Army Spouse Billi Jo Smallwood Convicted of Arson that Killed Her 2 Children Samuel Fagan & Rebekah Smallwood; Sentenced to 25 Years in Federal Prison (June 28, 2012)

Preview: The Ballad of Billi-Jo, True Crime with Aphrodite Jones (S4,E9)

On May 29, 2007, Billi Jo and Wayne Smallwood experienced a fire in their Fort Campbell, Kentucky home. They had three children living with them at the time of the fire: Sam, Rebekah, and Nevaeh. The neighbors ran outside to see what was going on only to find a chaotic scene. Wayne was on the ground with a broken ankle and Billi Jo was still on the roof attempting to escape the smoke and fire and screaming for help; she was holding her 14 month old Nevaeh. After passing the child down to firefighters, Billi Jo was reluctant to get off the roof because her other children were still in the home. Firefighters entered the burning home and found Rebekah but she was already dead and Sam was still alive when they carried him out of the house but he wasn’t stable enough to fly to the burn unit in Nashville. He died of his injuries at the local hospital. Billi Jo was airlifted to a Nashville hospital with second and third degree burns on her legs and one of her arms. Wayne arrived later in Nashville with a shattered ankle.

Before the fire, Wayne and Billi Jo had a pretty normal life. Wayne returned from his first deployment to Iraq nine months earlier. Like most military families, the Smallwood family struggled with their finances and the stresses of military life too. Both Billi Jo and Wayne had children from other relationships. Rebekah and Sam were Billi Jo’s kids and they stayed with her and Wayne’s son Cote lived with his mother. And just over a year before the fire, the couple had their own baby together: Nevaeh. Local authorities brought in federal authorities to investigate the burned out home. They found that one of the smoke detectors had been taken down and placed on a baby highchair. ATF also found a partly burned spout on a gasoline can. They brought in a working dog and the dog discovered an accelerant; the ATF believed gas had been used to start the fire and this was arson. They also found the Smallwood’s car had been vandalized, all the tires had been slashed, and someone left a threatening note keyed on the car.

Investigators interviewed Billi Jo and Wayne Smallwood in the hospital. Billi Jo told them earlier in the day they had driven back from Georgia after visiting Wayne’s family. On this day, Wayne was being especially nice to Sam which was atypical because he was usually pretty hard on him. According to Billi Jo, when they returned home, Wayne took the last of the cash and headed down to a bar on base to drink with his friends; the couple struggled financially. Billi Jo claims that while Wayne was gone, a man called the house threatening to harm Wayne. Billi Jo called the military police to report the threatening phone call, then she called Wayne at the bar. Instead of rushing home to check on his family, Wayne stayed at the bar. The MP’s checked in with Billi Jo but they told her soldier’s quite often played pranks on one another. Eventually, Billi Jo fell asleep with Nevaeh and Wayne fell asleep with Rebekah. When Billi Jo realized the house was on fire, she grabbed Nevaeh so they could get to safety yet Wayne jumped from the second story floor without any of the children.

ATF Agents interviewed the Smallwood’s small circle of family and friends to see if they could find anyone who had a reason to commit this crime. They learned that Wayne was embroiled in a contentious custody battle with his ex-wife. According to Billi Jo, Wayne had recently met with his ex-wife about their son and it lead to an argument; the two fought often. In the meantime, arson investigators determined that because all the locks were engaged downstairs, someone from inside the house had to have started the fire. Agents scrutinized both Billi Jo and Wayne looking for any inconsistencies. Billi Jo told them she went to Wal-Mart earlier in the evening to pick up some items for the baby but when they checked surveillance footage, there was no sign of Billi Jo at the Wal-Mart. When investigators questioned her about the inconsistency, she told them that it was a K-Mart, not Wal-Mart. The second time Billi Jo told the investigators what she bought, it included a gas can. This was a disturbing revelation but Billi Jo’s explanation was simple: military members are fined if they don’t mow the grass.

