James R. Hicks


James R. Hicks

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Parricide - Dismemberment
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: 1977 / 1982 / 1996
Date of birth: 1951
Victims profile: Jennie Hicks, 23 (his first wife) / Jerilyn Towers, 34 / Lynn Willette, 40
Method of murder: ???
Location: Penobscot County, Maine, USA
Status: Sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1984. Released, 1990. Sentenced to life in prison, 2000

Hicks pleads guilty to two counts of murder

Friday, November 17, 2000

Amid tight security, admitted serial killer James R. Hicks pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of murder. Hicks, 48, entered the pleas in Penobscot County Superior Court in the slayings of Jerilyn Towers in 1982 and Lynn Willette in 1996.

James R. Hicks

On 1 November 2000, Maine's Penobscot County grand jury formally charged confessed killer James Hicks, 49, with the murders of Jerilyn Towers and Lynn Willette. Hicks served six years of a 10-year prison sentence for killing his first wife, 23-year-old Jennie Hicks, who disappeared from the couple's Carmel home in 1977.

Hicks was not arrested for her murder until 1983 and was convicted in 1984. Before his arrest, Towers, 34, of Newport, disappeared after leaving a Newport bar with Hicks. In fact the police investigation into Towers' disappearance prompted the re-examination Jennie Hicks' disappearance and subsequently the charging Hicks with her murder. At the time he was not charged with Towers' death because police lacked adequate evidence.

After his release from prison in 1990, Hicks met 40-year-old Willette of Orrington with whom he worked at the Twin City Motel in Brewer. The two eventually lived together at a South Main Street apartment where Hicks now claims he killed Willette 26 May 1996. Though also suspected in her dissapearence, Hicks was never charged with her death because of lack of evidence. That is until he was handed a 55-year sentence in Lubbock, Texas, and confessed to the three killings and led authorities to their bodies.

Hicks was convicted in Texas of holding a gun to the head of a 67-year-old woman, forcing here to write a check to him and sign over the title to her car, and then write a suicide note. He planned to drug and drown the woman to make it look like a suicide, but she somehow managed to escaped. When he was convicted to 55 years in prison Hicks asked to cut a deal with authorities in Maine whereby he agreed to direct them to the bodies of the three missing in exchange for serving his time in Maine instead of Texas.

Back in Maine Hicks located the remains of his three victims after two days of digging around his former home in Etna and at several roadside sites in Aroostook County, Maine. The remains of his former wife and Towers were found 100 fett appart next to the home where he grew up. Willette's remains were found in concrete buckets buried next to the road in Aroostook County. Apparently all the bodies were dismembered and some parts he allegedly tossed in a nearby river.

Teeth often the surest way to identify bodies, suspects

Monday, October 23, 2000

As they unearthed the remains of women murdered decades earlier by James Hicks, crime scene investigators turned to a team of dental experts - dentists and technicians from around the state - to positively identify the victims.

Teeth are the most durable part of the human body. The enamel is 98 percent inorganic and less susceptible to decay than soft tissue or even bone. And like a fingerprint, no two sets of teeth are identical. Unlike fingerprints, almost everyone who has visited a dentist has a record of their teeth.

That's why investigators turned to dental records after Hicks confessed to murdering three missing Maine women. Hicks, who was facing a long sentence in a Texas prison for another violent crime, agreed to lead police to the bodies with the understanding that he would be imprisoned in Maine.

A handful of dentists in Maine make forensic dentistry their avocation, using the unique configuration in the human mouth to identify bodies and crime suspects.

"It's putting the pieces of the puzzle together to solve the mystery,'' said Dr. Thomas Richardson, a Portland dentist who heads one of three forensic dentistry team in the state.

Of the three means of positive identification - fingerprints, DNA and teeth - a person's dental configuration is often the quickest and easiest method, says Dr. Margaret Greenwald, Maine's chief medical examiner.

"We try to do that as quickly as possible,'' Greenwald said. "There are a lot of people out there that are concerned about making sure that the remains of a person is who we believe it to be: for the family, for the detectives that are trying to determine what happened to the person and for the public who are concerned about what may be happening.''

Long after people are dead, their teeth can communicate important information about their identity and even some of the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

Teeth also can be the key to solving violent criminal cases where a suspect or a victim has left a bite mark.

In cases like that involving Hicks' victims, members of the forensic team match past X-rays and dental charts against teeth found with remains.

Dentists were actually at the scene for the recent exhumations because they can recognize small pieces of dental material that could be important in an identification.

"You're hopefully given a known - X-rays of who they think this person may be - then it becomes simply a matching game,'' said Dr. Bruce Gallup, an Auburn dentist whose interest in dental forensics dates back to his years as a paramedic firefighter in Indiana.

