Devils' Advocate

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Karl says Billy's attorney suggested that he wait until Billy gets released from prison, then have him refuse to register. He'd get tossed back in prison, and Karl would have his lawsuit. Karl's not so sure he wants to do that. He thinks he has a good case up in Washington state.

In a brief phone conversation from the state prison, Billy sounds more intelligent than Karl has described. Actually, he sounds a lot like Karl -- same cadence to the speech, often the same phrases. But Billy does giggle at the end of every sentence, and his attention span is short. He frequently interrupts the call to chat with a fellow inmate, his "adopted brother," Billy says. They're not doing anything -- just friends -- he adds quickly.

"I love him to death," Billy says when asked about Karl. "He's a very sweet, kindhearted man. He helps people. I just love all the qualities about him. . . . He's my whole life, he's my whole reason for living."

He says it's amazing, how he tells fellow inmates to write to Karl for legal advice or money, and it appears. Billy doesn't want to talk about his own case, except to say he didn't do 90 percent of what he's accused of.

None of Billy's victims contacted for this story wanted to talk about the case. But a "confrontation call" from the 1996 police report that details Billy's sex acts with a 12-year-old is damning evidence. Police persuaded a girl who knew both Billy and the alleged victim to make the taped call, in which she asks Billy about the accusations. Billy admits to performing oral sex on the 12-year-old, but says the boy wanted it, that he kept "egging it on, and on, and on, and on."

Even though he's seen the police report, Karl insists he knows Billy never did that, because Billy repeatedly refused to give Karl a blowjob.

On a chilly morning in early November, Karl and his daughter, Trish Malone, are on their front porch, playing with the animals.

Two large cats are perched on the roof, and Trish stands on the tips of her Birkenstocked toes to hand them raw hot dogs, flashing a pierced bellybutton. Three dogs and a number of cats beg. One of the dogs is named Shady, after rapper Eminem's alter ego Slim Shady, one of Trish's favorite musicians.

Small red bows decorate the front of the house. Got the holiday decorations up early? Nah, Karl says, they're left over from last year. He used to have the front tree wrapped in yellow ribbon, in honor of Billy.

Karl and Trish know all the animals' names and rattle them off with pride. They don't know how many cats they have.

"I've lost count," Karl says, his eyes welling up. "We just lost three kittens. It was devastating to us, especially [losing] little Pumpkin, and it's real hard to go around and count and see what you've got left."

It's hard to tell the difference between Stripey Hip and Fuzz Butt. Snuggles has funny-shaped ears from ear mites. They're all "leukemia-exposed," Karl says, which means some have feline leukemia and the rest might. Karl brings out one of Billy's cats, Monkette. She's been pooping on the floor ever since Billy left. "They know something's missing," Karl says, hugging the cat.

Along with the cats and Trish, Karl lives with five snakes, three dogs, an iguana, a cockatiel, rabbits, rats, mice (food for the snakes) and a pondful of koi, which the cats are always trying to get. His only real recreation is four-wheeling, and the driveway is full of Jeeps in various states of repair. Karl ordered vanity plates for them from the Arizona State Prison inmate store: W8N4HIM. ILW84U. URMINE.

The yard is covered in piles of dog feces, but that's no preparation for what's inside. Karl wants to show off his office.

"I'm going to ask you to keep an open mind, because we're going into my house and we haven't cleaned because of the weather and stuff. . . . Billy's not here to keep my house clean."

In fact, it appears as though no one's cleaned at all since Billy left. The stench of animals and animal excrement is overwhelming everywhere in the small, dimly lit house. Karl's office is piled with papers.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.