Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Daughter sought father's arrest

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        BURLINGTON — William Major might not have been sitting in a Boone County courtroom accused of murder Monday morning if he had told his daughter three years ago where the remainder of his wife's body was located.

        The daughter, Lalana Bramble, 25, of Mount Sterling, Ky., attended the arraignment — the first time she had seen her father in 16 years.

        Mr. Major, 57, of Fairhaven, Mass., and formerly of Verona, pleaded not guilty before Boone District Judge Michael Collins. He is charged with one count each of murder, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse in the 1980 death of Helen Marlene Major at their Verona home.

        But Mrs. Bramble said Mr. Major might not have had to come back to Kentucky if a 1998 conversation had gone differently.

        “He laughed in my face,” she said. “I would have left him alone. ... He said if I ever thought he would tell me where the body was, I was crazy.”

        Mrs. Bramble said she called her father wanting to know where the rest of her mother's corpse was — with a promise to not seek his arrest in return.

        A skull believed to be Mrs. Major's had been found in a field in Verona, with its teeth knocked out, so definite identification was elusive.

        But the daughter who heard her father's laughter on the phone made it her life's work to prove her mother was dead — possibly at her father's hands. She gave a DNA sample so modern-day technology could confirm the skull as her mother's earlier this month.

Last seen at home
               Mrs. Major was last seen Oct. 10, 1980, at her trailer on Warehouse Road. About a week later, Mr. Major left Kentucky with his two children.

        Authorities said Mr. Major shot his wife, cut off her head and knocked out her teeth to make it hard for police to identify the remains.

        Mr. Major, who moved to Rhode Island with the children, was later convicted of child sexual abuse and served nearly 12 years of a 15-year sentence in Rhode Island.

A grim mission
               Instead of giving up in 1998 when Mr. Major refused to tell where the body was located, Mrs. Bramble went to work.

        She bought a black composition notebook, which she carried with her in court Monday. It contains notes of all her conversations with Boone County authorities and other people connected to the case.

        She returned to Verona and dug in sinkholes with the hope of finding the remains.

        She threatened to take her story to the media when the police told her all leads were cold.

        And once Boone County Sheriff's Det. Todd Kenner joined the investigation in January, she helped police find her grandfather, Jim Major, who is in his 80s and living in Eureka, Nova Sco tia.

        The elder Mr. Major then allowed police to rig a tape recorder to his phone to catch his son's confession.

        William Major “called his father and told him he killed Marlene,” Ms. Bramble said.

        Mr. Major was arrested in Fairhaven and held until the DNA tests confirmed that the skull was Marlene's and Kentucky authorities obtained a governor's warrant for his extradition. He arrived in Boone County Friday evening.

No smiles
               Mrs. Bramble is not letting what happened to her mother rule her life. For that she credits Sam Bramble, 34, her husband of three years.

        “He is my support; he's been there when I thought I would lose my mind,” Mrs. Bramble said. “He reminds me to laugh.”

        There were no smiles in Judge Collins' courtroom Monday.

        Mrs. Bramble said she felt “nothing” when Mr. Major — seated in a wheelchair because of a stroke suffered several years ago — glanced at herduring the five-minute procedure.

        “I guess he was trying to intimidate me,” Mrs. Bramble said. “It's not working.”

Confession made
               Both Mrs. Bramble and Detec tive Kenner said Mr. Major confessed to the murder and other charges to Boone County officials last Saturday.

        “He wanted to get this off his chest and (said) that it was time for it to be over,” Detective Kenner said. “It surprised me that he confessed. In the past he has been elusive about it.”

        Mr. Major will appear for a pretrial hearing at 1 p.m. next Monday. He remains in the Boone County Jail on $250,000 cash bond.

        Florence attorney Ed Drennen was appointed to represent Mr. Major. Mr. Drennen could not be reached for comment Monday.

        Procedural rules do not allow Mr. Major to plead guilty in District Court. His case must first go to a grand jury, which then would have to indict him and send the matter to Boone Circuit Judge Jay Bamberger.

        Regardless of what happens to her father, Mrs. Bramble said, she is going to remain strong.

        “I've been through hell and back,” she said. “I'm not going to let him destroy my life.”


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