Prosecutors wanted to prove that Billi Jo torched her home on base in an effort to kill her husband Wayne and collect the $400,000 life insurance pay-out. When constructing their arguments, they noted that the Smallwood’s already had a couple gas cans in the back yard therefore Billi Jo didn’t need to purchase another one. Billi Jo said she forgot to bring a gas can with her when she ran errands and it was easier to just buy another one. ATF Agents visited K-Mart and learned that BJ had in fact visited the store that day. They also learned that the the nozzle on the gas can she bought matched the one found in the fire. And although Billi Jo said she needed to mow the grass, it had not been mowed that day. Federal investigators suspected someone who lived in the house started the fire so they interviewed Wayne and gave him a polygraph; he passed. In a separate interview, Billi Jo admitted she saw blue flames and this was a moment of revelation for the investigators because you are only going to see blue flame when the fire is first lit.

Billi Jo and Wayne argued a lot and Billi Jo testified that Wayne had a violent side too. Billi Jo admitted to confronting Wayne numerous times about his inability to manage money; Wayne’s gambling caused problems too. Investigators theorized Billi Jo had enough of Wayne and this was her motive. On the same night as the fire, the Smallwood’s were overdrawn on their bank account and Wayne had spent the last of their money on alcohol. If Wayne died in the fire, Billi Jo would receive $400,000. Hoping to find out who made the threatening phone calls, prosecutors subpoenaed the telephone records and found no threatening call had been made. Billi Jo says there was a phone call but the phone company said their records are almost 99% accurate. Prosecutors believe everything that comes out of Billi Jo’s mouth is a lie. Billi Jo’s injuries to the legs and one arm were also suspicious. They believed these burns were caused when a fire was ignited in front of her; they believe she was kneeling when she lit the fire.

In preparation for trial, the remains of the Smallwood’s home were removed and taken to a crime lab. It was at this time that forensic experts found overlooked evidence. They determined that the dining room window had been up about 6-8 inches at the time of the fire. This information damaged the prosecution’s theory to an extent because Billi-Jo believed a stranger entered the home and started the fire. The investigators believed either Wayne or Billi Jo started the fire because the house was locked up. Prosecutors moved forward with Billi Jo as their prime suspect because of her connection to a gas can and a financial motive to kill her husband. The prosecution took a look at the intruder theory and couldn’t understand how an adult got through the window and didn’t break or knock anything over. Investigators deduced it was highly unlikely that an intruder would enter the home and not alert the family dog.

Six months after the fire, Billi Jo reported that Wayne was acting erratically and in November 2007, he attacked Billi Jo with a knife. He was convicted of assault and spent eleven months in jail. Billi Jo and Nevaeh move to Georgia with her mother. Two weeks after Wayne was released from jail, Billi Jo was arrested for setting the fire that killed her two children Sam and Rebekah. Five years after the fire that killed Sam and Rebekah, Billi Jo went to trial. The prosecution claimed Billi Jo’s motive was to kill her husband for the life insurance money but the plan backfired and she accidentally killed two of her children. In court, the defense attacked the prosecution’s circumstantial evidence but the jury wasn’t buying it. Billi Jo Smallwood was found guilty and sentenced to twenty-five years in federal prison. Billi Jo’s mother believes she is innocent and that someone out there knows something.

Source: The Ballad of Billi-Jo, True Crime with Aphrodite Jones

Investigation Discovery:

ID Go: When a house fire takes the lives of Wayne and Billi Jo Smallwood’s two young children, everyone on the Fort Campbell military base is grief-stricken for them. But when it turns out the fire was intentionally set – grief turns to outrage. -The Ballad of Billi-Jo, True Crime with Aphrodite Jones (S4,E9)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.

