Evidence was mounting in murder cases before suspect’s death, detectives say
SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The drifter suspected in the deaths of two women in wooded areas along U.S. 41 died Sunday morning of apparent natural causes in the Sarasota County Jail.
Investigators were painting a picture of a man with a history of violence, tying him to two recent murders, when the cases came crashing to a halt over the weekend.
William Devonshire died June 5 in the Sarasota County Jail after being treated for a brain bleed caused by a head injury last month during a epileptic seizure, authorities said.
Devonshire had refused to take medication while in jail, Sarasota Police Detective Kim Laster said at a news conference Monday.
After the seizure, doctors at Sarasota Memorial Hospital determined treatment would not be beneficial and Devonshire was returned to the jail May 27 and placed in hospice care before he died Sunday morning, Laster said.
William Devonshire was facing charges in the death of 48-year-old Kelliann Ripley. Ripley was found dead in Centennial Park Feb. 25. The medical examiner found that Ripley died due to blunt force trauma and manual strangulation.
Sarasota Police also believed that Devonshire was a strong suspect in a second eerily similar case -- The body of Vickie Levitch was found March 10 under Whitaker Bayou Bridge along North Tamiami Trail. Levitch also died from asphyxiation by strangulation, investigators said.
Detectives had pieced together a web of evidence, including surveillance video, witnesses and cell phone tracking information.
But the most damning evidence that emerged in both cases were DNA matches in the two cases, detectives said Monday.
Sarasota Police Detective Kim Laster said Devonshire willing gave police a DNA sample during their investigation.
Sarasota Police Detective Maria Llovio said Devonshire cooperated with police during questioning. “It was a cat-and-mouse game in the interview. He was playing us as we were trying to get information out of him,” she said.
“We strongly believe that ... he felt very safe, that we were not looking at him. I believe he felt he had covered his tracks very well, which is why we think he provided his DNA swab.”
His DNA matched evidence found at the two murder scenes. Llovio said lab results showed Devonshire’s DNA was found on Levitch’s hands and on branches used to hide the body. Police were preparing to charge Devonshire with Levitch’s murder when they found out he had died over the weekend.
Devonshire, described a homeless drifter, began his criminal career as a 14-year-old in Delaware. By the time he left prison in that state in 2013, he had been arrested more than 69 times, on charged including domestic battery, aggravated assualt, sexual battery and robbery
In 2003, he was charged with first-degree murder, Assistant State Attorney Karen Fraivillig told reporters in Sarasota Monday. The charges were eventually reduced to second-degree murder. He was released in 2013, and moved to Sarasota.
In 2018 he was convicted of felony battery and burglary and served three years in the Florida prison system. he was released in Aug. 2021.
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