Buried in the Backyard (2018–…): Season 2, Episode 4 - Murders in Maine - full transcript

When a young mother in Newport Maine goes missing, the case goes cold until another mom suddenly vanishes, sparking an investigation that leads to a deadly game of cat-and-mouse and grisly discoveries in a rustic backyard.

In Newport, Maine,

a young mother of two
goes missing.


FERNAND: A neighbor heard
her screaming,

you know,
"Jimmy, stop, stop."


JOSEPH: This is not
a missing-persons case.

We got a serious problem.

The trail goes cold

until another mother
suddenly vanishes.

JOSEPH: I thought,
"Here we go again."

Well, I knew he was the killer.

NARRATOR: A brother
determined to find the truth.

VANCE: I said,
"Did you kill my sister?"

And a race against time

to catch a serial killer.

All about cutting
these people up.

And it was just
a matter of time

before he killed again.

I was scared to death.



a picture-perfect autumn day

in Newport, Maine.

Church steeples
and sunlit farms

sit against blue skies

and red and golden leaves.

It's quintessential
New England.

It's a rural area

with the typical woolen mills,

a lot of small stores,
small businesses.

It has the working class

mill type people,

you know, honest people.

IDA: People are very close
if you're in a small community.

You know each other.

You know things that go on.

Some people
don't even lock their doors.


NARRATOR: But it's not
too far outside Newport

in the backyard
of a ramshackle house

that the scene is anything

but picturesque.

JAMES: There were
state troopers and detectives.

They had a backhoe there

and they were
hand-digging as well.

They had just moved
some topsoil.

From behind the police tape,

longtime local,
Vance Tibbetts,

has gathered with a crowd
of other townies.

VANCE: I was out there
on the line that day

watching with binoculars,

cameras, you know,

there were
a lot of people there.

NARRATOR: Suddenly...

the digging comes
to an abrupt stop.

VANCE: All of a sudden,
they started looking over at us,

looking around,
one guy jumps out of the hole

and goes to some
superior officer.

And then...

uh, they told us
they had found some remains.

Many people
started crying, you know.

I had the strangest feeling

that that would be my sister.

NARRATOR: Thirty-four-year-old
Jerilyn Towers

is a single working mom
with three kids.

Though she struggles
to make ends meet,

her generous spirit endears her
to everyone she meets.

IDA: Jeri, I mean,
she was a wonderful person.

She really was a kind person.
She had a good heart.

If you wanted somebody
to be friends with,

she's the one you'd want.

VANCE: If you was in a store
ahead of her

and you was 20 cents short,
or a dollar short,

she'd take it right out
and make it up for you.

She worked at a, uh,
nursing facility.

Patients loved her, you know.

She was good to them.

NARRATOR: Jeri has plenty
of love to go around

and an endless reserve
for her three kids.

She was a great mother.

Loved them kids.

They'd go bowling,
fishing, things like that.

She used to keep her
change in a jar,

just a big mayonnaise
jar probably.

There was always, you know,
maybe eight, ten, twelve bucks

in there in change
to spend on her kids

when times got a little tough.

On this fall day,

Jeri breaks into the mayo jar

and takes her kids bowling
with her mom and stepdad.

After a few rounds
of knocking some pins down,

Jeri's mom offers
to take the kids home

so Jeri can unwind
after a tough week.

Well, the bowling alley
wasn't too far from the Gateway.

It's a bar and a pizza place.

When they got to the Gateway,
Jeri told our stepfather,

"Drop me off here for a while
and I'll call you

in a couple of hours
to come get me."

The call never comes.

But around 1:00 AM,

it sounds like Jeri
makes it home.

VANCE: My stepfather
and, uh, my mother,

they lived in that duplex
with Jeri and three kids.

And, uh, a car
pulled in the driveway,

shut the light
and the engines off

for a long time,

long enough that my stepfather
believed that

Jeri had gotten a ride home,

he wouldn't have to go
to the Gateway and get her.

So, he went to bed.


VANCE: The next day,
I got a call from my mother.

"Jeri didn't come home
last night.

I'm kind of worried about her."
I said, "Geez."

The thing that was really
out of character

with her not coming home
was that she didn't call mom.

