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Crime News

Connecticut Man Sentenced For Perpetrating 1987 Double Murder With ‘Demonic Level Of Violence And Terror’

Willie McFarland confessed to raping and murdering the father and son in a 1996 letter to the police, but it would take more than 20 years for an arrest to be made. 

By Jax Miller
Killer Motive: What Drives People To Kill?

A Connecticut man convicted of violently killing a father and son more than 30 years ago will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Willie McFarland, 55, was sentenced Tuesday to two 60-year prison terms to be served consecutively — totaling 120 years — for the 1987 murders of Fred Harris, 59, and his son, Greg Harris, 23, according to Connecticut’s Division of Criminal Justice. The sentence, handed down by Connecticut Superior Court Judge Elpedio N. Vitale, comes after a jury found McFarland guilty in November of two counts of murder.

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At sentencing, Judge Vitale referred to McFarland’s crimes as having “a demonic level of violence and terror,” remarking that the defendant was “an unqualified menace to society.”

McFarland reportedly refused to enter the courtroom during sentencing, according to Fox Hartford affiliate WTIC-TV.

“After 35 years, the man responsible for the murder of a father and son, in their own home, has been brought to justice,” announced New Haven State’s Attorney John P. Doyle Jr.

A police handout of Willie McFarland

On Aug. 27, 1987, Fred’s sister alerted police after not hearing from Fred and Greg for about a week, according to a police affidavit cited by the New York Times. Police responded to their Fitch St. residence in Hamden — just north of New Haven, Connecticut — and found both men dead on the floor of an upstairs bedroom.

It was a scene that Hamden Police Captain Ronald Smith would call “bone-chilling,” according to the New York Times.

Both victims were found side by side, their hands bound behind them, per the affidavit. The men sustained stab wounds to the chest and had their throats slashed.

Police said evidence showed that during the attack — which they believed happened between Aug. 21 and Aug. 22 — the younger Harris tried to free himself of the restraints before being sexually assaulted.

The father’s pants had also been unbuttoned, and his feet tied.

McFarland was soon looked at as a suspect, according to the New York Times. He was released from prison just one day before the double homicide and rearrested just hours after when accused of sexually assaulting another person at knife-point one mile from the Harris home.

However, McFarland denied killing the men, and soon, investigators found other suspects to focus their attention on.

They would be cleared years later with DNA testing.

Then, in 1996, McFarland, citing an HIV diagnosis and his newfound religious beliefs, confessed to killing Fred and Greg Harris in a letter to Hamden police, according to the New York Times.

Police Captain Smith claimed McFarland knew “approximately 30 things that you would have had to be there to know” in follow-up interviews, according to the New York Times. One of the those things included the killer inflicting “shallow chest wounds and the near-decapitation of both victims,” as stated in the affidavit.

McFarland claimed he knew the Harrises, and he went to their condo to see about borrowing a knife, according to NBC Connecticut affiliate WVIT. Greg, who allegedly answered the door, granted McFarland’s request before McFarland forced his way into the home, looking for a gun or money.

McFarland said he made away with about $31 in change.

Despite this, there wasn’t enough physical evidence to charge McFarland with the crime until January 2019, when scientists tested DNA from a glove found at the crime scene.

The match would confirm McFarland’s 1996 confessions.

McFarland was arrested at his New Haven apartment — just one mile from the crime scene — in November 2019, according to Hamden Police.

McFarland was diagnosed with schizophrenia and lived with unpredictable moods, as pointed out by his defense attorneys during the trial. On the one hand, he was cooperative with corrections officers while behind bars, according to WTIC-TV. On the other hand, he’d also been slapped with 337 disciplinary notices, which included 16 alleged assaults against officers.

Ultimately, he was found guilty of what State's Attorney Doyle called "horrendous crimes."

Speaking to the Fox affiliate, Captain Smith said he can "feel good” about retirement, adding, “the case really waned on me for many years, as it did many others.”