Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Houseguest: Man told how he would kill wife

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A former houseguest said William Major told him two decades ago how he would kill his wife if she tried to leave him.

        Former friend Glenn St. Hilaire, who works at a Florence factory, said he was relieved to hear that Mr. Major, a former Boone County resident, was arrested in Massachusetts on charges he murdered his wife, Helen Marleen Major, in 1980.

        “He (Mr. Major) had said ... on many occasions that he would kill his wife if she ever tried to leave,” Mr. St. Hilaire, 49, of Dry Ridge said in an interview. “He said if his old lady ever left, he would shoot her, knock her teeth out and cut off her head.”

        What is believed to be her skull was found in Boone County, not far from the couple's trailer, more than 13 months after her disappearance. The skull had been shot several times and the teeth and jaw were missing, according to authorities at the time.

        Mr. Major, 57, formerly of Verona, was arrested Monday at his Fairhaven, Mass., home.

        He was released early from a prison in Rhode Island in 1996, after serving most of a 15-year sentence for two counts of first-degree sexual assault.

        Mr. Major suffered a stroke in prison and appeared in court in New Bedford, Mass., in a wheelchair.

        In connection with his wife's death, Mr. Major is charged with murder, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse.

        He is being held without bond in the Bristol County jail in Dartmouth, Mass.

        His next court appearence is Friday before Bristol County District Judge David Turncotte, when Mr. Major must decide if he will fight extradition to Kentucky.

        Lt. Jack Banks of the Boone County Criminal Investigations unit said on Tuesday that police had nothing new to add. Results of DNA tests on the skull found in Boone County are expected this week.

        Mrs. Major was last seen in October 1980 at the family trailer on Warehouse Road in Verona near the intersection of Ky. 16 and Ky. 14.

        Mr. Major told police his former wife left after an argument over a car they had purchased that day. Mr. St. Hilaire was the first person to report Mrs. Major's disappearence.

        Mr. St. Hilaire, a native French Canadian, said he befriended Mr. Major after meeting him on the side of the road. Mr. Major fixed Mr. St. Hilaire's van when it blew a head gasket while pulling a trailer to Texas. Mr. St. Hilaire never made it Texas, instead moving in with the Major family.

        The couple was fighting the day Mrs. Major disappeared, Mr. St. Hilaire said, and he left to have a cup of coffee at a restaurant. When he returned, the couple was gone, along with their children. Mr. Major eventually returned with his children and said his wife had left him, Mr. St. Hilaire said.

        A week after the disappearence, Mr. Major “dropped everything” and left the state with the children. “He put what he could fit in the truck and left,” Mr. St. Hilaire said.

        Mr. St. Hilaire said a daughter's persistence to have the killer of her mother brought to justice and dogged police work had spurred the investigation. He said Mrs. Major's daughter, now grown and living in Western Kentucky, pressed police to have DNA tests done on the skull and pursue leads.

        Authorities said Tuesday the same daughter relayed to police an alleged confession to the murder by her father.

       John Daugherty of The Standard-Times of New Bedford, Mass., contributed.


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