Like other members of the team he helped form, Gallup has trained at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

"You use your dental skills, but in a totally different light - and it's very rewarding,'' he said.

The forensic teams also have trained to make identifications in a disaster, such as a plane crash in which dozens or even hundreds of victims might need to be identified.

"With the Hicks case, you have three people and you're pretty sure who they are and it's a matter of making a visual match,'' Richardson said. "When you have a plane crash, it's a different ballgame.''

In a major disaster, the group would use portable X-ray equipment and dental mapping techniques to develop profiles of the victims. In some cases, those profiles can be compared to prior dental records that have been scanned into a computer, allowing experts to make matches or at least narrow the possibilities.

Because teeth are incredibly resilient even in intense heat, remains can be identified even when victims are burned beyond recognition. While extreme heat sometimes causes a tooth to explode, large molars often survive. In some cases identification can be made based on the twist of the root remaining inside the jaw, Richardson said.

Another facet of forensic dentistry is gleaning information from bite marks.

In 1997, Richardson was called in after John L'Heureux of Sanford was arrested for the murders of his stepdaughter and former landlady in Augusta. Police believed a red mark on his arm was a bite and could be important to the case.

Richardson rushed to the Kennebec County Jail. Investigators, he said, have no more than 72 hours before bite marks lose their evidentiary value.

A colleague of Richardson's made a cast of the 16-year-old murder victim's upper and lower jaw. Richardson began denoting the peaks of the teeth on a transparent sheet which he then laid against L'Heureux's arm, alongside a tattoo of a skull. The map of the girl's teeth matched perfectly against the short red lines forming a semicircle on the forearm.

Richardson could tell from the bite not only that L'Heureux's stepdaughter had bitten his arm, but that his arm had been wrapped around her from behind, pulling back sharply.

Richardson, who worked as a dentist in the Alaskan bush and earned a law degree from the University of Arizona, has also helped develop information about murder suspects based on the bite mark on a victim.

Forensic dentistry shares similarities with the more common form of dentistry. Both start as mysteries, solved through analysis and experience.

"It's always an investigation,'' Richardson said. "A person comes in with a toothache and you need to find out what the problem is and how to cure it.''

Robber admits to several Maine murders

Friday, September 29, 2000

James Hicks, who pleaded guilty to a robbery in Lubbock on Friday, told authorities he was responsible for three New England women's deaths, a Lubbock prosecutor said just before noon today.

Hicks was convicted of killing his former wife, Jennifer Hicks, 23, of Maine, in 1984 and served six years in a state prison there for the crime.

He was suspected in the suspicious disappearances of two other Maine women, but had not been charged, authorities said.

Hicks, 49, agreed to serve 55 years for an April robbery here, prosecutor Susan Scolaro said.

Hicks forced a Lubbock woman to write him a check for $1,250 and sign over the title to her car, a Lubbock police report states. He also forced her to drink cough syrup, intending for her to fall asleep, the report states.

Scolaro said Hicks will serve out any jail time he may now receive for the admitted murders in Maine before he serves the 55-year Texas sentence he received in Lubbock on Friday.

Hick's former wife, Jennie Hicks, diappeared some 23 years ago. Her body was never found. Hicks, the woman's husband of seven years at the time, was convicted of fourth-degree murder and sentenced to serve 10 years in prison. He served six before being released.

Hicks was living with his current wife, Brandie, in Levelland when he was arrested in Lubbock in April. Then, Hicks was arrested and accused of holding a Lubbock woman at gunpoint, forcing her to drink cough syrup and attempting to rob her.

Since the disappearance of Jennie Hicks, authorities in Maine have linked James Hicks to the disappearance of two other women from Maine whose bodies have never been found.

Though Hicks has not been charged in connection with either case, he has been classified as a serial killer, said Jim Ricker, police chief in Newport, Maine in April.

Ricker said his department frequently followed new leads into the cases of the missing women, but they have failed to uncover tangible information.

Hicks Timeline

*July 19, 1977: Jennie Lynn Hicks, 22, is missing from her home in Carmel, Maine.

*Oct. 16, 1982: Maine resident Jerilyn Towers, 34, leaves a bar with James Hicks. That is the last time she is seen.

*1983: James Hicks is convicted of fourth-degree murder in connection with the disappearance of his wife, Jennie Lynn Hicks. He's sentenced to 10 years in prison and serves six years.

*May 26, 1996: Maine resident Lynn Willette, 40, is reported missing. She and James Hicks lived together and worked together at a motel.

*April 8, 2000: After moving to Levelland, James Hicks allegedly attempts to rob a Lubbock woman while making her drink cough syrup.

*April 12, 2000: Hicks is indicted on a charge of aggravated robbery in connection with the Lubbock case.