Related Links:
Samuel Fagan (1997-2007)
Rebekah Smallwood (2004-2007)
Rebekah Josephine Smallwood | Sept. 6, 2003-May 29, 2007
Murderpedia: Billi Jo Smallwood
Fatal Fire At Fort Campbell Ruled Arson
Georgia woman allegedly kills her 2 kids in arson meant to kill husband
Army wife accused in arson that killed her 2 kids
Army wife accused in arson that killed her kids
Army Wife Accused in Arson That Killed Her 2 Kids
Murder-for-insurance failed, prosecutor says
Insurance motive cited in fire that killed 2 kids
Gainesville soldiers wife pleads not guilty to setting fire that killed 2 kids
Woman guilty in fiery deaths of her 2 children
Smallwood guilty of setting fire to Fort Campbell residence
Army Wife Convicted of Setting Fatal Fire
Mother convicted of setting fire that killed her children
Army wife found guilty of setting fire to home killing kids aged 9 and 2 in blaze ‘set for husband’
Mom Gets 25 Years in Base Arson That Killed 2 Kids
Mom Gets 25 Years For Arson That Killed Two Of Her Children
Woman sentenced to 25 years for setting fatal fire
Woman sentenced to 25 years for setting fatal fire
Fort Campbell Woman Sentenced 25 Years for Fatal Fire
Woman who set fire to home, killed two children gets 25 years
Army wife who killed her children after setting fire to her home to try to kill her husband for his $440,000 life insurance policy is sentenced to 25 years
Judge shows leniency for woman convicted of killing children
Judge shows leniency for woman convicted of killing children
United States of America v Billi Jo Smallwood (2012)
Violent Crime, Suicide & Non Combat Death at Fort Campbell, Kentucky (US Army)
A List of Soldiers Targeted & Murdered for Military Survivor and Life Insurance Benefits (SGLI)
True Crime with Aphrodite Jones – The Ballad of Billi Jo
The Ballad of Billi-Jo | True Crime with Aphrodite Jones | ID Web
The Ballad of Billi-Jo | True Crime with Aphrodite Jones (S4,E9)

NPR: Pentagon Revamps Rules On Reporting Sex Crimes (June 19, 2012)

xl_deptofdefenselogoNPR: Pentagon Revamps Rules On Reporting Sex Crimes

“The Pentagon has announced new steps to deter assaults and make it easier to prosecute offenders, a move that follows President Obama’s recent remark that sexual assault “has no place” in the U.S. military.

Still, many victims believe it will be difficult to change a military culture that makes it tough for the victims to report these crimes. For victims, the nightmare starts with the attack. Many say that things get worse when they try to do something about it.”

“We anticipate maybe about 14 or 15 percent of people who have been sexually assaulted come forward to report.” -Air Force Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog

Read more from NPR here.

Who Killed Thomas Boyle in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan? (June 19, 2012)

Thomas Boyle

Thomas J. Boyle, Jr. died in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on June 19, 2012.

“Obviously, suspicions are not proof of wrong doing, but Pauline Boyle has discovered enough evidence to warrant an all-out independent investigation. The problem is that asking the Army to investigate itself is asking the Fox to guard the hen house. The result will always be questionable. The Boyle family does have hard facts that clearly indicates there was an overt attempt to cover-up the circumstances of Thomas J. Boyle’s death.

Was there a military drug cartel that no one wanted to talk about, or was it a conspiracy of some of the soldiers on base to stop the change of command and keep the lieutenant colonel in command for as long as possible.”

