Bill Macumber, Freed by Justice Project After 38 Years in Prison, Now Accused of Sex Crimes

Bill Macumber, who served 38 years in prison for a double-murder before being released with help from the Arizona Justice Project, is back in jail.

The Arizona Republic broke the news that Macumber, 78, was arrested for the alleged sexual assault of a young relative in Colorado.

See also:
-Bill Macumber Joins Those Freed by the Arizona Justice Project

This arrest actually took place in October, when Macumber's freeing from prison was detailed in a cover story published by New Times.

Macumber was convicted in 1975 of the murders of a young couple at something of a lovers' lane in Scottsdale, which had actually occurred in 1962. He got a chance at another trial a few years later, and the defense was going to rely on the testimony of a woman who claimed to have witnessed the murder, and witnessed someone else commit the murder, but she ended up claiming that she made up the whole story, and Macumber was convicted again.

Macumber's then-wife worked for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, and had access to the evidence. She's the one who claimed Macumber had confessed to the murders.

According to Weston Phippen's story:

Carol claimed in her statement that Macumber said the Army had commissioned him to assassinate two people but that he'd shot the wrong couple. She told investigators that Macumber admitted to following the couple down the dirt road, where he shot them from his truck's window, after which he rifled through the woman's purse to make it look like a robbery.

Carol related to MCSO investigators that she recalled a night in 1962 when Macumber returned home with blood on his shirt, telling her that three young men had jumped him with a tire iron. According to her, Macumber said he'd fought off the attackers, whom he'd stopped to help because their car was disabled. This must have been the night the couple was shot, she told investigators.

Macumber declined a polygraph test but agreed to have his house searched, his gun collected, and fingerprints taken. Investigators said the partial print -- which had been disregarded years before because it'd been impossible to determine whether it was a palm- or fingerprint -- matched perfectly with Macumber's palm . . .

At trial, Macumber's defense attorneys questioned Carol's motives. What if she'd switched the print in the file? What if, his attorney argued, MCSO deputies had helped her so they could keep the office dating scandal quiet?

Investigators also said Macumber's pistol -- the Ithaca .45 he'd surrendered 12 years before and had turned over to investigators after Carol's statement -- now matched markings on three bullets plucked from the crime scene.

Carol may have tampered with these, too, his attorneys proffered. Investigators couldn't match bullet markings to the breach face, extractor, or firing pin of Macumber's gun, but they matched ejector marks to three of four bullets. The ejector leaves small indentations on the back of a casing and isn't typically used alone to determine a weapon's match. But the state called an expert witness who said the markings originated from Macumber's gun "to the exclusion of all others in the world."

When Macumber's attorney sought to dispute this expert's testimony by introducing a defense expert, the judge denied the request and the jury never heard from Macumber's witness.

Without that testimony, Macumber's attorney had little on which to build a defense, especially since the jury never would hear about Linda Primrose, who'd led authorities back to the crime scene. The state never disclosed her account to Macumber's public defender.

Not to mention that his then-wife was suspected of a shooting in which a bullet came through the back of Macumber's house, and nearly hit him in the head.

So, years later, the Arizona Justice Project built its case on all the things that didn't quite add up, and the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency recommended that Macumber be released. That recommendation was rejected by Governor Jan Brewer, but as part of a deal with prosecutors, Macumber was able to change his plea to "no contest" and be released based on time served.

According to the Republic's story, Macumber's been in jail on four counts of sexual assault of a child since the week the New Times story came out in October.

According to the Republic:
[Bill's son] Ronald Macumber said Tuesday that young relatives in his family had at first been excited about William Macumber's move to Colorado. But by August, he said, they told Ronald they didn't want to be around William anymore. Court records say the abuse occurred between April and August 2013.

Ronald Macumber said he confronted his father. His father's responses made Ronald feel he needed to kick his father out of the house.
In the New Times story, Phippen was talking to Macumber about why he accepted the plea deal, in which he pleaded "no contest," although he's maintained that he's completely innocent.

"I'm sure it was the right choice," Macumber said. "I know it each time I hold my great-granddaughters on my lap."

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley