She looked up and saw a reflection she did not recognize. “Who is this girl staring back at me?” She contemplated what she was about to do. She was nervous and her stomach was in knots. She was 20, enrolled in a good college, and she had just lied. She lied to her parents and more importantly, she lied to herself. “Hey mom, can I borrow the van?” “What do you need it for?” “I want to go meet up with a friend. I haven’t seen them since I left for college this year.” It was Thanksgiving break, there was a chill in the air, but it wasn’t the weather that caused her to shake. What she chose not to mention to her parents was that the “friend” she was meeting was an online acquaintance who offered to pay her $500.00 for sex through a phone app called Tagged. This wasn’t the first time she was offered money by the “friend.” She had backed out of meeting with him in person before. It just didn’t feel right. But this time, she planned to go through with it. As she finalized plans, she thought $500.00 was a lot of money and seemed like a lure. She texted him and asked, “You’re not a serial killer, right?” before she left the house. Fate rolled the dice and she would not come to understand just how appropriate her question was. The lump in her throat would never disappear as she proceeded to meet him for their “transaction.” Ten days later, her body would be found on the edge of Eagle Rock Reservation, covered with leaves and the cold earth. She had been strangled.
Before we get into the case, let’s talk a little about the general location of where most everything occurred.
West Orange Township, New Jersey is in the upper northeast part of New Jersey and is located within Essex county where the crimes were committed and who’s police arrested the alleged serial killer. West Orange became a township April 10, 1863, and a town February 28, 1900. The township covers 12.171 square miles (31.522 square kilometers). The elevation is 512 feet (156 meters).
The most recent census was in 2010 and here are some of the demographics:
Further demographics showed:
26.58% black/african american
Less than 1% Native American
Less than 1% Pacific Islander
3.09% Two or more races.
The bulk of the locals are 45-64 years old with 23.7% under 18 and 7.17% 18-24.
The ratio is 100 women for every 88.3 men.
The median family wage is $106,742 and the median individual salary is $88,917
4.9% of families and 7.1% total population live below the poverty line.
There are two large parks in Essex County. The first is South Mountain Reservation and the second is Eagle Rock Reservation. We will talk about the second one in a little.
Some notable people who came from West Orange Township are
David Cassidy - Teen Idol who spent some time on The Partidge Family Show
Anthony Criss - Member of Naughty by Nature
Thomas Edison and his family
Ja Rule the Rapper
Carole King the songwriter
There is one notable person that I found strange to be from here as well:
Charles Cullen, born 1960 who was a serial killer and nurse. He confessed to killing 40 people.
Let’s talk about Eagle Rock Reservation. Eagle Rock is 408.33 acres (162.25 hectares). It is primarily a forest and recreational park that is located in the community of West Orange, Montclair, and Verona, all within Essex County who owns and operates the park. It Is named after the Eagle Rock, a bare rock looking down from the mountain resembling an eagle. The Lenape trail passes through the reservation. Many streams and forests flow through and the park is home to wildlife like deer and bears.
There is also a 9/11 memorial there because after the 9/11 attacks, residents from nearby gathered to view the aftermath of attacks on the World Trade Center. 10/20/02 a section of the reservation was set aside and a monument was erected. This overlooks the Manhattan Skyline. The memorial honors those killed in the attack and has names of the victims inscribed on the wall.
Khalil Wheeler-Weaver is our subject for today. He comes from a family of multiple law enforcement officials who all lived in his home. He had a clean record until now. But, at the same time, so did Ted Bundy back in the 1970s.
He worked for a security service called the Sterling Security Firm where he spent his time at the Shoprite grocery store.
Other than that, there is little published about him at this point. At the time of his arrest he was 20 years old. Performing a social media search a YouTube page was found that he owned. It had three videos on it, two with original club beats and one that has a dark, one-second video that can only be described as nondescript and creepy.
Khalil's charges number 11 including murder, sexual assault, and desecration of human remains.
I didn’t really know what desecration of human remains meant. Here’s what I found on law.justia.com:
2C:22-1 Disturbing, desecrating human remains; offenses.
1. a. A person commits a crime of the second degree if he:
(1)Unlawfully disturbs, moves or conceals human remains;
(2)Unlawfully desecrates, damages or destroys human remains; or
(3)Commits an act of sexual penetration or sexual contact, as defined in N.J.S.2C:14-1, upon human remains.
b.A person commits a crime of the third degree if he purposely or knowingly fails to dispose of human remains in a manner required by law.
c.As used in this act, "human remains" means the body of a deceased person or the dismembered part of a body of a living person but does not include cremated remains.
If Khalil Walker-Weaver is convicted at the end of the trial, or found guilty, he will become the youngest serial killer to strike the northeast since David Berkowitz terrorized New York as son of sam from 1976-77.
His victims number, currently, four total:
A victim who survived who’s identity has not been released and is known as “T.T.” or “T” depending on what you read.
Wheeler-Weaver’s m.o. was to stalk young, African-American women, strangling them and leaving their bodies in remote locations around West Orange and Montclair areas of New Jersey.
The case is still unfolding as of November 11, 2019 in a murder trial they decided to hold in Newark, New Jersey. This is most likely due to the fact that his crimes are so heinous and it was all over the news, so the thought of getting a jury of his peers who had not heard about it or were not already swayed was a ridiculous notion.
