When a person commits a crime, it’s often the case that they’ll commit another. Because they’ve already crossed the line once, they’ll probably have less compunction about doing it again.
So when police began to investigate a case where violence was used in self-defense, they weren’t surprised to find that one person involved had committed other crimes. They were shocked, however, to discover the horror and extent of what those crimes were…
Lady of the Night
Heather was a woman in Charleston, West Virginia with a job that many people would disapprove of. If you were using an older term, you might say she was employed in “the oldest profession.” In modern language, she would be described as a sex worker.
Obviously, doing that kind of work carries certain risks with it. Aside from the possibility of going to prison, there was also the chance of contracting a variety of diseases. On top of that, sex work exposed Heather to the possibility of being subject to violence…
To try and reduce that risk, Heather used the escort section of controversial website backpage.com to connect with customers. By meeting them first online, she could easily arrange a meeting place and never had to be out on the street where anything bad could happen.
But reducing risk doesn’t mean eliminating it. When Heather met up with one customer, she was immediately put off by him. There was something about his attitude and demeanor that told her right away he could be trouble. Then he started saying things that only increased her concern…
When the man started talking about some crime he’d committed, alarm bells started ringing in Heather’s head. “I knew he was there to kill me,” she said. “I could tell that he had already done something because he said that he was going to prison for a long time.”
‘I Call the Shots’
“He was saying, ‘you’re gonna be quiet. I’m gonna call the orders,’” Heather said. Then, the man took out a handgun, forced her onto the bed and began strangling her from behind. “When he strangled me he just wouldn’t let me get any air,” she said. In a panic Heather grabbed for her “rake,” a self-defense tool…
The man tried to get the rake out of Heather’s hands without letting go of her throat. “When he laid the gun down to get the rake out of my hands,” she said, “I shot him. I just grabbed the gun and shot behind me.” Thankfully, her blind shot hit the man, quickly ending the life-and-death struggle.
I Need Help!
When Heather ran outside, calling for help, one of her neighbors was quick to call 911. She could be heard in the background shouting “he pulled a gun on me! He was going to kill me!” When police arrived on the scene, they found the man already dead from a gunshot wound…
The killing was determined to be in self-defense and no charges were brought against Heather but when police began to investigate the dead man, who was named Neal Falls, they found some alarming evidence.
In the trunk of Falls’ car, investigators found a “kill kit,” which included an axe, a machete, bulletproof vests, knives, a box cutter, a large container of bleach, and a large number of garbage bags…
Falls also carried a list of about 10 women with him — all of them West Virginia escorts — along with their ages and phone numbers. When police checked on the women, they were all alive and had not had any previous contact with Falls.
All of that evidence suggested 2 things to investigators: First, Falls’ attack on Heather was not the first time he’d attacked someone. Second, he didn’t intend for her to be his last victim. As the looked further into his past, it seemed as though Falls could have been responsible for a number of unsolved crimes…
Back in 2005, Falls lived in Las Vegas, the same year 4 women who were sex workers in the area disappeared. Their bodies, which had been dismembered, were later discovered in Illinois. Police from Nevada, Illinois, and West Virginia began to coordinate their efforts.
“Our role is simply to share DNA, other crime-scene information, and witness and victim information with any other agency that wants to compare their cases with this one,” said Steve Cooper, chief of detectives of the Charleston, WV Police Department…
Because it is only 120 miles away from Charleston, West Virginia, police also suspected that Falls may have been connected to 6 women who went missing or turned up dead in the Chillicothe, Ohio area over a little more than a year. However they have since ruled out that possibility.
Falls’ car had an Oregon license plate and he is believed to have lived there for some time, though police couldn’t say for sure when he’d left the state. During his time there, he’d been evicted by his landlord in 2010 because of his unusual behavior…
“The first thing he did that was a little odd was that he immediately changed the deadbolt to his own room so that only he had a key, his landlord Pauline said. “He said he had guns and weapons and that he was a security guard.”
Pauline described Falls as “creepy, very tightly lipped and not a chummy guy, definitely not a chummy guy.” He was “somebody who doesn’t like to be exposed,” she added. Still, just like Heather, Pauline had gotten a seriously bad feeling from him…
No Legal Run-ins
Aside from minor offenses, such as traffic tickets or the time his dog got loose, Falls had very little contact with police. But even without breaking any serious laws, his secretive and creepy behavior gave her enough reason to evict him…
While she never wanted to be put into a situation where she was fighting for her life, Heather was glad that things had turned out the way they did. When asked if she felt like she’d saved other women’s lives, her reply came almost before the question was finished. “I know I did,” she said without a hint of uncertainty.