William Macumber, convicted killer freed by justice project, back in jail for child sex assault

Categories: Colorado Crimes

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William Macumber. More photos below.
Is it possible that 78-year-old William Macumber is both innocent of an Arizona double-murder for which he spent nearly four decades in prison and guilty of sexually abusing a Colorado child who's also a member of his own family?

That's among the possibilities in a case that's shocking on every level. Continue for details and photos about the original story and the incredible reversal.

The Arizona Republic first revealed that Macumber has been in Arapahoe County Jail since last October -- the same month the Phoenix New Times, a sister paper of Westword, published a feature article entitled "After 38 Years Behind Bars, Bill Macumber Joins Those Freed by the Arizona Justice Project."

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A vintage photo of Carol Macumber (now Carol Kempfert), William Macumber's ex-wife, from Arizona Republic coverage.
The Republic learned of Macumber's incarceration from Carol Kempfert, his ex-wife -- and the woman thought by some to have framed him during the mid-1970s for the 1962 murders of a young couple, Tim McKillop and Joyce Sterrenberg.

Here's how writer Weston Phippen described the killings:

In spring 1962, a man and a woman left a Scottsdale home for gas at about 8:30 p.m. After filling their tank, the engaged couple drove to a subdivision of houses for sale, where a security guard eyed them as they passed in their 1959 Chevrolet Impala.

After looking around, the couple then drove to Bell and Scottsdale roads, continuing on a dirt path and stopping 300 feet from the main road at a popular lovers' lane, perhaps to kiss and discuss their upcoming marriage and the home they longed to buy.

They were the all-American couple: both twenty years old, him with blond hair and blue eyes. That night, she wore a white-and-yellow blouse to match her white tennis shoes and yellow capri pants.

"Victim No. 2 was neatly dressed and appeared to have been shot twice in the head," a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office report noted about her later.

She collapsed only seven feet from her love -- who'd also been shot in the head -- staring up at the night sky, the class ring she'd been given still secure on her index finger.

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A photo collage featuring Joyce Sterrenberg and Tim McKillop, as seen in an Arizona Republic video.
Cut to 1974, after the Macumbers had separated. A gunshot was fired near William's home, nearly striking him, and investigators began exploring the possibility that Carol had fired it. In the meantime, however, Carol, who was then working at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, had information of her own. She told law enforcers that Macumber had told her he'd killed McKillop and Sterrenberg.

The path by which Macumber was ultimately convicted of these slayings was long and labyrinthine, as were the Arizona Justice Project's efforts to free him; Phippen's feature does a fine job of negotiating all the twists and turns. But finally, in late 2012, Macumber pleaded "no contest" in the case -- a decision that may not have been the complete exoneration for which his many supporters had hoped, but one that led to his release and seemingly ensured that he wouldn't die in prison.

The following year, Phippen spent time with Macumber in the Denver area, where he'd moved to live with his son, Ronald, and two grandchildren, ages nine and eleven at the time of the New Times article. When Phippen asked him about the no-contest plea, he said, "I'm sure it was the right choice.... I know it each time I hold my great-granddaughters on my lap."

This last comment is extremely unsettling given the latest allegations.

Continue for more about the child-sex-assault arrest of William Macumber, including additional photos.


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22 comments
Candie Bernard
Candie Bernard

Sadly, though, he had a better shot than most. He had family who were there for him. Most people, after that many years, would not have had that.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

Prison is like the republican party....a factory for pedophiles.

Matthew Slim Gaer
Matthew Slim Gaer

If you haven't been to prison for 40 years you shouldn't dare to speak as if you know what prison can and can't do to people. No one is the same when they get out. Did you know 75% of men in prison turn to homosexuality and rape and explicit pornography? Do a tour at canon city and let them tell you theirselves. Regardless of innocence or not. Prison is FULLY capable of transforming someone if they don't have the mind power to maintain. Those with a strong will and sense of being still come out changed. Maybe not a child molester. But changed

Jay Haven
Jay Haven

After 40 years of structured life there is no life outside of prison

Roderick Fitzgerald
Roderick Fitzgerald

Handy Wipe, I cannot begin to understand how your ordeal affected you, which was my point. I say "transformed" because it's a fact of life that experiences can change us for better or for worse. Ask any veteran who suffers from post -traumatic stress disorders. Ask any victim of molestation who has become a molester. Would you also say that child who was victimized was always a molester? No one can say whether this guy was a molester before he went to prison, or whether he was ever guilty of murder. I can say, though, that I had a childhood friend who went to prison for 10 years for being stupid enough to help a friend commit fraud. The guy that went in was not the guy that came out. I didn't even know the guy who came out. The point I'm making is...we cannot presume to know the hearts of others. If he committed this crime, he is now a child molester. But you and I can never say he was or was not one before prison. Human nature is not that simple.

Candie Bernard
Candie Bernard

It sounds like he had the opportunity to stay with family. From the article, it seems like he was staying with family members until they discovered that he had perped on a child, at which point he was asked to leave. Other family members then turned their backs on him, as well. He burned his bridges. There are companies that will rent to, and employ, felons also.

Jay Haven
Jay Haven

I agree..... But still after so long in prison what do you do ..... No one will rent to you.... No one will give you a job.... And after not working for four decades you have no social security..... What do you do? Kill...?...One last ..you know ... With whatever...... Bad stuff ...... This is why there is parol.... But this most often fails......

Candie Bernard
Candie Bernard

When people want to commit a crime to return to prison, they don't choose child molestation...unless they were already sexually attracted to children before that time.

Candie Bernard
Candie Bernard

People don't transform into child molesters while in prison. If he had a sexual attraction to children, it didn't begin after he was locked up.

Evan Mathis
Evan Mathis

That's exactly what I was thinking...

Maggie May
Maggie May

Exactly, HW, he was a pedophile before prison. Maybe that's why his wife had tried to shoot him?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Proof that Prisons are Psychopath Factories

Jay Haven
Jay Haven

After forty years, there's nothing left in life for him. They let them out and they can't deal with it so they commit some other crime to get put back in...... It happens every time....

Handy Wipe
Handy Wipe

Ummm, Roderick Fitzgerald, he was "transformed" into a child molester? Really? That's the story you're going with? I don't know about his guilt or innocence on the murder charges but if he molested a child now, he's molested in the past. Carl Wlodarczyk once a child molester, always a child molester. Otherwise he'd have been released and raped a person nearer his own age. Take it from an incest survivor who was passed around like a cigarette pack, it's a special twist that prefers children to adults.

Scott McMahon
Scott McMahon

Honestly what can you expect from a person that was in jail for FOUR decades??? good behavior?

Carl Wlodarczyk
Carl Wlodarczyk

If true, then I'm not really surprised. I don't think you can spend 38 years in prison as an innocent man, and come out as the same person who went in. If he is a monster, then he is one that society has created.

Roderick Fitzgerald
Roderick Fitzgerald

If Macumber is actually guilty of the first crime, then this is karma. But what If he is innocent of the 1962 crime, as he maintained, and spending 38 years in prison has transformed him into a child molester, then that is just tragic irony.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

Well Slim, assuming you take your own advice, can we presume that you HAVE been in prison for 40 years?



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