Reminder: As of now, all of this is alleged. As you will come to see though, it looks like it’s pretty certain it was Khalil. Overall, we believe he focused on African American sex workers and that the murders were sexually motivated.
Weaver first killed Robin Edwards. She was a 19 year old escort originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was reported living in Union Township at the time of her murder. She was found burned to death and left in an abandoned home which was allegedly set by Wheeler-Weaver. West struggled with mental health issues and left home at a young age and was days away from celebrating her 20th birthday when she vanished. When Khalil was questioned about her he said he took West out to eat on the day that she disappeared and then, he claimed, he dropped her off at a different abandoned house, roughly two blocks away from where the fire started.
Next, he was tied to the death of Joanne Brown, 33, who died the day before he was arrested for his third victim. She was also strangled and matched the description/profile of the young African-American women he was targeting. Brown was grappling with homelessness and mental health issues as well and was seen getting into Khalil’s car before she was reported missing in October 2016. Less than two months later, a work crew found the 33-year-old’s remains inside another vacant house in Orange. Her nose and mouth were covered with tape, and a jacket was tied around her neck.
The victimology of his third victim was different. She was a college student, a longtime lifeguard at the local YMCA and a second-year student at New Jersey City University, and she was found strangled and lying in a pile of leaves and debris on the edge of the Eagle Rock Reservation park. At this point authorities began to suspect Wheeler-Weaver of a second instance of strangulation, that of Joanne Brown.
There is something seriously creepy and almost poetic about the murder of Sarah Butler. The 20-year-old, Butler, borrowed the key’s to her mother’s van, and drove out over Thanksgiving break to meet up with Wheeler-Weaver. Wheeler-Weaver offered to pay Butler $500.00 for sex through a social media app called Tagged. Which we actually looked up and it’s SUPER creepy.
She backed out before with Khalil, but this time she was going to go through with it. “You’re not a serial killer, right?” she messaged him before leaving her house.
According to prosecutors, Wheeler-Weaver targeted young black women who turned to sex work while coping with mental health issues or homelessness. His thinking, authorities say, was that no one would notice if they disappeared. “They were viewed as somehow less than human, less valuable,” Essex County assistant prosecutor Adam Wells said last month.
Wheeler-Weaver admitted that he was with each of the murder victims shortly before they disappeared, but denies responsibility for their deaths. His attorneys contend the victims “put themselves in vulnerable positions,” and point out Wheeler-Weaver cooperated with investigators which they argue “is not the conduct of a guilty individual. He told the police where he had last seen them and that they were alive and safe. What happened to them afterward is not at the hands of Mr. Wheeler-Weaver said his public defender, Deirdre McMahon.
By the time Joanne Brown’s body was found, another woman had come forward to describe a terrifying encounter with Wheeler-Weaver. The woman who was 34 at the time and is identified as “T.T.” in court documents, had turned to sex work after becoming homeless. By Nov 15, 2016 she was several months pregnant and looking for another way to make money. She told authorities she agreed to have sex with Wheeler-Weaver, but actually planned on tricking him and taking his cash.
The two met up in a cheap motel in Elizabeth, New Jersey and then left in Wheeler-Weaver’s car. In court last month, the woman testified that Wheeler-Weaver, clad in a ski mask, handcuffed her and covered her mouth with duct tape before raping her in the back seat and almost strangling her to death. She repeatedly lost consciousness she said, but woke up just long enough to formulate an escape plan.
Using quick thinking, she convinced Wheeler-Weaver to take her back to the motel, where she had left her cellphone, then locked him out of the room while she dialed 911. But police who responded to the call were more interested in figuring out if she was a prostitute she said in court.
Months would pass before Wheeler-Weaver was arrested on attempted murder charges. On Nov. 22, 2016, exactly one week after “T.T.” told authorities about her encounter, he met up with Butler in Orange. When the sophomore didn’t return home and wasn’t answering her phone her family panicked and called the police.
Controversial records showed Wheeler-Weaver was the last person to call Brown before she disappeared. Authorities say he picked her up and brought her to the vacant house where her body was later found, and spent about an hour there with her before leaving alone.
How was he caught and arrested? Sarah Butler, his third victim’s family, knew her password and logged into her social media accounts and identified Wheeler-Weaver as the man she was interacting with prior to vanishing. Butler’s friends and relatives worked together on a fake social media profile in the hopes of attracting Wheeler-Weaver’s attention. The sexual meeting was arranged with Khalil using the phony profile. When Khalil showed up for it, he was detained by Montclair Police.
In February, 2017, Wheeler-Weaver was indicted on three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder stemming from the near-fatal attack in Elizabeth. He has also been charged with desecration of human remains, aggravated arson, aggravated assault, and kidnapping.
Why is he being called a possible serial killer?
Typically the FBI’s official analysis of serial killers has to do with the number o 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. But if convicted, he would fit the definition as the term applies to killers with two or more victims on separate occasions.
There is no evidence that Khalil knew his victims although authorities did confirm that he was seen at several locations throughout the day with his third victim, Sarah Butler.
He’s currently being held on 5 million dollar bail. He’s pleaded not guilty to all counts.