That was the only thing
that got people really worried.

No matter where she was,
she always did that.

NARRATOR: After an entire day
of worrying and waiting,

Jeri's family calls
the Newport Police

to report her missing.

But detectives suspect
there's a simple explanation.

There was some thought

that she had left with a man

and just didn't disclose
to her parents

what had happened.

I started to think,
"Is it strange for a woman

to get involved
in a new relationship

and know that
their kids were safe

and leave for a week or so?"

That's not strange at all.

But you think, well, my word.

No. She couldn't.

She-- she would never run off
on her family like that.

No. She loved her kids.
She really did love her kids.

Detective Ricker knows

even the most loving parents

do the craziest things

and suspects Jeri
will be back in a day or two.

But when she still hasn't
surfaced a few days later,

Ricker heads
to the Gateway Lounge

to try to dig up answers.

JAMES: The bartender says,
"Jerilyn, she was there

and there was a man
in the bar.

And he drank with her."

To quote her, she says,
"I can't remember names,

but I can always
remember a face."

And she said
they did leave together

at 1:00 in the morning.

There's no doubt about it.

The man she saw leaving
with Jerilyn that night

is a local named James Hicks.

We got a physical address

on where James Hicks lived

and we went to his residence.

At the door,
I simply identified myself.

He was there
with his girlfriend,

Linda Marquis,
and told him I was there

to investigate

the missing-person case

of Jerilyn Towers

who had disappeared
in the Gateway Lounge.

I thought he was gonna faint.

He gets a glass of water

and his hands were shaking.

And he takes the water

like he's gonna drink

but ends up
pouring it everywhere.

This guy obviously
had something on his conscience

that was really
wearing on him.

And he was physically unable
to control himself.

he just started blurting out,

"You think I killed
my first wife,

Jennifer Hicks?"

I thought, "Oh, my God.

This is more than
a missing-persons case."

FERNAND: There was no body,
there was no weapon,

and there was no blood.

JOSEPH: She jumped up
and ran out the front door

and immediately called 911.

SUSAN: I was petrified.


NARRATOR: Thirty-four-year-old
single mom,

Jerilyn Towers,
mysteriously disappeared

from a local bar in Maine
just five days ago.

And when investigators
show up to question

the man she was seen
leaving with,

they get a most
bizarre response.

James Hicks disclosed

about how you think
I killed my first wife.

He identified her
as Jennifer Hicks.

"Oh, I didn't."

And then I brought him
back that night

Jerilyn was missing
from the bar.

And he was just giving me
this blank stare.

I mean, visibly shaken,

like he was ready
to say something.

And his girlfriend
got between he and I

and said,
"This is my house

and I'm ordering you
out of my house."

It certainly was suspicious.

But we had nothing else
to go on.

So, I thought
you better keep your eyes

on what's going on with him.

A baffled Detective Ricker

turns his attention
to Jennie Hicks,

in hopes
it will lead to clues

in the disappearance
of Jerilyn Towers.

I thought, "I've got to find
this first wife."

I quickly found out

that Jennifer Hicks'
maiden name was Cyr,

so I just took a stab
in the phonebook

and called the only Cyr
I could find

and I believe
it was Claude Cyr.

Told him who I was

and asked him if he was familiar
with Jennifer Hicks.

He starts crying on the phone.

Basically, what I learned
was in family of Jennie Hicks,

these people were just sitting
for five or six years

wanting to tell a story
they never had a chance to tell,

'cause nobody asked.

In the summer of 1977,

23-year-old Jennie Hicks

is married to her
high school sweetheart,


SUSAN: She was tall.
She was very pretty.

She could cook
like you wouldn't believe.

James, he'd come up
right behind her

and whisper in her ear,
see what she was cooking.

I mean, you could see
that he did love her

and she loved him.

The young couple is busy

trying to raise
two adorable kids.

She loved her kids to death.

She really, really did.

She'd do anything
for her kids.

But she didn't spoil them,
you know.

She would teach them to count,

at the same time
teaching them to share.

And she's just
a wonderful person.

NARRATOR: Susan Matley
is just 15 years old

when she comes to live
with the Hicks family.

