings were held in  congregant’s homes in different towns in  a kind of “round robin fashion.” Leverett had been a member for approximately 3.5 years

  • On the night of the crime, the lexicon Leverett used regarding his state of mind was  “lonely,” ‘seeking human contact” after arriving home from his sex offender support group. Even his dog was not there… 

Therefore, we went prowling. He drove to the Simsbury Post Office after dark- A nondescript one story brick building with entry on the right, flanked by four windows and a driveway on the right side. Only two small lantern lights are visible on either side of the entrance.  

  • (Many post offices in smaller towns in Connecticut have the same exact architecture).
  • The perpetrator’s  “faulty thinking” would have been so obvious to the rest of us. Why would he go to a post office around 7 pm for human contact?
  •  Initially, he parked at the post office, and actually rejected the opportunity to speak to a man walking his dog. Why?

I think, he in fact, really wanted a woman… 

At 23 years old, it isn’t known whether he had ever had an intimate relationship to that point. Supposedly he was put off by the cold night air…or was it something else? 

A Murder Plan Was Perculating for the Love of a Woman and a Very Misguided Suitor-

  • Motive & Irrational Thought Process– Months earlier, several publications report he had a lot on his mind. Among his concerns, he had met a woman named Kerri, perhaps at church or at work. Leverett supposedly was “worried and embarrassed about his sex offender status and she learning about it” and thus rejecting him. 
  • He explained to Simsbury police during his in person confession,

 “If I just killed somebody, it would make all that (previous sex offenses) go away and I wouldn’t have to explain myself.

So, I suspect that this woman Kerri was the motive for murder and a potentially a future love in his sick mind, in the months leading up to Melissa Milan’s murder.Oh, what a heavy burden for this poor woman! 

  • A Crime of Opportunity- 

Leverett returned to his car, drove further down the road and stopped at an intersection. At that moment, Melissa Milan appeared in his view, running in front of his car. Dare I say it? Had it been any other woman, there is no doubt, that person would have been a murder victim. 

  • This moment was pivotal, as various accounts have described his reaction as “frenzied”, “getting mentally aroused.”
  • Frenzy-Definition-  a state or period of uncontrolled excitement or wild behavior.
  •  Do not forget, it was dark, although Melissa wore a headlamp and bright pink outerwear. It must have been only a glance.  

She was 54; He was 23. How could he have “selected her” and in an instant grew very angry, deciding that she was “way out of his league” and “he couldn’t have her?” I suggest that it was more than “mental arousal.” Had his years of pent-up frustrations “just reached a point of no return?”

  • He overtook Melissa with his car, excitedly and intentionally went to an unlit portion of the trail, “while in his frenzy”. When she approached, he purposeful\y ran into her, plunging a knife into her chest, whereafter she pushed him, causing the knife to be removed while he was still holding onto it.  She exclaimed, “Oh,my God, Oh my God, Oh, My God.”  She then fell over the wooden guardrail onto Iron Horse Blvd. The bloodied perpetrator then ran away- for nearly 4 years!  Luckily a passer by found Melissa, in minutes, called 911. She was transported to Trauma Center in Hartford, but she could not be saved. 
  • It is a curious sidenote, that this sexual offender chose not to attack sexually, but instead chose to murder. An on line review of literature did not lend any information about an offender who violates children and then,as an adult, choses to murder without the sexual component;
  • After exhaustive investigative efforts by multiple agencies, this case remained cold with no true suspects, no direct evidence. Six months later, with a “tempting infusion of cash”, someone from the community anonymously donated $40,000. However, this valiant  effort did not help to bring resolution.

Unheard of- A Perpetrator Reveals his Crime Buried in his Psyche for Almost 4 years!

  • After three and a half years, a confidant at Leverett’s church was witness to his horrifying confession; The person immediately went to OpenGate Church co-pastors Michael & Collette Trazinski of Windsor Locks, CT,  who were shocked and stunned to the core and told Everett “You know what you need to do.” Everyone was crying after his initial confession. The three church members then accompanied Leverett to the Simsbury Police to confess. 
  • This event is remarkable for so many reasons – Confessing, “growing a conscience” after nearly 4 years; Trustiing church members, and actually walking into the police department to “do the deed.” Had he not confessed, he would most likely have gotten away with murder, as there were no leads or probable cause for any arrests. Alternately, this perpetrator may have committed suicide, perhaps. 
  • Confession Letters Never SentSometime in the intervening nearly 4 years, the perpetrator reported and the police verified by search, that he wrote confession letters to family and friends. HOWEVER, they were very generic, and only referred to “a serious crime,” in addition to never sending the letters!

SEGUE- How Common are Confessions to the Police….

In the Aftermath of the Crime?

To date, no one has addressed this interesting question.

I sought answers both nationally and in Connecticut. 

I could find no apparent data addressing this issue nationally from the DOJ or any other entity.

