Nashville, Tennessee. At around 8:30 a.m., on December 22, 1997, William Richard Stevens made the following 911 call:
911 Operator: 911 what’s your emergency?
Bill Stevens: I… I need… I need a police car.
Note that Stevens doesn’t answer the question.
Note the stuttering “I”, a signal of increase in anxiety.
Note Stevens’ priority: a police car for himself. He is the one in “need” of something.
911 Operator: What’s going on? Calm down, calm down. What’s going on?
Bill Stevens: I… I… I think someone ju… just killed my family.
Note the stuttering “I”, again.
The pause after “ju…” shows that he has a need to think before speaking, the question is sensitive to him.
Why Stevens uses the word “just”? “just” is a dependent word used in comparison. This means its communication is found in dependence upon another thought. When Stevens left his house and for how long?
The victims are Stevens’ wife Sandra and Sandra’s mother Myrtle, Stevens chooses to say “my family”. We do not always expect a complete social introduction in the opening response to a question like “What’s going on?” due to urgency. Therefore, we cannot conclude here that the absence of the names of the victims is an indication of a poor relationship.
Note that Stevens offers the operator a premature explanation of what happened without telling him anything about anybody involved or about the scene.
911 Operator: Sir, calm down, okay? Why do you think someone killed your family?
The 911 Operator is trying to understand why Stevens announced a killing with no prior description of the scene.
Bill Stevens: (inaudible) They’re… they’re laying in the house, just send somebody, now!
The pause after “They’re…” shows that Stevens has a need to think before speaking, the question is sensitive to him.
“They’re laying in the house” is far from a description of a family murder.
“They’re” is still an incomplete social introduction.
“just send somebody, now!” is a closing. Stevens is unwilling to give more information to the operator.
To say “now” is also a way to put himself on the side of the good guys (Good Guy/Bad Guy Factor).
Bill Stevens: Talk to him, talk to him.
Bill Stevens asks a friend to talk to the 911 Operator. This is unexpected. Does he know that his friend has more information to give to the operator?
In a taped statement given on the day of his arrest, Stevens said that when he walked up to the front door of his trailer, he observed that the door was ajar. When he stepped inside, he noticed that the Christmas tree was lying on its side and that “stuff was laying all over”, and he “knew something was wrong”. He looked towards his bedroom, saw his wife’s leg “laying across the bed,” and immediately assumed that both his wife and his mother-in-law were dead. Stevens said that he never went into either bedroom to actually check on the women, nor did he ever see his mother-in-law’s body. This is the reason why he gave few information to the 911 operator and also the reason he asked his friend to talk to him”.
Note these words from Stevens’ statement: “stuff was laying all over”, “stuff” doesn’t lay, neither does a Christmas tree. When an inanimate object is given human body posture, we should look for a staging of the scene.
- never asked for a specific help for the victims;
- was evasive with the 911 operator;
- didn’t facilitate the flow of information;
- referred to the victims as “my family” and as “They”. The social introduction speaks about the state of a relationship, an incomplete social introduction is a signal of a poor relationship.
The follow up of the 911 call:
Corey Milliken: Hello.
Greetings are unexpected in an emergency call. Greetings are a signal that a caller feels the need to ingratiate himself with the operator (the Ingratiating Factor). Usually a guilty person makes friends with 911 operators, police and journalists, to be seen in a positive light and reduce the suspicion upon them.
911 Operator: Okay, what’s going on?
Corey Milliken: I don’t know, I’m a neighbour.
Note “I don’t know”.
911 Operator: What’s his name?
Corey Milliken: He’s Bill Stevens.
911 Operator: Why do you think someone just killed somebody?
Corey Milliken: I don’t know, he just… he came over my house, wanted to use my phone. I got his son over here with me, so he’s alright. There are two people have been murdered over there.
Note “I don’t know”.
“just” is a dependent word used in comparison. This means its communication is found in dependence upon another thought. Did Corey meet Stevens and his son before?
“I got his son over here with me, so he’s alright” tells us that he lied when he said “I don’t know”, because saying that Stevens’ son is “alright” evidently he compares him to somebody else that is not alright.
The sentence “There are two people have been murdered over there” also contradicted his prior words showing that he knows.
Note that the operator suggested the words to use to Corey Milliken when he said “Why do you think someone just killed somebody?” but Milliken chose to say “There are two people have been murdered”. “There are two people have been murdered” is passive. Passivity in language is used to conceal identity or responsibility.
911 Operator: Ok, hang on just a second.
Corey Milliken: Oh man.
William Richard Stevens (March 1, 1956) was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for the 1997 deaths of his wife Sandra Jean, 45, and her mother Myrtle Wilson, 75. He was found guilty of hiring 18-year-old Corey Milliken to murder the two women and stage a burglary at their home. He offered to pay 18-year-old Corey Milliken $5,000 to murder them. Corey strangled Sandra to death, and stabbed and strangled her mother. Stevens was sentenced to death on July 23, 1999. In 2002, the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld Stevens’ death sentence.
On April 4, 2016, after nearly 20 years on death row, William Stevens died at the age of 60 at a Nashville hospital. He was an inmate at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville.
Corey Milliken is serving a life sentence.