I was in foster care

and I didn't like
the foster home

that I was living in.

I had found out that Jennie

was looking for a babysitter

and we talked and everything
and she liked me.

So then she called
my caseworker

and made arrangements for me

to move in there with her.

Jennie was like
a second mom to me.

As the kids get older

and the money tighter,

the once blissful marriage
starts to crack.

I think James wasn't happy.

Well, at finally,
you know, at one point,

Jennie told me that James
was gonna be moving out.

NARRATOR: Days later,
James Hicks frantically calls

the sheriff's department.

His wife, Jennie, is missing.

When the deputy responded,

James said that his wife

ran off with another man

and she wanted to break off
the relationship.

SUSAN: I didn't think Jennie
would cheat on her husband.

Jennie would never
leave her kids.

Jennie would never leave
without saying anything.

Investigators think otherwise,

suspecting Jennie ran off
to escape an unhappy marriage.

they have neither the time

nor resources
to devote to her case.

JOSEPH: Missing-persons cases
have a way

of getting put
on the back burner.

You got no witnesses,

you got no crime scene.

So, what are you gonna do?

NARRATOR: Jennie's family
can't get anyone

to pay attention.

That all changes
six years later in 1982,

when Detective Ricker
is trying to find

Jerilyn Towers

and learns about
Jennie Hicks instead.

JOSEPH: Jennie Hicks'
family was basically

telling the police,

"Hey, you know, uh,

he was abusive,
he was controlling.

She'd made up her mind

that she was gonna have
to leave him."

And then the following morning,

she's not there,
where was she?

So the sense you got
was that something happened.

NARRATOR: Suspecting
there's a serious problem,

state investigators
review the evidence

and don't hesitate to reopen

the closed case
of Jennie Hicks.

Police quickly identify
potential witnesses.

One in particular
has never spoken to anyone

about Jennie's disappearance.

There was a live-in babysitter,

so the state police detective

tracked her down
out of state.

SUSAN: I was working
and these gentlemen

come walking up there,
flash their badge and say,

"We believe you have
something to tell us

about James Hicks
and Jennie Hicks."

And I just wanted
to fall to my knees.

I just fell back
against the wall

and I said, "Yes, I do."

I was scared to death.

She said, "Oh, yeah.

I never dared to talk
to the police before

because I was scared of--
of Hicks."

And I told them, the night

that Jennie disappeared,

I was preparing the meal
for Jennie

before she came home
and all of a sudden,

James just grabbed me
and tried to make

advances at me
and I'm, like,

"No, no, leave me alone,"

and he took his cigar
and burnt me.

When James left to go
to work the next day,

I talked to Jennie

and I told Jennie exactly

what had happened
and everything

and that's when
she had asked me

to go out that night
because she was gonna

ask James for a divorce
and have him leave.

Later that night,

Susan comes home
to an unsettling scene.

James was just sitting there

in the chair watching TV,

but there was nothing
on the TV screen,

but there was just white fuzz.

I looked over at Jennie
and she was laying

like this and her hand
was over like this

and her hair
was all blocking her face.

You could see
something wasn't right

and he told me
she was sleeping

and nobody can sleep
in that position.

Susan is terrified,

and when she wakes up
the next morning,

both Jennie and James
are gone.

Her purse was there,
her glasses were there.

I knew something terrible
had happened.

I thought if I say anything

and anything happens,
James would kill me.

JAMES: After the state police
interviewed Susan,

there was no doubt in my mind,

I was absolutely convinced

he killed Jennie Hicks.

If Jennie Hicks is dead,

where on earth is her body?

JAMES: I, uh, searched
around different swamps

and these old dry wells.

We searched everywhere.

We found nothing.

NARRATOR: With evidence
mounting that James Hicks

murdered his wife, Jennie,

detectives now worry
that Jerilyn Towers

may have suffered
a similar fate.

Everybody suspected James

of killing Jerilyn Towers.

It was a matter
of how do we prove this?

Maine investigators now suspect

missing mothers,
Jennie Hicks and Jerilyn Towers

are the unfortunate victims
of James Hicks.

By September 1983,

they've compiled a mound
of circumstantial evidence

against the 48-year-old.

The Jennifer investigation

had a lot more evidence

than Jerilyn did

on the preponderance

of the verbal testimony
by the babysitter.

There was no body,

there was no weapon,

and there was no blood
but we had

pieces of evidence

that led us to believe
that she was dead

and that, uh, James, uh,

was the one responsible
for her death.

NARRATOR: Six years
after Jennie Hicks vanished,

James Hicks is finally arrested
for her murder.

In March 1984,

his trial begins.

It was the first case

in the State of Maine
to be tried without a body.

JAMES: It was very
emotionally charged.

The prosecution's key witness

is 22-year-old Susan Matley,

the Hicks' former babysitter.

She's panic-stricken
and reluctant to testify.

I was petrified.

And they had to keep
reassuring me that they--

he can't touch me,
he can't do nothing to me.

I think I finally grew up
at that point and said,

Enough of being scared.

I got to help do something

and put him away
to stop him."

The prosecution argues

that an unhinged Hicks
killed Jennie,

and that she was already dead
when Susan came home,

to find her lying
eerily still on the couch.

SUSAN: I looked at him
and I said to myself,

"You bastard,
you're finally gonna get it."

After a 10-day trial

and deliberating
for just nine hours,

the jury reaches a verdict.

James was convicted
of fourth degree murder.

It's a form of manslaughter.

It's a non-intentional killing.

He was sentenced to 10 years.

I was sad because I thought

he'd get more than 10 years,

but I was happy
that everyone finally knew.

NARRATOR: With James Hicks
finally behind bars,

detectives turn up the heat

on the missing-persons case
of Jerilyn Towers.

After 18 long months
of dead end leads,

police now suspect
the 35-year-old mother

may have met
the same tragic demise

as Jennie Hicks.

JOSEPH: Jerilyn and Hicks
are at the bar,

they're drinking together,
they leave together,

and then she disappeared.

Obviously at that point,

I think he murdered
Jerilyn Towers.

I, um, got a hold
of the state police

and we all started...

everything, all over again

with Jerilyn.

They went back
and re-interviewed

everybody I interviewed
and more.

I've searched these old farms,

these old estates.

Did I think
that she would be buried

on the property?
Quite possibly.

The clock is ticking,
days are passing,

we had to work
very quickly because,

you know, go figure,
he gets a 10-year sentence,

but he might get out early.

In a bizarre twist,

James Hicks is sent
to the same prison

where Jerilyn Tower's brother,
Vance Tibbetts,

is serving time
on an assault charge.

I said,
"Did you kill my sister?

You SOB?"

I said "Well, look at me,
tell me about it.

Was she begging for her life?

Was you trying to have sex
with her?

You just go crazy?
What happened?"

He looked right at me.

He said "No, I had nothing
to do with it."

But I felt he was guilty.

Well, you can tell.

I thought about killing
that son of a bitch

right in prison, you know.


He's a lucky bird.

NARRATOR: Surprisingly,
Hicks becomes a model prisoner

and after spending less
than seven years behind bars,

he's released
on good behavior.

SUSAN: I never ever thought

that he would get free.

Never did.

And I was scared to death.


Hicks moves to the small town

of Brewer, Maine

hoping to stay off
the cop's radar.

James Ricker
quietly keeps tabs on him

and he's not the only one.

VANCE: I was already out

waiting for that
son of a bitch.

JOSEPH: Vance, he would
setup a video camera

and film him leaving home,

film him going to work,

running errands,
and wave to him,

stuff like that,

which Hicks found
very intimidating.

VANCE: I wanted to be arrested.

I did.

That's what I wanted.
To get him

to bring the charge
against me,

harassment or whatever,
to get him on the record

anyway I could.

NARRATOR: The plan works

and Hicks shows up
at the police department.

Back in 1995, James Hicks

had made a formal complaint

to the Brewer Police Department

that he was being stalked
and harassed

by a Vance Tibbetts.

His girlfriend, Lynn Willette

comes with him to the station.

JOSEPH: So, I had
the opportunity to talk about

the disappearance
of Jerilyn Towers

while Lynn Willette
is sitting there

listening to all this.

Hmm, I'm pretty sure
that over time

it started
to make her think.

