A 5-foot-6-inch 130-pound prostitute in West Virginia simply identified as “Heather” has shot and killed 45-year-old Neal Falls whom police believe was a serial killer behind the disappearance of four other prostitutes and the deaths of over six other women.
At the time of his death, a list containing the names, ages, and phone numbers of 10 sex workers from Backpage.com (where he had met Heather) was in Falls’ pocket, and his car was filled with various “kill kit” that gave full credence he was a serial killer.
Police authorities contacted the women and informed them they might have been targets of a serial killer; but then they are alive and oblivious of what could have happened to them had Falls been alive.
Falls had met Heather at the escort section of Backpage.com and both had agreed to meet. He showed up at Heather’s Charleston home on July 18 and when the sex worker opened the door, Falls produced a gun and asked her: “Live or die?” And before Heather could make a sense of what the stranger meant, Falls grabbed her by the neck and started to strangle her, almost choking her to death before her hand reached a rake.
“When he strangled me, I grabbed my rake, and when he laid the gun down to get the rake out of my hands, I shot him,” Heather told CBS News. “I grabbed the gun and shot behind me. “I knew he was there to kill me.”
Covered in scratches and bruises, Heather ran out to a neighbour who called 911. Police arrived and found a collection of four handcuffs, knives, axes, a sledgehammer, a bulletproof vest, another gun, a machete, boots, shovels, bleach and other cleaning supplies.
“Based on the items this man had in his possession, it’s hard to imagine this was only going to be a one-time event for him,” said Lt. Steve Cooper, the Charleston Police Department’s chief of detectives. “The fact that he was 45 years old and carrying tools like he was, and committing a crime that was so organized and so violent, it’s unlikely that this was his first violent crime.
“It’s likely that Mr. Falls is a serial killer,” Cooper said.
Strangulation marks were visible on Heather’s throat, and she suffered a broken vertebrae, and a separated shoulder. In the list of 10 sex workers Falls had in his pocket, nine live in West Virginia and one is resident in San Diego.
At the moment, police authorities in Ohio, Nevada, and Illinois are trying to establish if Falls could be linked to several women disappearances in those places – since Falls had lived in those places before.
Four sex workers who all advertised their services online went missing when Falls lived in those parts; three were later discovered chopped to pieces. He is also thought to be involved in the disappearance of half a dozen other women in Chillicothe, Ohio, where he had also lived before.
“I believe (Heather) saved lives by shooting Mr. Falls, based on what he did to her and based on the items found in his car,” Lt. Cooper said.
Falls used to be a security guard who lived in his car, but how he funded his travels remains a mystery. “He had no cash, no credit cards,” Cooper said. “It’s a mystery how he had traveled across the country to us right now. There’s something that we haven’t discovered yet.”