THINK TWICE BEFORE EATING THE CHILI: THE SHOCKING STORY OF THE LAKE ELSINORE KILLER SKW: EPISODE 26

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When I met WILLIAM SUFF, a San Quentin Inmate, he was very fastidious, although it was the middle of the summer and he was in his cell, he had his shirt buttoned up to his neck which I found odd. Although he was extremely uncomfortable, Bill did not look scary, he did not look like the type of person who could chop up a person and then put them into the chili he was making for the Riverside County Cook off.  Laura has been working with Suff for over a decade trying to extract information about his victims but he has been skillfully tight lipped and Laura has seen him flip between nice guy to psychotic killer within seconds. While we are peaking to him, Bill is on his best behavior because I am now his new audience. He shyly explains that he is not what everyone believes him to be, almost as if a veil covers his face for a moment and then quickly darkness seeps through, evil is resting quietly behind his saucer shaped eyes and it desperately was trying to permeate my skin.

The tragic story of the victims who perished during Bill’s murder spree starts in Texas, on a treacherously humid day in July 1973. William Suff and his wife Teryl had just brought their baby daughter home from the hospital and were settling back into domestic life. Their son 21 month old son William Suff Jr. was thrilled to have a sister and immediately showers her with affection sometimes hugging her a little too tightly but nothing out of the ordinary from a toddler.

From the outside, the Suffs look like an average family living a normal life, that is the skillful art of the serial killer he is a chameleon who can be whatever you want him to be. According to various reports, Bill was a former Air Force Medic in the pediatric ward and he met his wife Teryl at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. At the time Teryl was already pregnant with a son from a former relationship but Suff took the boy on and they named him William Suff Jr. The relationship between Teryl and Bill was volatile, she was just 16 when they married and Bill likes controlling his women demanding that she wear certain clothes, wanting to know where she is at every moment and starting fights with any man who looks at her. In a moment of an explosive argument Teryl hurls insults at Bill, threatening to leave and live on the street as a prostitute if it is the only means of survival. Teryl describes Bill to her friends as a “controlling, jealous, violent” husband. (LA TIMES ARTICLE). Bill’s outbursts are not limited to his wife, neighbors peering through their curtains witness Bill’s horrific abuse of his toddler son. 

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A neighbor is shocked to see that there are palm prints on the baby Dijianet’s face. Teryl quickly explains that the mark happened during the delivery but the neighbor, who has children of her own, is skeptical and files the information away. The violence escalates and in September, William Jr. is hospitalized after a brutal beating. Neighbors watch but they don’t get involved, it’s a family situation, you don’t inject yourself into private affairs, this is the hushed understanding of the 70’s, riddled with stories of child abusers and wives who enabled them.

On September 22, 1973 William Suff Jr. is released from the hospital and three days later, the Suffs were back in the Emergency room but this time with their three month old daughter Dijianet. The infant is tragically pronounced dead upon arrival, shocking the doctors and the staff. The infant had been brutally beaten the attack ruptured her liver, broke 12 of her bones, a broken arm and a cigarette burn was found on one foot. Dijianet was just three months old when she died, suffering into her last moments on this earth.

I am staring at the evil entity who committed this atrocity. It’s hard to see the humanity in this violent offender. It’s hard to scrub the image of an innocent baby beaten to her death with no one to protect her and it’s hard to understand what causes someone to act out such violence. My rational mind is trying to understand why and how William Suff could do such a thing, and I resign to myself to the conclusion that this is just pure evil. Maybe William Suff is just a cocktail of twisted DNA with no real human emotions.

When police question the Suffs, William Suff Sr. states that he had arrived home from work and found the baby on the floor against the wall. Mrs. Suff explains that their son loves the baby so much he might have hugged her too tightly and accidentally the toddler may have killed her. Police arrest the couple and the news makes national headlines. Neighbors are guilt-ridden, had they just got involved, took that step, made that call, it could have saved the baby’s life. Once the trial begins it does not take long for a jury to convict Suff and his wife Teryl and they are sentenced to 70 years in prison. Teryl’s son William Suff Jr. is immediately handed over to Child Protective Services.

 Even though the case is extremely brutal, there wasn’t enough evidence to keep Teryl behind bars and her conviction much to the dismay of the public and the media, is overturned. After her release Teryl divorces Suff and attempts to get her son back from CPS. Unfortunately, Suff only serves ten years of his 70 year sentence and is let out on parole. After his release, Bill quickly packs up and moves back to his hometown in Riverside County, California and reunites with his mother and brothers. 