Who is this guy
I'm living with?

What's he actually done
or hasn't done?

I was trying to warn her,
it's all I can do.


It's been five years

since James Hicks
was released from prison

for the murder
of his wife Jenny

and many more
since Jerilyn Towers

mysteriously vanished
from the Gateway Lounge.

He's 28 miles away.

He's in the city of Brewer.

That was not
my jurisdiction, obviously.

But I would talk
to the different detectives

on that region.

We always would be
watching him.


NARRATOR: Now, while being eyed
in Towers' disappearance,

Hicks makes a stunning call
to police.

JOSEPH: I got a call
from the state police barracks

and they said that James Hicks
had reported

that his girlfriend
Lynn Willette was missing.

Here we go again.

JAMES: Why is it
of all the people in Maine,

only James Hicks's
girlfriends disappear?

God, he had a lot of bad luck
when it comes to girlfriends.

Really, who believes this?

After everything
we have gone through.


JOSEPH: I went to James Hicks
and I said, uh,

"So tell me what happened."

He said they had separated,

she had moved back home
with her mother

at that point in time,

there was some kind of
family gathering that day.

When she didn't show up
at the barbecue

then it was like
"Well, this isn't right."


NARRATOR: Investigators fear
another woman

has been swept up
in Hicks deadly web.

Hicks, calmly lays out
his own version of events.

JOSEPH: He gave me
a long story

about the last time
he saw her

and he basically made
the argument

that she had been really
despondent lately

and he was really worried

that she might've killed


JOSEPH: So that gave me
an excellent opportunity

to work with him
to help find where she is.

We searched
the Hicks apartment.

She lived there, right?

So, anything you found,
hair, fibers, fingerprints

wouldn't help you
not unless you found

some mass amount of blood.


JOSEPH: You know, we didn't--
there's nothing.


My first thought
is James Hicks

killed another woman.

Cut and dry.

Circumstances were the same,
the woman left,

no correspondence,

just disappeared.

I'm thinking
he's a serial killer.

No doubt in my mind
what he had done,

I just couldn't prove it.


Overworked investigators

are feeling the heat
to find two bodies

and get the potential
serial killer

back behind bars
before he kills

another innocent woman.


JOSEPH: The families,
and now the general public,

they're like "Number three?

A third woman has disappeared

and you don't have anybody
under arrest?"


VANCE:I reached the point where
I had really had it.

Nothing was happening.


I mean, I would be so depressed

when you don't think
it'll ever end.

I mean, sometimes
I couldn't control the tears,

you know, I just--

big tough man,
big tough outlaw,

but, you know, you got--

just, uh,
just the way it is.

I missed her awful.


NARRATOR: Despite his grief,
Jerilyn Towers' brother,

Vance Tibbetts is so desperate
to find his sister.

He takes matters
into his own hands.

VANCE: I searched far and wide,

backyards everywhere.
I'd ask people

"Do you mind
if I take a look out there?"

I was so tired,
but I will not quit

and I never did.


NARRATOR: The pressure
apparently gets to Hicks too.

JOSEPH: He was feeling
ostracized from the community

because there've been
so much publicity

about the case
that he was starting

to feel uncomfortable.


JOSEPH: So he left
and moved to Texas.

Now I can't stop by
and talk to him anymore.

I just lost that opportunity.

With a potential serial killer

leaving their own backyard,

concerned investigators
have to do something.

And decide to write
authorities in Texas

to warn them about Hicks.

JAMES: He went on their radar
very quick.

A guy who had moved
into their town

with no local ties

just somehow picked out
Levelland, Texas,

a convicted murderer,
seemingly on the run

from two other homicides.


For the next two years,

authorities in Texas and Maine

keep close tabs
on James Hicks.

JAMES: In my soul I knew

and it was just
a matter of time

before he killed again.


NARRATOR: Then, on an otherwise
gorgeous spring day,

a frantic 911 call is fielded

in Lubbock County, Texas.

An unsuspecting
elderly woman claims

she's been attacked
by her handyman.

JOSEPH: The Lubbock police
told me all the details.

After listening to them,
it was pretty clear to me,

he obviously
was gonna kill her.