Confessions- After the Fact in Connecticut-  

  1. Most Connecticut residents are familiar with Joseph “MadDog” Taborsky, for this heinous robber and murderer altered the drinking habits of CT for decades after he robbed and killed Louis Wolfson, a liquor, ”package store” owner. The crime was committed on Joe’s  25th birthday with his brother, Albert. Police were stymied until his brother contacted the police and confessed to the March 23,1950 killing.As a consequence, Albert had a breakdown, and was confined to a psychiatric unit. His confession was then thrown out, essentially freeing “MadDog” from death row. (The first of his two times on death row.)
  1. Carreer criminal – In November 2019,  While serving time on another crime, vicious murderer and serial sexual offender, Willie McFarland, 52, of New Haven confessed to the murder of father and son Fred-59 and Greg Harris 29 – after 32 years. The crime occurred August 21, 1987 in which he approached them at their home, asked to borrow a knife, forced his way in, tied them up, stabbed them. slit their throats  and sexually assaulted (either the father or the son). Motive – looking for money and a gun. Advances in DNA played a role. 
  •  Wow!  These incidents are very rare indeed when only two can be found in 60 years in one state! There may be others nationally, but  not easily located. Unfortunately, William Winters Leverett may be known for this fact alone rather than taking the life of Melissa Millan. 

The Police Investigation and Unburying Evidence- 

It is not a writer’s job to unnecessarily point fingers Although Simbury is a small very affluent town, they encounter very few murders. Police reportedly  worked in concert with the FBI and handed the case over to  the State’s Attorney Cold Case Unit  at some point in 2017 when no  leads were found. 

Knowing the demeanor of Leverett, his “child like nature”, lack of sophistication and mental instability, I have to wonder how he kept  law enforcement at bay for so long?

Some publications have stated that the arrest hinged solely on his confession, knowing Melissa’s specific clothing  and one glove with danming DNA. However there was more evidence  as Leverett recounted  

The Evidence – 

 Knife – He threw it out the car  window on a side street and went back to retrieve it a few days later… and then discarded it in a trash compactor at work. Hmmm.  No mention of the trash compactor testing .

[Blood residue has even been recovered from 100,000-year-old stone tools. … The antigens that allow blood group testing, however, deteriorate with age or improper storage.]

His Bloodied Clothing – He reported that he washed his bloody clothing;

Bloodied Boots – Held and then donated to Goodwill Several  months later.  (No way to trace?) It makes one think about Goodwill donations…

Bloodied Gloves – Hidden in a relative’s barn and then the property was sold; One glove fell behind a cabinet that he could not reach. However, the OTHER glove was located with the assistance of police in the rafters of the barn. 

 Leverett  was arrested, charged with murder on Sunday, September 23, 2018.  He was arraigned on Monday, September 25, 2018 in Enfield , CT. Judge Sheila Prats kept Leverett’s bail  at $2 million and transferred his case to Hartford Superior Court, which deals with more serious crimes. His case has yet to come to trial. 

Leverett’s mother, residing in Colorado Springs, cried and was unaware of this crime and his confession. Pastor Trazinski “became a father figure to him” because Leverett had a “very poor upbringing.”

Melissa Millan’s family responded with class, saying the arrest and arraignment of Leverett brought “renewed grief, heartache and the knowledge that justice can never be served for the senseless act that robbed them of her beautiful presence.”

Running Safety-

Running safety tips are plentiful- Running against traffic, ditch the music, bring a dog, have a charged cell phone, use a self defense tool, or use  safety companion apps that locate where you are and send alerts, sirens if not respond to. (Ex- ReactMobile, Kitestring, bSafe, RoadID)  However  with some, you need to have a set up contact list in your phone should you not respond or not reach your destination.  ***However apps may locate your location but not how to access you immediately. 

The bottom line- Self-defense and fitness experts stress the fact that ‘safety tools” need to be practiced, and may fail, so they always recommend having a “plan B.”

The Final Word-

Ironically,  in 1972, Alfred Hitchcock wrote and produced a film called “Frenzy,”  taking place in London about a serial killer terrorizing the public by killing each victim with a necktie. I dare say, Mr. Hitchcock  could not have imagined or written a  more horrible crime than that of William Winters Leverett.

[Rest in peace, Melissa Milan, you are truly missed!]  

References-

https://criminaldiscoursepodcast.com/melissa-millan/; October 2019;

https://bikepathsct.weebly.com/simsbury.html;

https://www.runnersworld.com/beginner/a27559884/running-safety/;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frenzy

https://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM112TX_Simsbury_CT_06070

https://www.masslive.com/news/erry-2018/09/2a43cec9697081/what-we-know-about-william-lev.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/09/28/i-cant-have-her-a-slain-joggers-case-went-cold-then-a-sex-offender-went-to-see-his-pastor/

https://www.journalinquirer.com/crime_and_courts/light-shed-on-murder-wl-man-s-confession-provides-details-on-2014-slaying-of-simsbury/article_374d3122-c0d7-11e8-a2ca-8b7e3aecf966.html;

https://connecticuthistory.org/joseph-taborsky-and-the-mad-dog-killings/;

https://donnagore.com/2016/08/03/relentless-killers-in-connecticut-history-two-decades-apart/;

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