Learn more here: The Pre-Meditated Murder of Thomas Boyle, and Ensuing Cover-Up of his Murder by the United States Army | Military Corruption

Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 1)

Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 2)

Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 3)

Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 4)

Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 5)

Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 6)

Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 7)

Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 8)

Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 9)

Related Links:
Obituary: Thomas J. Boyle, Jr.
Thomas Boyle Remembered on Anniversary of Death
“Who Killed Thomas Boyle?” Part 5 Video Released
Who Killed Thomas Boyle? Part 6
Who Killed Thomas Boyle? Part 8
Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 1)
Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 2)
Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 3)
Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 4)
Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 5)
Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 6)
Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 7)
Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 8)
Who Killed Thomas Boyle? (Part 9)

Fox 31 Denver | Home from War: Soldier Suicides on the Rise (June 18, 2012)

The U.S. military is grappling with a disturbing trend—soldiers are killing themselves at an alarming rate. So far this year, an average of one soldier a day is committing suicide. The suicide rate is outpacing the number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year by some 50-percent. -Fox 31 Denver

DENVER – The U.S. military is grappling with a disturbing trend—soldiers are killing themselves at an alarming rate. So far this year, an average of one soldier a day is committing suicide.

The suicide rate is outpacing the number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year by some 50-percent. And there have been high-profile cases here in Colorado.

It’s gotten so bad, that the defense department has even set up a suicide prevention office. Soldiers we talk to say the reasons for their life-threatening depression are many.

Read more from Fox 31 Denver here.

Related Links:
Suicide in the Military | Center for Deployment Psychology
Military Suicides: Most Attempts Come Before Soldiers Ever See Combat
DOD: Among services, Army had highest suicide rate in 2014
Experts worry high military suicide rates are ‘new normal’
New VA study finds 20 veterans commit suicide each day
America’s Soldiers and Veterans Commit Suicide at Vexingly High Rates
Shocking Military Suicide Rates And Identifying The Signs
A suicide attempt in an Army unit can lead to more, study finds
The missing context behind the widely cited statistic that there are 22 veteran suicides a day
Study reveals top reason behind soldiers’ suicides

Father & Son Albert and Duane Correll Murdered During a Robbery Attempt in Beaufort, North Carolina; Navy Corpsman Jhadin Davis Sentenced to Life in Prison, No Parole (June 2, 2012)

Homicide Victims:
Albert Correll, 20, Beaufort, North Carolina
Duane Correll, 50, Beaufort, North Carolina

The homicides of father and son Duane and Albert Correll in Beaufort, North Carolina were featured on Investigation Discovery. Duane and Albert were both shot on June 2, 2012 in the course of a robbery. Duane was born in Michigan and his love for fishing brought him to North Carolina; shortly after arriving, he met his wife. They had Albert a couple years later and he joined Duane’s wife’s daughter Andrea. Eventually, the couple split and Andrea lived with her mom and Albert lived with his father. Duane hurt his back and was disabled so he had a hard time working. Albert got a job and went to work so his father wouldn’t have too. They were close and bonded over their love for fishing. It was especially tragic that the pair would be discovered together with gunshots. Albert wasn’t breathing and Duane was dying, yet more concerned about the health of his son.

Albert and Duane were rushed to the hospital; Albert was pronounced dead at the scene. They had both been shot in the chest. The police began their investigation and learned that they had just returned from Wal-Mart. Investigators wondered if they got in an altercation and were followed home. They didn’t find any weapons at the scene. They started interviewing the 911 callers but nobody actually saw what went down. One witness said he saw a gray vehicle and two individuals, one was confronting Albert. The confrontation lead to gunshots and the witness ran into their home to call the police. It was too dark to get a good look at the suspects before they took off. Then another witness came forward and said they were dead because of her. A woman claimed that her ex was jealous of Albert and said he was going to kill him. The police wanted to speak to him.

The day before, Kevin Connor sent Albert some threatening texts. It read “you won’t live to see the sunrise” so the police set out to find him. Albert’s girlfriend told police where he lived; he was roommates with Joseph Pirrotta. When police arrived at their home, they located three individuals inside. They cleared the apartment and Kevin wasn’t there. Joseph was home with a couple of his friends. He recently had been in the Navy and was stationed at Camp Lejeune but had been dishonorably discharged due to drug use two weeks prior. Joseph informed the police that Kevin no longer lived at the residence but he had his phone number. He was asked to call him, he answered and informed Joseph where he was at. The police immediately went to apprehend him. Kevin said he didn’t do anything but was willing to cooperate with the police.

