Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, only 20 when the crimes occurred, is a suspected serial killer, accused of slaughtering three different women — and trying to kill a fourth — in Essex County in the fall of 2016.
Wheeler-Weaver is on trial this month in the deaths of multiple women, which authorities suspect were sexually motivated. He was charged with three counts of murder, three counts of desecration of human remains, attempted murder, aggravated arson, aggravated sexual assault, and kidnapping in 2017.
But Wheeler-Weaver, now 23, was supposedly brought down by one victim's family, whose online sleuthing led to the creation of a fake social media account which they used to lure Wheeler-Weaver into police custody, according to a spokesperson for Essex County Prosecutor's Office.
“This case is about justice for four women," spokesperson Katherine Carter told Oxygen.com. "Three we allege were brutally murdered and a fourth we allege was attacked but survived. There are many courageous people in this case but we were particularly aided by the help of Sarah Butler’s family and friends who used her social media to help us in our investigation.’’
Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Adam Wells explained to jurors during Wheeler-Weaver’s trial how murder victim Sarah Butler’s family logged into one of her social accounts following her death, NorthJersey.com reported. There, they allegedly identified Wheeler-Weaver as one of the people Butler had been actively communicating with at the time of her murder.
The family made a fake profile with the intention of enticing Wheeler-Weaver; they claimed they arranged for a sexual rendezvous with him through it. Police were able to nab the accused serial killer after he arrived at the location of the scheduled meet-up, Wells told the court.
Wells added that the woman’s relatives and friends were the “the heroes of this case,” according to the outlet.
Butler, a 20-year-old New Jersey City University student, went missing during her Thanksgiving break in November 2016.
Police found her body roughly a week later on Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange, a township about seven miles northwest of Newark. She had been strangled, NJ.com reported.
While the exact nature of Wheeler-Weaver’s relationships with all the women isn’t exactly clear, prosecutors said all his alleged victims were sex workers with the exception of Butler. Wells explained that some of the women had psychological conditions or were transient.
One of his alleged victims is described as “mentally incapacitated,” and was described as having a “mental disease or defect,” according to an indictment obtained by Oxygen.com.
“They were viewed as somehow less than human, less valuable,” Wells said, according to another report from NJ.com. “That maybe they wouldn’t be missed.”
Wheeler-Weaver is also accused of killing Joanne Brown, 33, and Robin West, 19, whose bodies were both found in vacant homes. He allegedly “set fire” to the empty property he had dumped West’s body in, according to a police press release.
A fourth woman, who hasn’t been identified by authorities, is the only surviving victim of Wheeler-Weaver’s alleged repeated attacks. A spokesperson for Essex County Prosecutor's Office said she testified earlier this week. A separate NJ.com report said she claimed she had been drugged by Wheeler-Weaver, who again had supposedly arranged to pay the woman for sex.
The unidentified woman claimed she woke up from a drug-induced slumber in handcuffs and in the backseat of a vehicle. When she came to, Wheeler-Weaver was allegedly strangling her. She managed to escape and later helped investigators identify him.
All of Wheeler-Weaver’s alleged murder victims had packing tape over their noses and mouths, had been drugged, and were strangled with items of clothing, PEOPLE reported.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.