by Robert A. Waters
On September 5, 1990, their lives intersected in a violent encounter. At around noon, Marlys unexpectedly returned home from work. As she walked through the door, she saw Willacy burglarizing her house.
Court documents describe what happened next: “Willacy bludgeoned Sather and bound her ankles with wire and duct tape. He choked and strangled her with a cord with a force so intense that a portion of her skull was dislodged. Willacy then obtained Sather's ATM pin number, her ATM card, and the keys to her car; drove to her bank; and withdrew money out of her account. Willacy hid Sather's car around the block while he made trips to and from the house. He placed stolen items on Sather's porch for later retrieval, took a significant amount of property from Sather's house to his house, and then drove the car to Lynbrook Plaza where he left it and jogged back to Sather's home. Upon his return, Willacy disabled the smoke detectors, doused Sather with gasoline he had taken from the garage, placed a fan from the guest room at her feet to provide more oxygen for the fire, and struck several matches as he set her on fire.”
When she didn’t show up for work that afternoon, Sather’s employer notified her family. Her son-in-law entered the house to check on her, and located her body. He immediately called police.
Willacy’s fingerprints were found on the following items: a fan that lay at the feet of the victim; a gas can; and a tape recorder inside the residence. Several witnesses testified that they saw Willacy driving Sather’s car to the ATM machine she often used. The suspect’s wife called police and informed investigators she’d found a “check register” belonging to Sather in a trash can inside their home. After obtaining a search warrant, officers found other items belonging to Sather, as well as clothing that contained Sather’s blood.
Cops arrested Willacy. After he confessed to being inside the home when Sather was slain, investigators charged him with first-degree premeditated murder, burglary, robbery, and arson.
Over the last 20 years, Willacy has had dozen of appeals, all turned down for one reason: the evidence of his guilt is overwhelming.
This case meets my criteria for putting a killer to death: obvious, undeniable guilt, and a heinous murder.