I mean, that was his plan.

Oh my God,
I can't believe it.


NARRATOR: A 67-year-old widow
in Lubbock, Texas

has just fallen prey
to a ruthless attacker.

JOSEPH: June Moss
that hired a handyman,

he had done
some work for her

and this one day
he comes in

and he's acting
kind of unstable.


And he pulls out the gun

and he pointed it at her.

NARRATOR: The woman's story
goes from bad

to completely bizarre.

JOSEPH: He had made her drink
the bottle of cough syrup

and he made her write out
a handwritten document

basically giving

her car to him.

He'd also unplugged
the phone lines,

he had pulled down
the shades,

and the windows,
and then at one point

he asked her
if she had any guns,

so she pointed
out the bedroom

and he went in the bedroom

and started rifling
through the closet.

At that point she
had the presence of mind,

she jumped up
and ran out the front door

and ran
to her neighbor's house.

Well, the neighbors
immediately called 911.


NARRATOR: Police are quick
to arrive to the neighborhood

where June Moss is shaken
but grateful to be alive.

June Moss was able
to tell the police

that it was James Hicks

who had done this.

NARRATOR: Remembering
the dire warnings about Hicks

from investigators in Maine,

Texas Police raced
through the streets of Lubbock

to chase him down.


JOSEPH: My contact
down in Lubbock called me.

He said, "Good news.

We arrested James Hicks today

for robbery
of an elderly person."

He said, "Which is
a very serious crime

in the state of Texas,

so he's gonna be locked
up for a while.

We got a really good case."

Zamboni called

and said what had happened.

And that Hicks was
in deep trouble.

I was so happy.

That son of a bitch.


NARRATOR: Because Hicks
was a convicted felon

and used a gun
in committing his latest crime,

police finally have him
where they want him,

facing a life sentence.

JOSEPH: He'd been in jail
for a week or two I think

and he was complaining
that he really hated

being in jail in Texas.

He felt very uncomfortable
in the jail.

He thought maybe
he could get hurt

and he's saying,
"You got to get me out of here."

And I said "Oh, I'll get you
out of there."

And said, "But, you know,
it's gonna cost you."

I said, "You're gonna have
to cooperate with us.

You're gonna have to,
you know,

basically tell us
what you did

and then you can do
your time in Maine

instead of Texas."

He said,
"That's what I wanna do."

NARRATOR: Detective Zamboni
is on the next flight

to Texas
banking on the fact

Hicks really will cop
to his crimes.

We met him at the jail
and talked to him.

He said, "I will tell you

that I killed Lynn Willette,

but that's all
I'm telling you.

I'm gonna tell you
any details

until I'm back in Maine.

When I get to Maine,
I'll cooperate

with the grand jury,
you know, and you.

To show you evidence
and everything it needs to--

to give you closure
on those cases

that we talked about
or you know about.

DETECTIVE: Is it likely
after you cooperate

that remains from the other two

will be found also?

Oh, the other ones?

I'll cooperate
in all three of them.

NARRATOR: James Hicks a master
player of cat and mouse

is on his way back to Maine.

But will there finally be
justice for Jerilyn Towers

and answers
about the bodies of Jerilyn,

Lynn Willette,

and Jennie Hicks?


JOSEPH: We go back to Maine,
sat down with him

for lengthy interviews,

detailing what he did,

where he did it,

how he did it.

He's calm. He's very
matter-of-fact about it.

He's not emotional.

NARRATOR: In a stunning moment,

Hicks goes on to describe
the night in 1982

when Jerilyn Towers

He said that he left the bar.

We talked a few minutes
and I thought,

are you sure
you don't need a ride?

Yeah. I'll take one.

And he said,

they were arguing
about something.

Then he said he grabbed her.

I remember her back,
to me like that.

And the next thing I remember
she was dead.

How did you kill her?

I think I strangled her
with my hands.

And then he said,
"I, uh, buried her

under the dirt floor
in the chicken coop

in the backyard,
[INDISTINCT] in my house."


NARRATOR: Investigators
can hardly believe

what they're hearing,

but Hicks is far from finished

with his horrific stories.

