Members of the tiny congregation where William Winters Leverett had bowed his head since 2015 would later say he was “very childlike, very trusting of others.” A co-worker at the Fresh Market store in Connecticut where the 27-year-old worked as an assistant manager would recall he was “kind of a weird dude.” The state of Connecticut knew him as a registered sex offender.
Buried under all those labels, Leverett — lean and lanky, shaggy-haired, blue eyes behind his glasses — also allegedly knew he was something else: a killer. He finally confessed last week when he walked into the home of his pastors, Michael and Colette Trazinski, and told his story.
“You know what you have to do,” Michael Trazinski told him, according to the Hartford Courant.
That night, Leverett, and three other members of his church pushed into the police headquarters in Simsbury, a small town west of Hartford. “I’m here to turn myself in for the murder on Iron Horse Boulevard almost 4 years ago,” he told investigators, according to a police affidavit.
Leverett talked for hours, tying together a brutal whodunit that had confounded the small New England town for years.
On Monday, Leverett was arraigned on one count of murder, MassLive reported. He pleaded not guilty and is being held on a $2 million bond. His attorney could not be immediately located.
Family members would later say Melissa Millan was “a loving mother, a devoted daughter, a witty and compassionate sister.” Her co-workers at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, where she was a senior vice president, would recall her “tremendous leadership qualities” and “business acumen.” She was a divorced mother of two, an avid runner who competed in triathlons.
On Nov. 20, 2014, a cold New England night, Millan changed into running gear — a bright pink jacket with reflective straps, leopard print running pants, pink sneakers and a headlamp, according to the police report — and started pounding down a running trail weaving through Simsbury around 7:30 p.m. The “Greenway” was a strip of pavement running parallel along Iron Horse Boulevard, separated from the street by a low wooden fence and lit at intervals with streetlamps.
Millan huffed down the empty trail, her legs carrying her one mile, then two, occasionally entering the sudden glow from a passing car’s headlights.
That same night, Leverett arrived home to an empty house.
Leverett was already a known criminal. According to the Courant, in 2009 he had been arrested in Colorado on a sexual assault of a child charge. He pleaded guilty and avoided jail time. But he still had to register as a sex offender, and on that night in November in Connecticut, he returned home from a sex offender group therapy meeting in Hartford.
Back in Simsbury, everyone was gone. He was lonely. Even the family dog was gone, he would later tell police.
Compelled to talk to someone, anyone, Leverett decided to go for a walk on the Greenway, hoping to find a stranger to chat with. He allegedly had a lot on his mind, he would later say. Months earlier, Leverett had met a girl named Kerri. The two became friends. But Leverett worried that if the woman learned he was a sex offender, she would reject him, according to the affidavit. He was embarrassed and scared, he told police. “If I just killed somebody it would make all that go away and I wouldn’t have to explain myself,” Leverett thought, he told authorities.
He drove to the Greenway, parked and walked the trail. No one was out. It was cold. Back in his car, he was about to pull onto Iron Horse Boulevard when a woman — pink top, headlamp — crossed into his headlights. Leverett “immediately was attracted to her,” investigators noted in their report. He told police he was “getting mentally aroused.”
Leverett swung his car onto the road. His plan was to park ahead and hopefully cross paths with the jogger, he told police. But his thoughts allegedly soured on the quick drive. “I can’t have her,” he thought, he said. “She’s way out of my league.” He was angry. The anger “escalated rapidly,” he said. “I went into a frenzy.” He had a knife in the car. He allegedly decided to attack her.
Jogging down the dark trail, Millan stopped when she came across the tall young man blocking her way. Leverett thrust the knife blade into her chest, puncturing her lung and nicking her heart. Millan pushed him, freeing the knife from her body but forcing her back over the trail’s low fence. She collapsed into the street.
“Oh my God, what have I done?” Leverett then thought, recalling his mind-set to police in his confession last week.
For investigators in Simsbury in 2018, closing the 2014 case with a confession alone wasn’t enough. As the police report noted, Leverett did recall details of the crime only the perpetrator could know. But physical evidence was an issue.
Where was the knife? Leverett said he tossed it out his car window on the night of the murder. Days later he fetched it and put it in a trash compactor at his work.
The bloody clothes he was wearing? Leverett told investigators he washed his pants and shirt on the night of the stabbing, then dropped them at a Good Will donation box.
Police thought they had the necessary corroborating evidence when Leverett said that after killing the jogger, he wrote out two confessions. But when police examined the letters, the handwritten notes only mentioned “a serious crime” — nothing about a murder or even Simsbury.
But what about the gloves?
Leverett said he had been wearing gloves when he killed Millan. At first, he told police he had tossed them as well. But then he remembered. That night he had actually thrown the gloves up into the rafters of a barn on his family’s property. They were bloody, he wanted to keep them out of sight. But one of the gloves flopped back down — he put it in the trash. The other glove “fell into a crevasse behind a cabinet and he could not reach it.” The house had new owners, but the glove could still be there.
The barn was still standing when police went looking with the new property owner’s permission on Sept. 20. They spotted the glove stuck between two walls. Leverett identified it as the one he was wearing in 2014, and blood on the item matched Millan’s DNA — giving police the link they needed.
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