Early Sunday morning, July 27, 1986, police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, were summoned to a location on the edge of downtown, an area frequented by street people and drifters. A report had come in that the body of a young woman had been found.
When police arrived, they found the body of a woman who had been beaten to death and placed in a posed position. Her pants were draped over one arm, a tennis shoe was put on each side of her body and her blouse was pulled up to her neck. An iron pipe lay across her throat.
The death scene was cordoned off. Crime lab technicians and the Hennepin County medical examiner were called in. One spectator standing nearby thought the victim was a street person who hung around bars on Franklin Avenue.
The victim was identified as Kathleen Bullman, 19, a native of Rapid City, South Dakota. She had arrived in Minneapolis two weeks earlier after leaving her young daughter with relatives. She had hitchhiked to Minneapolis and lived on the streets.
The medical examiner’s preliminary finding was that she was beaten to death with the iron pipe placed on her neck. An autopsy report by deputy state medical examiner Lindsey Thomas revealed that the victim, an American Indian, had died of strangulation after being severely beaten on the head with a blunt instrument. She had also been sexually mutilated.
Deputy police Chief John Laux began an investigation and assigned several detectives to the case. Questioning bar owners on Franklin Avenue, investigators learned that Bullman was a regular in their establishments who was well behaved and caused no trouble. None of them had any idea why she was murdered.
Capt. Jack McCarthy, head of the homicide unit, thought that whoever committed the crime lived in or frequented the area. He centered his investigation in the bars and restaurants along Franklin Avenue. Suspects were questioned, alibis checked, but no arrests were made in the death of Kathleen Bullman.
Then on April 11, 1987, the body of another young Indian woman, identified as Angeline Whitebird-Sweet, 26, was discovered in a field off Franklin Avenue near the American Indian Center. She had been severely beaten and apparently strangled. Her clothing had been removed and like Bullman, she had been sexually mutilated and placed in a posed position.
Police learned that Whitebird-Sweet, a native of the Bad River Reservation in Wisconsin, left home after her ex-husband took their three young children with him to Alaska. She also visited Franklin Avenue establishments but no connection was found between Bullman and Whitebird-Sweet. Bar patrons said Whitebird-Sweet was last seen around 2 a.m. looking for a ride home.
Lindsey Thomas, the state pathologist who performed the autopsy on Bullman, suspected a serial killer after she read the postmortem report on Whitebird-Sweet. “I have never seen two cases so similar,” she said.
After questioning more than 100 possible suspects, police had little solid evidence and no prime suspect.
On April 29, 1987, a man walking along railroad tracks near the Mississippi River found a woman lying alongside the tracks. Police were called. It was a dead woman in her 20s, stripped naked. Her skull bashed in, the body mutilated and posed. Her name was Angela Green. She was of Indian descent. Green had been a rape victim three times in Minneapolis.
Now there was no question that a serial killer was on the loose. The slayings aroused fear and anger in the Native American community, especially among women. Indian leaders called for an intensified investigation.
Thanks to cooperation from the public, a suspect emerged, a 44-year-old transient who went by the name Jessie Sittingcrow. Detectives learned that Sittingcrow was a Caucasian named Billy Richard Glaze who also used the names Sittingcrow and Jesse Coulter. He also used various ages and birthplaces.
Glaze drew attention to himself by making loud derogatory remarks about Indian women in bars. He was a general nuisance in the area and was warned several times by bouncers to behave himself or go elsewhere.
Still, no connection was made between Glaze and the victims. Under questioning, Glaze denied involvement in the murders but he did admit hostility toward Indian women.
Three days after the murder of Angela Green, Glaze got in his truck and drove to Montana, where he sold some tools and a wheelbarrow, and then went to Albuquerque, New Mexico. There he was picked up for a traffic violation and jailed. Minneapolis detectives paid him a visit and searched his truck and trailer, but they returned home empty handed.
Meanwhile, police in Texas had Glaze transferred to the Lone Star State to face a parole violation in connection with a rape case 10 years earlier.
Minneapolis authorities wanted to charge Glaze with the murder of the three women, but Hennepin County prosecutor Tom Johnson wanted more evidence. He was especially bothered by the credibility of some of the witnesses.
Then police got a tip from a prison inmate who led them to a man who said he and two others saw Billy Glaze kill a woman, apparently Kathleen Bullman, with an iron pipe. Next, Glaze’s former girlfriend, mad at Glaze because he stole money from her, cooperated with police. She gave officers a ring set with a single pearl that Glaze had given her. It was traced back to one of the victims.
Next, police matched a crime scene footprint with a brand of tennis shoes owned by Glaze. They also found a man who saw Glaze in the vicinity of the Angela Green killing.
That was enough for prosecutors. They had Glaze brought back to Minnesota from Texas to face federal charges related to a fraudulent Social Security card application. He was convicted on those charges and sentenced to two years in prison.
Not long after, a Hennepin County grand jury, after hearing testimony from more than 50 witnesses, returned an indictment charging Glaze with one count each of murder during the commission of sexual assault against Kathleen Bullman, Angeline Whitebird-Sweet and Angela Green.
Bail was set at $2 million. The murder trial of Billy Glaze was scheduled for Jan. 9, 1989.
The trial before Judge David Lebedoff featured witnesses including Minneapolis street people, bar patrons, prison inmates, law enforcement officers, pathologists, crime technicians and experts called to the stand by both the prosecution and the defense.
The jury began deliberations on Feb. 7, 1989, a Tuesday. They reached a verdict on Friday: Guilty on three counts of first-degree murder, and guilty on three counts of second-degree murder.
Glaze showed no emotion as the verdict was read. Judge Lebedoff sentenced him to serve at least 50 years behind bars before becoming eligible for parole.