Hull man gets life sentence for continuous child sex abuse
After murdering two women and molesting his granddaughter, William Thad Greenwood, 60, will soon be making his final trip to prison. He was sentenced Wednesday in Liberty County to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
His conviction this week for the continuous sexual assault of his granddaughter came 40 years after he pleaded guilty to the abductions, rapes and murders of two women in the Highlands-Baytown area. For those two murders in Harris County, he was sentenced to 36 years in prison. In 1991, after serving roughly a third of his sentence, he was paroled and relocated from Highlands to Hull, Texas.
Liberty County Assistant District Attorney Tami Pierce, who prosecuted Greenwood for the child sex abuse case in the 75th State District Court before the Honorable Judge Mark Morefield, believes Greenwood may have other victims. According to Pierce, two other women also have made outcries of sexual abuse against Greenwood.
Greenwood’s previous crimes were inadmissible during the guilt-innocence phase of the child sex abuse trial, so jurors were unaware of the two murders until it was revealed during sentencing, Pierce said. At Greenwood’s request, the judge, not the jury, decided his sentence.
“Six to eight of the jurors stayed behind for sentencing. They told me they couldn’t believe they had been that close to evil,” Pierce said.
The granddaughter was a compelling witness, Pierce said, but Greenwood’s own voice on a phone call, in which he sounded like a jilted lover, was the most damning evidence.
The call was recorded by Greenwood’s granddaughter not long after she had moved out of state with her boyfriend and his family. Greenwood, in an effort to force her to return home so the sexual encounters could continue, threatened to show her boyfriend sexually-graphic images he had taken of his granddaughter.
“He would refer to their sexual encounters as, ‘I want to have fun. I want to play with you,’” Pierce said. “That’s not a normal conversation a grandfather would have with his granddaughter. We were glad she decided to record him.”
Greenwood is heard on the phone call saying, “I love you and I know it doesn’t hurt a damn thing. I know we have fun so what the hell does it hurt?” and “The way I feel now is if my life is ruined, I’ve got nothing left to live for, so why should I care what happens to you?”
Convinced he would never leave her alone, the granddaughter, at age 18 and after 13 years of abuse, finally made an outcry to law enforcement. The most recent abuse occurred on the very day she moved out in June 2015, just one day shy of her 18th birthday.
“The earliest memory she has of him abusing her is when she was 5,” said Pierce.
The molestation began with over-the-clothing touching, then more intimate touching, which progressed to oral sex and then vaginal penetration, she said.
“He also took pornographic photos of them together. There were somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 photos. He attempted to blackmail her with those, to break up her relationship by sending her then-boyfriend the pics he had taken,” Pierce said. “He wouldn’t leave her alone. He kept texting her and calling because he wanted her back.”
On Sept. 23, 2015, the granddaughter reported the abuse to the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. The delayed outcry, said Pierce, is typical for about half of all child sex abuse cases.
“A lot of times kids can’t tell anyone until they are adults. If you are brought up in this type of environment, this behavior seems somewhat normal,” she said.
Beaumont defense attorney Ryan Gertz, who had the challenging task of representing Greenwood, agreed with Pierce that the recorded phone call guaranteed his conviction.
“The prosecution was losing that case until that phone call was played. The deputy took her statement in September and the person who was in charge of sex crimes waited five months to take her statement,” Gertz said. “She told them he had photos of her on a photo drive and there were other little kids in the house with him, but they waited five months?”
Gertz said he was disappointed with the outcome of the case and praised Judge Mark Morefield for a fair trial and the state for representing the case. Pierce praised Gertz for his efforts on behalf of his client.
“He did a good job of defending a monster,” Pierce said.
Greenwood is expected to appeal his conviction.
“We will file a notice of appeal but I will not be the attorney representing him in the appeal,” Gertz said.
Could DNA solve cold cases?
With his conviction, Greenwood’s DNA will now be entered into the FBI’s CODIS database. At the time of his 1978 arrest and conviction, authorities were looking at him as a suspect in other similar crimes.
In the statement of facts for the murder cases, authorities wrote, “The defendant is believed to be responsible for other deaths but there is no proof at this time. The defendant should be considered very dangerous and should never be paroled.”
Greenwood’s first known victim, Lucille Deborde, was 14 years old when she was abducted in Highlands, Texas, on March 5, 1978.
“She dated his juvenile brother, who had nothing to do with her death,” Pierce said. “The victim was strangled and her body was hid on the Greenwood property under a stack of logs. Her body was not discovered until July 10, 1978, and by then it was severely decomposed.”
Diane Rose Hall, Greenwood’s second known victim, disappeared on May 22, 1978, while walking in her Highlands neighborhood.
“Greenwood and his brother were driving around in his car looking for someone to rape. They saw Hall, a housewife with five children. They grabbed her, shoved her in the car and drove to the Greenwood property,” said Pierce, reading from the statement of facts from the case.
Greenwood raped Hall in the backseat of his vehicle, then used a rope to strangle her after blindfolding her before her execution, the statement continues.
“Then he had sex with her body one more time after she was killed. They put her body in the trunk and drove to where Deborde’s body was on the property. They dumped her and then used a long butcher knife to stab her several times and then inserted the knife into her vaginal area,” Pierce read.
When asked if she thinks Greenwood’s crimes are serial in nature, Pierce said, “He is a serial rapist for sure.”
The bodies of the two women were found on July 10, 1968, at the Greenwood family’s property on the 800 block of Main Street in Highlands, just a short distance from the San Jacinto River.
“Some people were walking through the woods next to the property looking for a place to put their trailer or house, and smelled something. They poked around and found Hall’s body,” Pierce said.
When law enforcement began looking around the site, they found Deborde’s remains.
“Two of Hall’s children provided allocution in Greenwood’s trial in Liberty County,” Pierce said. “They were all juveniles at the time of their mother’s murder. One remembers looking for her mom with some of her friends and not finding her.”
Long-term consequences for victims
The murders, like the child sexual abuse case, have caused ripple effects for the victims and their families.
“It changed the course of their lives forever,” Pierce said. “One of the things I wanted for his granddaughter was swift justice. The jurors gave us that. They deliberated for 18 minutes. They had no doubt.”
Pierce is hopeful that Greenwood’s granddaughter will put the painful events of her childhood in the past.
“I hope she is able to move on with her life and start living a normal, successful life. It’s her time,” she said.
Liberty County DA Logan Pickett said he is relieved that Greenwood will never again have an opportunity to victimize another person in the free world.
“There are so many of these cases and they have serious consequences. It’s good to know that a victim received whatever justice the system could give her,” Pickett said.