‘Phantom’ killer of girls, ages 7, 6, sent back to prison: ‘He was given his freedom and he violated it’
PHOENIX, Ariz. — The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency voted to send William Huff back to prison on Wednesday, Jan. 9. Huff murdered two young girls in 1967, and was released to home arrest three years ago. His parole officers say they found an 8-year-old girl in his apartment during a surprise visit in November.
“He was given his freedom, and yet, from my perspective, he violated it,” said CT Wright, chairman.
Huff was 16 years old when he lured 7-year-old Cindy Clelland into the desert near Sierra Vista. When searchers found her body, she was naked and mutilated.
A month later, the Sierra Vista Police Department received a letter from “The Phantom,” stating the killer was targeting another young girl.
Within the following month, 6-year-old Janelle Haines disappeared. Her body was also naked when it was found.
Within days, police arrested Huff. He pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder later that year and was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison.
In 2016, the Clemency Board released Huff to home arrest and he ended up in Tucson.
In November, his parole officers paid him a surprise visit. During Wednesday’s board hearing, one of the officers said Huff opened the door, stepped outside, then closed the door behind him. She said that he normally would invite them inside.
“It was really strange to me. I was like, what’s going on?'” she said.
“I never tried to conceal anything,” Huff said Wednesday.
The parole officer said Huff’s girlfriend opened the door and revealed a sleeping 8-year-old girl on the floor of the living room. The girl was the girlfriend’s niece. The next day, Huff was taken into custody.
On Wednesday, the Clemency Board listened to testimony to decide whether to revoke Huff’s home arrest and send him back to prison, or to re-release him.
Attorney Michael Kielsky argued that the terms of Huff’s release were ambiguous, at the least.
The line at issue states Huff would not have “any form of contact with anyone under the age of 18 without a parent or legal guardian present and/OR prior authorization or permission from my assigned parole officer/supervisor.”
Kielsky argued that because the child’s parents were at Huff’s apartment, he did not need permission from his parole officer because the conditions of release included an “OR” prior permission from the parole officer.
Board member David Neal challenged that interpretation, saying that the “and” before the “OR” meant that the parole officer needed to offer permission whether the parents were there or not.
Huff’s sister testified that he was not a danger to the community.
“He’s a wonderful man. He’s not going to kill anybody. He’s not going to hurt anybody. He won’t even hurt anybody’s feelings,” said LaWanda Bishop.
One of Huff’s brothers phoned into the hearing and stated that his sister did not speak for the family.
“We asked him to do two things. One, tell us what happened, and understand and apologize for what you put us through. He never did that,” he said.
Victim Janelle Haines niece called in to speak out against Huff’s release from custody.
“A 6-year-old and a 7-year-old were stabbed, strangled, eviscerated, you name it — hit over the head with a rock and attempted rape,” said Melisa Haines.
In Huff’s final statement, he complained about what he called incorrect statements in his corrections record, and he called his treatment “egregious.”
“This is egregious. I need an explanation why I’ve been in here 52 years on a 40 to life sentence,” Huff said.
In the end, the board voted unanimously to revoke Huff’s home arrest status and send him back to prison to continue his sentence.