So regarding Jennie Hicks,

he said that
they'd had a argument.

He got mad.

He grabbed a belt.

Well, I was getting ready
for bed and like that.


But I was still dressed
when I knew it

started happening.

So you basically strangled her?


And then he took her
out of the trailer.

He dismembered her

and he scattered her
in the woods.


What Hicks admits to next

is beyond gruesome.

JOSEPH: He did say
that he had taken her head

and put it in a cooler,

ice chest type cooler.

DETECTIVE: So once you get
the cooler full

then what do you do?

Just leave the cooler there.

Where did you leave it?

Right there.

The head-- the head's there?

You believe the hands
are in the cooler as well?


He toted that ice chest
around with him.

He made his kids,
Jennifer's kids,

sit on it
at the kitchen table.

So for years,
they were sitting

on their mother's head
as a chair.

I mean what a sick bastard

would do that?

JOSEPH: And then he took
the cement at some point

out of the cooler
and buried it in his backyard.


NARRATOR: Hicks also admits
to strangling his girlfriend,

Lynn Willette

and dismembering her body
before disposing of it

a hundred miles away.


It's, like,
it's all automatic.

It's, like,
I know what I'm doing

and I'm supposed
to be doing it.

Like I say, it's, like,

I've-- I've done it before.

JOSEPH: He says, "You know,
I really do miss her,

but the part about killing her

and cutting her up
in little pieces,

that wasn't a big deal."


NARRATOR: Detectives
in Central Maine

may be about to unearth
a horrific secret,

buried in the backyard
of presumed serial killer,

James Hicks.

JOSEPH: Once Hicks told us
exactly what he did,

I said, "Take us
to where you disposed

of these bodies
and show us

and we'll dig them up

and we'll confirm that
you're telling the truth."


Investigators are teeming

all over Hicks' backyard.

From a distance,
Jerilyn's brother,

Vance Tibbetts
watches in anticipation.


VANCE: I was hoping
very strongly

they would find my sister

and then...

they found her.

They found a skeleton,

just bones at that point.


Many people...

started crying

because, you know,
that was Jeri.

My mother's ring
was still on her finger.



The reality hits you.

It's, like, I mean, I--

it's so hard
to describe that feeling

of it's almost
a hopeless feeling,

you know, just, man,

it's just very hard to take.

Very hard to take.



Moments later,

the scene turns
more surreal still

as detectives unearth
a cement block.

It was a perfect mold

of the inside
of a cooler.

You know, the little ribs

and a little drain hole,
it's all there.

And then, of course,
they chink it open

with a hammer and chisel

and there's
Jennie's skull head.

SUSAN: I was just numb

from head to toe
that he could actually

take a woman

and chop her up.

Let me stop for a minute.



Dental records and DNA

later confirmed the identities
of all three women.

Jennie Hicks,

Jerilyn Towers,

and Lynn Willette.

The community was shocked.

They were in horror.

People that didn't
go to church that much

started going back to church.

They were totally devastated,
in our town?

Not our town.

These victims were buried
in his backyard...

like it was nothing.

It was horrific.




NARRATOR: Eighteen years
after Jerilyn Towers vanished,

will justice finally be served

for the women
and their families?

JOSEPH: He was charged
with the murder

of Lynn Willette

and the murder
of Jerilyn Towers.

He plead guilty to both,

he was sentenced
to two life terms.


I had a conversation with James

at the courthouse
and I said to him,

"You know, it's good
that you're going to jail,

because if you don't go to jail

another woman is gonna die."

And he said,
"Yeah. I think you're right."


VANCE: I know
he had been convicted

of murder times twice.

I know he'll never
breathe free air again,


it's not enough.

I mean, I don't feel
any closure.

I never have.

I know where she is.


SUSAN: The only good outcome
of the whole thing

is that they could finally
put Jennie to rest.

I want Jennie
to be remembered

as a proud mother,

a loving mother,

and a loving person.

She took people
into her heart

and helped them

like me.

VANCE: I would love to have
Jerilyn be remembered

as a good mom,
a loving mom.

She loved her family.

I miss her and love her,

so does everybody.

Oh, yeah.



NARRATOR: For more information
about Buried In The Backyard