Kevin told them he heard that Albert was shot; he used his girlfriend and other friends as his alibi for the day. He acknowledged he had problems with Albert and admitted to sending him a threatening text but denied killing him. Kevin had an airtight alibi and was absolutely cleared. Surveillance video footage at Wal-Mart did not indicate any suspicious activity and like Kevin was another dead end. That same night, Duane Correll didn’t make it and died. The police visited with Albert’s mother the next day and she had just recently learned that Albert and Duane had died; she was not doing well and in complete disbelief. The family couldn’t think of anyone who held a grudge against them and would want to murder them. The police went back to Albert’s girlfriend and learned that she had a brief fling with Jhaden Davis and he may have something to do with it.

Nicki told detectives things didn’t end well with Jhaden because he accused her of taking $300 from his bedroom and for some reason he decided to go after Albert thinking he could get the money out of him. A couple weeks before the homicides, Jhaden called Albert demanding his money. He told him to pay up or it wasn’t going to be pretty. Investigators learned Jhaden lived in the same apartment as Joseph Pirrotta and another guy named Brandon Smallwood. They were all in the Navy and stationed at Camp Lejeune together. Police went back to the residence to speak with Jhaden and learned he was on base. The roommate shared that Brandon and Jhaden stopped by over the weekend to pay rent; he also said no one had any weapons. They reached out to NCIS because they didn’t have jurisdiction on base and needed NCIS agents to assist them.

Local police interviewed Jhaden first and he claimed he was on base all weekend but there was no way to prove or disprove this but Jhaden was off-duty on the night of the murders. Brandon admitted that they did leave base for little while and went into town. Jhaden and Brandon were told not to leave the base. Police subpoenaed the phone records of Pirrotta, Davis and Smallwood. They also reinterviewed the friends hanging out at their apartment that night. During the interview, they suspected one of them was hiding something. They showed her pictures of the victims and were able to push her to the point that she decided to tell them everything. She told them Jhaden used her car prior to the murders. Jhaden left the apartment with Joseph Pirrotta. Jhaden returned a little after 10 p.m., a few minutes after the 911 calls. Jhaden & Pirrotta left the apartment and went back to Camp Lejeune. The next morning Jhaden came back and confessed.

Jhaden Davis told Victoria that he shot both Albert and Duane. It appeared that he was bragging and he implied to her that she better keep it quiet because now she knows what he was capable of. When confronted, Davis wouldn’t budge and said he was on base the whole time. Brandon said Davis and Pirrotta asked him if he wanted to go with them. Pirrotta was confronted and he spilled the beans on everything. He admitted that Davis wanted his $300 and revenge. They surprised Albert and Duane and then ambushed them; the Correll’s had no idea who was behind them. Davis first hit Albert with the butt of the gun, then shot Duane who was trying to protect Albert. Afterward, Davis shot Albert in the chest two times because Albert was the main target. Pirrotta said he thought they were going to rob them, not murder them. Davis took the money out of Albert’s wallet and Pirrotta told them where it was located.

Prosecutors moved forward with cases against Jhaden Davis, Joseph Pirrotta, and Brandon Smallwood. In July 2017, Jhaden Davis was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to two life sentences without the possibility of parole. In December 2017, Joseph Pirrotta pleaded guilty to robbery and accessory after the fact to murder and was sentenced to ten years in prison. In March 2018, Brandon Smallwood pleaded guilty to felony obstruction of justice and was sentenced to five to fifteen months, with credit for time served. Albert and Duane’s family feel like the whole thing was so senseless, all over a girl and $300. Albert and Duane Correll will not be forgotten. The family left behind loves and misses them and still waits for their calls.