It isn’t long before Bill puts the past behind him and settles into a “normal” life, he gets a job with the county as a warehouse clerk and soon meets his second wife Cheryl. Bill wielding a convincing smile, and a calm demeanor immediately disarms most of the people around him spinning his web and luring them in. Bill acts nerdy, he buttons his shirt up to his neck, he is very vocal about his love of Star Trek, he brags about being a small time hacker, and he is always talking about his mother. Harmless right? I mean how many of us know a guy like this at some point in our life where we know he’s a little weird but we just chalk it up to that- he’s just a dork, nothing harmful. Co-workers, knowing nothing about his history, recall how nice and helpful Bill is, offering to bring them a coke or help out by babysitting when they are in a pinch. He’s thoughtful, he’s respectful, he seems normal which is the power of the serial killer who lives in a world of duality, light and dark, pain and pleasure. Not many people who knew him would have thought he had murdered his own daughter. In fact, Suff babysat for several of his co-workers, all of them unaware of his violent history.https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1992-02-17-mn-1705-story.html

Bill plays the role, he doesn’t smoke, drink or cuss and Cheryl falls under his spell. In 1990, Bill proposes and Cheryl quickly agrees. Bill’s secrets are tightly wrapped and hidden away and Cheryl is completely unaware that her soon to be husband had spent ten years in a Texas prison for the murder of his first child, nor does she know that Bill has a compulsive addiction to prostitutes and will spend most of their marriage prowling around the city at night.

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Just months before Cheryl and Bill’s Vegas wedding, Bill is trolling for sex when he meets 19 year old Rhonda Jetmore. He offers her $20 and she agrees. Immediately Rhonda regrets this decision wishing she had trusted her instincts when she saw Bill roll up on her. He is weird, his veneer cracking as he feeds his compulsion and she immediately feels a twinge in her stomach her signal that someone is a creep, but she ignores the feeling because she could really use the money. Ok, she’ll do it but only on one condition- just “straight sex” nothing weird. Bill agrees and she leads him to the abandoned house where she takes her clients. Bill is emboldened by his compulsion, quickly shedding his skin and decides to pay her one dollar instead of 20 when Rhonda protests he wraps his hands around her neck and begins to choke her. 

Now, this is the real Bill emerging from the shadows revealing his true nature, this is the man that is sitting before me. Rhonda is struggling to stay conscious her eyes become fixated on his belt buckle that has “BILL” engraved on the front. The image burns into her memory as she gasps for breath. Remembering that she has a flashlight in her pocket, she smashes Bill over the head with it knocking his glasses off of his face. Scrambling in the dark Bill can’t see his prey, he angrily thrashes around looking for his glasses, and Rhonda sprints to safety. Rhonda doesn’t tell police immediately and she flees to Northern California. https://caselaw.findlaw.com/court/ca-supreme-court/1664653.html

SSix months after this explosive incident Bill is left with a wave of nausea as he and Cheryl focus on settling into family life with their baby daughter Bridgit. Bill continues to wake up in the middle of the night seeing Rhonda’s face smiling before him, he dreams of what he will do to her when he finds her because she could be the end of him and he feels it in the bile that rises at the thought of her, if she recognizes him, if she goes to the police, it was stupid of him to let her get away.

Bill begins to fantasize that he is a police officer, he gets a police cap and some handcuffs, he even tells neighbors that he is working with law enforcement and no one questions him when they see him crawling back into the apartment at 4 am, or when they notice police scanners and weapons in his truck. Most people at the apartment complex avoid Bill because they find him odd with an air of secrecy that is terrifying. During this period, bodies begin appearing in public places, in uncompromising sexual positions and Bill becomes obsessed with the newspaper, cutting out the articles and stashing them away in his bedroom. Neighbors recognize his odd behavior but no one challenges him, they just keep their distance.

When a woman at Cheryl’s work reveals that she and her boyfriend are homeless, Cheryl invites her to stay at the apartment, and this could help be a great buffer between her and her husband who has changed drastically since the birth of their daughter. After the couple moves in they notice Bill’s frequent violent outbursts, his obsession with the murders that are popping up around town, the newspaper clippings that he carefully guards in his bedroom but again they don’t do anything about it because what does all of it mean? Maybe Bill is just weird, it doesn’t make him a serial killer. It’s not until baby Bridgit is sent to the hospital after being battered, that the couple moves out.

More and more victims are popping up around town, 19 in total, mothers are on television begging for information about their lost daughters. Finally, in 1991 Suff is arrested after a routine traffic stop and law enforcement finds enough evidence to connect him to several of the murders. Eventually Suff is convicted of 13 murders but Laura and law enforcement believe he is responsible for many, many more.

Had Suff not been let out on Parole in Texas those victims would be alive today.

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After Bill Suff’s arrest, law enforcement learned that Suff dismembered some of his victims and put them into the chili at the Riverside County Workers Cookoff where Suff won the top prize. https://www.reddit.com/r/TrueCrime/comments/h9aug8/serial_killer_kills_prostitutes_makes_their/#lightbox

Early in March, I received an email from a woman who was Suff’s sister in law, she breathlessly revealed that she just testified against Bill’s brother in Nevada for child molestation. After speaking with Heather, we invited her on the podcast. Don’t miss Episode 26: SERIAL KILLER WHISPERER THE LAKE ELSINORE KILLER SURVIVOR…to hear Heather’s shocking story of how she was embroiled with the Suff family and how she managed to survive. LISTEN HERE:

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