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April 24, 2012

New Albany man faces two murder charges

Prosecutor says William Gibson implicated himself in new, old cases

NEW ALBANY — A New Albany man is facing two murder charges, one from a recent case and another from a 2002 cold case.

William Clyde Gibson III, 54, was charged in Floyd County Superior Court on Tuesday with two counts of murder in the deaths of 75-year-old Christine Whitis, of Clarksville, and 45-year-old Karen Hodella, of Jeffersonville. He is also charged with being a habitual offender.

Whitis was found Thursday strangled in Gibson’s home in the 800 block of Woodbourne Drive, near University Woods Apartments off Grant Line Road, in New Albany, according to Prosecutor Keith Henderson. Henderson said her body was discovered in the garage of the home by a relative of Gibson’s.

Gibson was named as a person of interest in that case early on. He was found driving Whitis’ van and was initially arrested in the Walmart parking lot along Grant Line Road for operating while intoxicated and resisting law enforcement.

Henderson said during questioning, Gibson not only implicated himself in that crime, but also in the murder of Hodella, who was reported missing in October 2002. Her body was found in Clark County in January 2003.

Henderson said bloody clothes were found in Corydon, but he believes Hodella’s murder happened near University Woods Apartments, but added that he doesn’t think it happened in Gibson’s home. Hodella’s case became cold until just a few days ago.

Clarksville Police Department Maj. Darrell Rayborn had worked the case from the beginning.

“You think about these cases all the time and I haven’t forgotten about it,” he said. “We had no place to go. Then we got a call from New Albany with some information that leads us to this.”

Henderson said both victims were with Gibson voluntarily. He said Hodella had met him at a bar.

FAMILY’S CONNECTION

Mike Whitis, Christine’s son, said his mother and Gibson’s mother were close friends for decades. He said Gibson’s mother passed away recently. He said Gibson was like a close cousin, since the families spent so much time together.

“My mother loved them all very much and would have done anything she could for any of them,” he said.

Mike Whitis said he isn’t sure why his mother went over to Gibson’s home that night, but said he is sure he will find out she was there to help him.

“There’s no good that comes from something like this — ever. But finding out today that this case was linked to another homicide that is almost 10 years old, I think my family will take some solace in knowing that somehow my mother’s death may have put some closure to some other family grieving and help bring a monster to justice where he will never plague the community again.”

Mike said his mother is survived by himself, his wife Julie, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He described his mother as a “saint on Earth,” who was young-spirited and loved to travel.

Henderson said investigators are having difficulty contacting family of Hodella.

If convicted, Gibson faces 45 to 65 years in prison for each murder charge and an additional 30 years for the habitual offender charge.

Gibson has previously been convicted of the following felonies: second degree assault; first degree wanton endangerment; second degree robbery; first degree sexual abuse; receiving stolen auto parts; auto theft (two cases); receiving stolen property (two cases); and theft.

Gibson does not have an attorney at this time, but will be appointed a public defender.

Henderson said the OWI and resisting law enforcement charges are on hold right now.

Gibson’s trial on the murders is scheduled for Aug. 27. He is being held in the Floyd County Jail on no bond.

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