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 1.58.10 PM

Jhaden Davis, Joseph Pirrotta, Brandon Smallwood

Jhaden Davis, 21, US Navy, Camp Lejeune, NC (GUILTY, Sentenced to LWOP)
Joseph Pirrotta, 24, Navy Veteran, Beaufort, NC (GUILTY, Accessory to Murder)
Brandon Smallwood, 23, US Navy, Camp Lejeune, NC (GUILTY, Accessory After the Fact)

Source: Hearts of Darkness, Murder Calls, Investigation Discovery

Investigation Discovery:

ID Go: A dying man calls 911 saying he’s been shot in the heart, and his son has also been shot dead. The shooter escapes into the darkness, and as detectives investigate, they navigate a complex group of suspects to uncover a tangled web of rage and revenge. -Hearts of Darkness, Murder Calls (S3,E5)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.

Related Links:
Names of victims released in double homicide
Sheriff: shooting deaths related to recent larceny
Suspect search on in double homicide
Three Arrested in Double Murder of Corrells
Camp Lejeune sailors arrested in Beaufort killings
Camp Lejeune Navy Corpsmen arrested for double murder
Camp Lejeune Navy Corpsmen arrested for double murder
Three accused in murders make appearance
New twist in double murder case involving Climax-Scotts native
State, defense prepare for trial in murder case
Court Day for Suspects in Father/Son Murders
Double murder trial gets underway
Accused killer’s ex-roommate testifies in double murder trial
Witnesses: Davis later confessed to two shootings
Former Navy corpsman found guilty of killing father & son
Davis Convicted in Carteret Double Murder
Former Navy corpsman convicted in 2012 double murder
Former corpsman gets life in 2012 Beaufort double murder
Former corpsman gets life in 2012 Beaufort double murder [YouTube]
Albert Correll and his son Duane Correll were murdered by Jhaden Davis over a debt
Carteret homicide case featured on true-crime series
Carteret homicide case featured on true-crime series
Hearts of Darkness | Murder Calls | Investigation Discovery (S3,E5)
Navy Corpsman Jhadin Davis Convicted of First Degree Murder of Father & Son Albert and Duane Correll; Sentenced to Life in Prison, No Parole (July 31, 2017)

On This Day, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Hollye Meeks Passed Away in Houston, Texas (June 1, 2012)

Honoring LCpl Hollye Meeks @USMC (2012)

Photo by: Staff Sgt. Raymie G. Cruz

Photo: “Lance Cpl. Hollye K. Meeks (left) searches Cpl. Roxanne Cox, after receiving a class on the proper procedures from members of a police transition team. Eight female Marines from different units within 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing volunteered for the Lioness Program to conduct security searches of women crossing into Iraq. Meeks is a motor transport vehicle operator, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd MAW, and a Houston, Texas native. Cox is a maintenance management specialist, with Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd MAW, and a Cincinnati native.” (22 Aug 2006)

Obituary: Marine Corps Lance Corporal Hollye Meeks, 25, was born July 4, 1986 in Richmond to Randy and Becky (Kunz) Meeks. She passed away June 1, 2012 in Houston. She graduated from B.F. Terry High School and was an accomplished basketball player. She also pole vaulted and ran track. Upon graduation she enlisted in the USMC. She spent time in 29 Palms, CA. and proudly served her country in Syria and Iraq. Hollye is survived by her parents, Randy and Becky; aunts and uncles, Carol and Russell Clayton, Bob and Margaret Kunz, Linda and Duane Segers and Danny and Margie Meeks; birth father, William Brown; 4 half sisters and one half brother; and numerous cousins; Godparents, Marvin “Bud” and Shirley Nordt; and a multitude of good friends; and her dog “Boss”.

Related Links:
Hollye Krystine Meeks Obituary
Lance Cpl. Hollye K. Meeks searches Cpl. Roxanne Cox
Female Marines train for Iraq border security
Marines Dodging Death: Sixty-Two Accounts of Close Calls