New Jersey police reportedly interviewed accused serial killer Khalil Wheeler-Weaver as the last person to see a murdered woman alive two months before dismissing another woman’s claim that he held her hostage and choked her. Wheeler-Weaver had already been questioned in connection with one September 2016 disappearance when police ignored another woman’s November 2016 report that he had attacked her, seemingly because they suspected the victim of being a sex worker. One week after the survivor reported her attack, prosecutors claim that Wheeler-Weaver kidnapped and killed yet another woman.
According to The Washington Post, Wheeler-Weaver chose his four alleged victims because they were young black sex workers who were experiencing homelessness, mental health issues, or both. Authorities say he chose his victims, specifically, because “no one would notice if they disappeared.” By the Post’s account, Wheeler-Weaver was right: police did not seem to care about missing sex workers, even after one of Wheeler-Weaver’s victims survived the attack and reported him.
Two women, Joanne Brown and Robin West, were both seen with Wheeler-Weaver just before they went missing and were later found dead, their bodies similarly discovered in abandoned New Jersey houses, one of them strangled, one burned. Wheeler-Weaver told police he had taken West to dinner for her birthday on the day she went missing. Authorities described him as “calm” and “helpful,” when they interviewed him in September.
In November, another woman, identified as T.T. in court documents, called police to report that Wheeler-Weaver had handcuffed her, duct-taped her mouth shut, raped her in the back of his car and almost strangled her to death. She says police who took her statement were more interested in determining whether or not she was a sex worker than investigating the attack. At Wheeler-Weaver’s trial, a New Jersey police officer confirmed on the stand that he originally did not believe T.T.’s account because she waited an hour to report the attack.
It appears that Wheeler-Weaver was eventually arrested as a result of community activism, rather than police investigation. The week after T.T.’s attack, Wheeler-Weaver allegedly met with Sarah Butler, a college student on Thanksgiving break who had reportedly agreed to meet up for $500 in exchange for sex. Her body was found strangled in a nature preserve. But instead of waiting for authorities, Butler’s friends and family immediately launched their own investigation, tracking down Wheeler-Weaver based on his messages to Butler on an app called Tagged:
“Butler’s friends and family created a fake profile on the site, using the promise of sex to lure Wheeler-Weaver into an in-person meetup. When he arrived, prosecutors say, he found himself face-to-face with the police.”
Thanks to Butler’s friends and family, Wheeler-Weaver was arrested just five days after her disappearance. One of Butler’s last messages to Wheeler-Weaver, who she met on a social media app linked to sex crimes and child pornography, reportedly read, “You’re not a serial killer, right?” a case detail that the Washington Post chose for its headline over the fact that police inaction allowed for Butler to be killed in the first place. But the real story is obvious: all too often, police don’t search for women’s killers if they’ve labeled the victims disposable.