By GARY POPP
NEW ALBANY —
Accused serial killer William Clyde Gibson III described to police detectives how he killed a 75-year-old woman, mutilated her body, and then went to have a drink at a local restaurant, according to a video interview shown on the first day of his murder trial Monday.
The police interview with Gibson painted a picture of a gruesome crime and a man who was struggling with his demons leading up to the sexual assault and killing of Christine Whitis, a longtime family friend. Gibson’s trial began Monday morning in a Floyd County court, where prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson told the jury — which was selected in and transported from Dearborn County — that Gibson, 56, sexually assaulted Whitis, Clarksville, before killing the woman in his Woodbourne Drive home in New Albany in April 2012. Henderson said Whitis and Gibson knew each other, as she had been the best friend of Gibson’s mother.
The chain of events began when GIbson placed a call to Whitis’ cell phone on April 18, 2012.
Gibson reached Whitis about 10:50 a.m., but she was preoccupied with a doctor’s visit and called Gibson back minutes after noon, Henderson told the jurors. Henderson claimed Gibson used the pretense that he was grieving from his mother’s passing to lure Whitis to his home. He said Gibson treated Whitis as his “prey” after she came to the home to give him support.
During opening remarks, Henderson showed a color photograph of Whitis on a large projection screen and described her as an active, vibrant and healthy widow with a strong relationship with her son and grandchildren.
“She is loved and she loved,” Henderson said as he introduced the case to the jurors.
Once Whitis entered Gibson’s home, he quickly began his sexual assault, Henderson said.
“As he brought her in, he knew what he was going to do to her,” Henderson said, adding that once the assault began, “There was no one to hear her scream. There was no one to hear her cries.”
He said the brutal assault left Whitis with bite marks and evidence that Gibson had sexually assaulted her.
The next day, with Whitis’ body in the home’s attached garage, Henderson said Gibson cut off her breast as “a trophy” before he went for lunch at Hooters in Whitis’ vehicle.
While Gibson was away from the home, one of his sisters came to the house, found the remains in the garage and called authorities.
Gibson was located driving Whitis’ minivan and he was apprehended at the Grant Line Road Walmart. Her right breast was found in the console area of the vehicle.
Henderson’s first four witnesses were all officers with the New Albany Police Department who responded to Gibson’s home about 3 p.m. April 19, 2012. Each of the officers testified that Whitis was found lying unresponsive on the floor of the home’s attached garage. Her pants and underwear were found pulled down to her ankles and her shoes were still on her feet.
Her shirt was pulled up and her bra was unclasped, the officers said from the witness stand.
Her body was contorted, lying in an unnatural position. Henderson had told the jurors earlier in the day that Gibson had broken Whitis’ back during the fatal encounter.
One of the officers, Detective Carrie East, was the last to testify Monday, and she is expected to return to the witness stand before the end of the week.
During the latter half of the trial’s first day, the court was shown more than an hour of a video recording of East interviewing Gibson the day after his arrest. East said Gibson had wanted to talk to her the night before, but he was determined to be too intoxicated to conduct the interview. After Gibson’s arrest, and a stop at Floyd Memorial Hospital for DNA collection, he was taken to the Floyd County Jail where he provided a .23 blood alcohol content.
The interview was held in a small room, and Gibson was already wearing an orange jumpsuit issued by the Floyd County Jail.
In the recording, Gibson admits to strangling Whitis in the living room of his home, dragging her into the garage and then mutilating her body before leaving the home to have a drink at Tumbleweed restaurant. According to prosecutors, Gibson then went to Shooters Saloon, which is now Uptown Bar, located on Vincennes Street.
While at Shooters, Gibson saw a friend, shared drinks with the man, and invited him to his home for more drinking. The man came to Gibson’s home, and the two visited for nearly an hour and a half as Whitis lie dead in another part of the home.
The man left the home unaware of murder, and was later found to be a cooperative witness for investigators.
In the video footage of East interviewing Gibson, he showed glimpses of remorse and bewilderment of his actions that took the life of a woman he’d known virtually all his life.
“I wish you could just shoot me,” he told East earlier in the interview. Adding later in the conversation, “I was going to hang myself, but I didn’t have enough nerve to do [it]. I should have.”
While Gibson buried his face in his hands and seemed perplexed at his own actions, he cited his mother’s death in January of the same year — and his deep sadness and heavy drinking that resulted from it — as a possible excuse for attacking Whitis. Gibson even told East that he had pretty much stayed intoxicated since his mother had died.
“I was just so full of pain, anger and rage. I was thinking about my mom,” Gibson said.
He also said he had not slept for several days before taking her life.
After the trial was adjourned for the day, Henderson took time to say that his office understands the discomfort the proceedings can place on Whitis’ family and friends, especially those who are attending the trial.
“It is difficult for the family,” he said. “We shouldn’t forget that.”
Henderson also said Floyd County Prosecutor’s office employees will be notifying family seated in the courtroom’s gallery before sensitive and graphic testimony or evidence is discussed in open court.
“It is very difficult for them and we want to minimize that the best we can, but at the same time prove the case on behalf of the state and take care of the business at hand,” he said.
The trial is being held in Floyd County Superior Court No. 1 with Judge Susan Orth presiding.
Gibson is being represented by attorneys J. Patrick Biggs and George Streib. The trial is expected to last two weeks, according to court officials.
Gibson has also been charged in the murders of Stephanie Kirk and Karen Hodella. He is scheduled to go to separate trials for both the deaths.