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William 'Wild Bill' Huff Victim's Daughter Pleads For Cold Case Funding

In an emotional panel at CrimeCon 2022, Melissa “Mo” Silva joined former cold case investigator Paul Holes to discuss the moment in 2015 that she learned that "Wild Bill" Huff had killed her mother in 1987.

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DNA Doe Project Co-Founder On How She Began Using Genetic Genealogy to Identify More than 75 John and Jane Does
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DNA Doe Project Co-Founder On How She Began Using Genetic Genealogy to Identify More than 75 John and Jane Does

The organization works with law enforcement agencies, medical examiners, and every day people to try to identify John and Jane Does.

The daughter of one of the known victims of William "Wild Bill" Huff — who is serving life in prison without parole after he was linked in 2015 to two decades-old unsolved murders — said that more resources need to be allocated to cold cases to achieve justice for victims and get killers off the streets.

In an emotional panel at CrimeCon 2022, entitled “A Wild Killer: Paul Holes’ Hunt for the Victims of William “Wild Bill” Huff,” Melissa “Mo” Silva joined former cold case investigator Paul Holes to discuss the moment that she learned that Huff was her mother’s killer.

Huff was pinpointed through advances in technology after evidence collected at two murder scenes matched Huff’s DNA, which had been entered into CODIS, the FBI's national DNA database.

“I think that people forget that when someone's murdered and the case becomes cold, that allows that perpetrator to potentially re-offend in the future,” Silva said from the Las Vegas stage, noting that detectives ignoring cold cases to pursue active investigations may actually be seeking a repeat perpetrator.

“It just seems very cyclical with the system that we currently have in place," she added. "I think if more district attorney's offices would utilize the cold case unit, then local law enforcement agencies who didn't have resources would potentially be able to start solving these cases.”

Melissa Silva and William Holes

Silva’s mother, Deanna "DeeDee" Butterfield, was a 21-year-old sex worker when her body was discovered on Dec. 5, 1987, in Oakland; Silva was four years old at the time.

A DNA test linked Huff to the crime scene in 2006 but, when approached by police, he claimed he’d had consensual sex with Butterfield. They were unable to charge him with anything at that time.

It wasn’t until 2015 that DNA evidence tied Huff to both the Butterfield murder and the 1993 murder of a Laotian immigrant in her 50s; Mueylin Saechao’s body was found in her boyfriend’s backyard after having been sexually assaulted and strangled with her own knee sock. 

When he was caught, Huff told a detective he "went on the hunt" to victimize sex workers every six to seven years.

Both cases had been reopened as part of a collaborative effort between the East Bay Regional Park District, San Pablo police departments and the Contra Costa County district attorney’s office’s newly-formed cold case unit, news outlet Berkeleyside reported in 2015.

During Saturday’s panel, Holes — who is widely known for his work tracking own the notorious Golden State Killer — walked the crowd through the dragnet that led to the arrest of Huff, who’d had a rich criminal history in the years he evaded capture for the murders.

Now, Holes said, more of his crimes will be revealed. 

“I'm sure we will find additional cases that he's involved with,” he said. “But there's a bigger part to the story.”

At that point, he introduced Silva to the surprised convention audience. As she described how she was in college when she learned who had killed her mom decades ago, Silva held back tears. She learned of what had happened to her mother years before and spent her life trying to figure out more about her death. 

“I had pages of notes and I would go one by one and check it off,” she said of her teenage inquiries into her mother’s murder. “And as people within the [East Bay] Regional Parks got promotions, it was like now I have to start all over with the new investigator getting to know me and getting to know them and hope that they would do something.”

Speaking to the bond among victims and survivors, Holes told the crowd that after the panel, Silva would be meeting three of the survivors of Golden State Killer Joseph James DeAngelo, who were also in Las Vegas for the convention. 

CrimeCon 2022 is produced by Red Seat Ventures and presented by Oxygen.

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