A Florida man who allegedly claimed to have stalked a 95-year-old author for a quarter of century in retaliation for a book the man supposedly wrote is accused of breaking into a beachside community’s care home and fatally smothering the bedridden man.
William Hawkins, 47, who was charged with first-degree murder in the care home killing of Robert W. Morell, allegedly bragged that the murder was his “life goal,” according to a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com.
Police were called to Tiffany Hall Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in St. Lucie, Florida around midnight on Jan. 5 after staff reported a possible murder. Witnesses told police a nearly bald man with a “scruffy beard” had entered Morell’s room. Caretakers then found the unidentified assailant in the room on Morell's chest, covering his mouth with a pillow. He fled the room, “casually” walked down a hallway, and exited the facility through a fire exit, according to the criminal complaint. An insulin-filled syringe was found on the floor beside Morell’s bed.
Morell, who was residing at the care home since September, required a feeding tube after his esophagus collapsed and may have also and may have also been suffering from Alzheimer's. He was unable to be revived by Tiffany Hall staff. An autopsy confirmed the man, who was 95, had been suffocated.
Detectives soon matched the description of the suspected killer to Hawkins, who was on Morell’s visiting list. Staff said that Morell’s girlfriend, Angeline Bostello, had previously called to request Hawkins be removed from the visiting list.
Police learned that Bostello had previously been in an open relationship with both men, but claimed to have stopped seeing Hawkins months earlier. She said she knew Morell for approximately 15 years, that the pair had a living arrangement, but that she turned him down when he proposed.
Bostello told authorities she asked the care home to axe Hawkins’ visiting privileges over a “gut feeling” Hawkins was going to off Morell. Hawkins, she said, had openly spoken of killing her partner a day before Morell’s death.
She alleged Hawkins broke into Bostello’s condo and proposed killing Morell using a syringe loaded with insulin that was for her diabetic cat.
“[Hawkins] then indicated to Angeline that she should inject the insulin into the victim’s feeding tube in order to kill him,” the criminal complaint stated.
The woman told law enforcement she “rejected” the plan and later called Tiffany Hall staff to “warn” them. Bostello also claimed Hawkins appeared to be “high on crack,” stole her Cadillac, and burglarized her apartment in the days leading up to Morell’s death, according to separate arrest affidavits obtained by Oxygen.com.
Her Cadillac was finally recovered after the murder from a St. Lucie canal, where it was abandoned and partially submerged. Deputies then discovered Hawkins roughly half a mile away sleeping on a couch in a shed belonging to his aunt.
He allegedly admitted to borrowing the car without his girlfriend’s permission and claimed the Cadillac rolled into the pond while he was urinating outside the vehicle.
“If Angeline said I stole the car then I probably did,” he told police, according to the complaint.
Police say Hawkins also admitted to breaking into the shed. He was arrested and booked on burglary, criminal mischief, trespassing, and other charges, additional court documents show.
Visitor logs showed that Hawkins visited Morell five times since the elderly man was admitted to the care home in the fall. A care home worker who witnessed Morell’s smothering also identified Hawkins as Morell’s possible killer in a police photo lineup containing a picture of the man’s driver’s license.
But Hawkins’ sister, however, provided the most vital evidence in pinpointing him as Morell’s alleged killer.
Shannon Hawkins told detectives she suspected Morell’s killing was perpetrated by her brother and claimed the murder had “to do with money.” She explained that when their father died, her and her brother were promised a "large inheritance" they never received. If her older sibling was guilty, she assured investigators she could extract the admission, suggesting her brother would “tell her anything,” the complaint stated.
During a recorded jailhouse conversation with her brother, Hawkins allegedly admitted he first thought about using a “cocktail” to poison Morell, but settled on smothering Morell when the 95-year-old fought back.
“Yeah, I did [it],” Hawkins allegedly confessed. “He was f--king fighting me… I made a mess.”
He allegedly boasted of the murder, claiming it was a feat “25 years in the making,” according to the criminal complaint. Police say Hawkins cryptically explained his murderous obsession with Morell began when he was in college and that he was “pissed off” over a book Morell wrote about him. The book, the man claimed, ruined his life.
He then revealed he had only dated Bostello to get close to Morell, according to the complaint.
“He’s the reason why I am what I am,” Hawkins allegedly said. “He’s the reason why my life’s messed up. OK? He’s the reason I keep getting fucked over. So I took care of it myself.”
Oxygen.com was unable to independently verify if such a book existed, or if Morell was, in fact, a writer. An author by the name of Robert W. Morrell published a book about oil tankers several decades ago, but that man’s last name bears an extra "r."
Nonetheless, police say Hawkins admitted to “stalking” Morell while he was confined to the Tiffany Hall care home, bragging he knew “every inch” of the facility. He ultimately chalked the killing up to an achievement of a lifetime, according to the complaint.
“I accomplished my life goal, OK?” he allegedly gloated. “Whatever happens to me after that’s fine.”
In perhaps the most startling admission, Hawkins allegedly equated the slaying to ascending the summit of Mount Everest.
“Let’s say in your life you wanted to climb Mount Everest, OK?” he told his sister. “And all your life you trained and trained and trained to climb Mount Everest. OK? All right? And finally you climbed it, it all your life, finally you made it to the top, when you made it to the top, how would you feel?”
Hawkins then allegedly broke into laughter, telling his sister, "I f--king busted my nut — I did.”
Hawkin's legal team declined to comment on the case on Thursday.
“This is an open case and we have no comment,” assistant public defender Mary Celidonio told Oxygen.com.
Hawkins made his first court appearance on Jan. 31. He hasn't yet been formally charged with murder, county clerks said.
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