A fake social media account was used to catch a killer who used dating apps to lure victims.
On Wednesday, October 6, Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, from New Jersey was sentenced in a state court in Newark.
The 25-year-old killed three women five years ago, using dating apps to lure them. His sentencing followed findings presented at his trial that were discovered by the friends of one of his victims, who used social media to apprehend him.
When he was 20 years old, evidence presented at the trial showed that Wheeler-Weaver used dating apps to lure women to have sex with him before he strangled them, AP News reports.
Two bodies were found in northern New Jersey from September to December 2016. Evidence presented at the trial also included data from Wheeler-Weaver’s mobile phone. The data placed him at the scene of the crimes where the victims first disappeared, and also where their bodies were later discovered.
On Wednesday, Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Adam Wells commented on how Wheeler-Weaver would’ve hade time to deliberate his crimes and actions, due to how the killings took place weeks apart.
The defendant believed these victims were disposable. They were killed and then he went on about his day as if nothing had happened. But each of these women’s lives mattered.
Wheeler-Weaver was sentenced to a total of 160 years in prison. His sentencing was followed by statements from family members of two of his victims, Robin West and Sarah Butler. Prior to the statements being read, Wheeler-Weaver claimed that he had been framed for the murders.
The sentencing was carried out by Superior Court Judge Mark S. Ali, and Wheeler-Weaver was convicted on counts of kidnapping, aggravated arson and desecration of human remain, for three murders and one attempted murder.
Friends of Sarah Butler were credited by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office for using social media to help police track down Wheeler-Weaver. Butler was from Montclair and had been a college student.
According to prosecutors, Wheeler-Weaver was coaxed into a meeting in Monclair by Butler’s friends using a fake account after accessing Butler’s social media. They then told police where he could be located.
Robin West was from Philadelphia. On August 31, 2016, she was seen getting into Wheeler-Weaver’s car. Prosecutors detailed how she had been killed just hours later and alleged that her body had been dumped in an abandoned house that was later set alight. The abandoned house was located in Orange, close to Newark, near to Wheeler-Weaver’s own home. West’s remains took nearly two weeks for authorities to identify.
On Wednesday, West’s mother spoke of her daughter’s ‘smile, her face, her walk, her desire to help homeless people’. ‘Hundreds of people were affected by her life and were saddened by her death,’ she said.
Nearly a month after West, Wheeler-Weaver killed his third victim, 33-year-old Joanne Brown from Newark. She was similarly dumped, however it was six weeks before her body was found. A month later, Butler disappeared in 2016 around Thanksgiving, and her body was found four days before Brown’s.
The trial also featured the testimonial of a survivor of an attack carried out by Wheeler-Weaver. The fourth women’s attack showed similarities to the other women’s, and the information proved invaluable in his sentencing.
Tiffany Taylor told those present at Wednesday’s trial how her ‘whole life is different’. ‘I don’t wear makeup anymore; I don’t have friends. I’m always paranoid. But I’m happy to still be here,’ she said.
Taylor concluded by asking the judge to not ‘show him any remorse, because he’s not showing any remorse’. Butler’s father similarly urged the judge to hand Wheeler-Weaver a maximum sentence, telling the defendant that he hoped he would ‘suffer […] every night’.
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