Tuesday, August 07, 2001

Grand jury to hear of '80 murder

Police continue looking for weapon, body, car

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        BURLINGTON — The case of a former Verona man accused of murdering his wife nearly 21 years ago is headed for a Boone County grand jury.

        William Major, 57, of Fairhaven, Mass., is charged with murder, tampering with physical evidence and abuse of a corpse in the death of Helen Marlene Major, who was 25 when she disappeared in 1980.

        In Monday's preliminary hearing, Boone District Judge Charles T. Moore ruled there was enough probable cause for Mr. Major's case to be bound over to a grand jury.

        If the grand jury indicts Mr. Major, Boone Circuit Judge Jay Bamberger could hear the case.

        Boone County Commonwealth Attorney Linda Tally Smith said Monday the death penalty will not be sought against Mr. Major because the crime does not meet death penalty standards in effect in 1980. She said the most time in prison Mr. Major faces is 20 years to life.

        Mr. Major, who had a stroke in 1996 and is inwheelchair, remained in the Boone County Jail on $250,000 cash bond. He said nothing as he was taken from the courtroom.

        Ms. Smith also said any plea bargains would have to be approved by the Mr. Ma jor's family. Mr. Major's daughter, LaLana Bramble, 25, from Mount Sterling, Ky., said that won't happen unless Mrs. Majors' body is found.

        “That's the only way he'll get any mercy,” she said.

        Mrs. Major was last seen Oct. 10, 1980. Police say Mr. Major shot his wife, decapitated her and buried the remains because he feared she would take their two children.

        Last month, DNA testing identified part of a skull found in 1981 containing bullet holes as Mrs. Majors'. Since Friday, authorities have been searching the Mark Waller farm near Verona — the place Mr. Major said the weapon and remains could be found — but have found nothing.

        Boone County Sheriff's Detective Todd Kenner testified in court that nothing has been found yet because the Waller family dredged the farm pond where the weapon alleged was thrown. He said the dirt was moved to a nearby dam.

        As for the body, Mr. Kenner said a sinkhole where Mr. Major said the body was buried has not been discovered, which means the remains may never be found because there are more than 200 acres to cover. State experts are coming to help this week.

        Mr. Kenner, the lead in vestigator in the case, was the only witness called Monday. He described how Mr. Major allegedly:

        • Confessed to the murder to his father, Jim Major of Eureka, Nova Scotia, earlier this year.

        • Dumped the weapon he used to kill his wife in the Wallers' pond and dumped Mrs. Majors' remains in a sinkhole several hundred yards away.

        • Fired two shots into his wife's head and four into her torso.

        • Drove Mrs. Major's light blue 1972 Ford Pinto to Cincinnati.

        Mr. Major left the car at a parking lot for one day, drove it to the site of the old Blue Oar restaurant on River Road and left it there for two more days before dumping it into the Ohio River at the Anderson Ferry landing, Mr. Kenner said.

        The car has not been found partly because authorities have been looking on the Kentucky side of the river. Mr. Kenner said searchers now would begin looking on the Ohio side.

        But Mr. Kenner said what struck him was Mr. Majors' calm demeanor.

        “(Mr. Major) said, "I don't have a conscience about it,”' Mr. Kenner said. “(He said), "I could kill anyone and it wouldn't bother me.'”


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