William Coday was a model employee -- a mild-mannered, 40-year-old librarian -- who completely lost control when his girlfriend left him.
When he didn't show up for work at the Broward County, Fla. library on July 12, 1997, concerned co-workers called his apartment complex to check up on him.
Instead, the man who searched the apartment found someone else -- the body of a woman who had been brutally murdered, lured to her death by a cunning trap.
The night before, Coday told his former girlfriend he was dying of cancer, then killed her when she came to his aid. By the time police found the victim, Coday had fled to Europe on a prearranged flight.
Three months later he returned to the United States and was tried for murder, but what jurors didn't know was that it wasn't the first time Coday was tried for murder – and it wasn't the first time he had beaten an ex-girlfriend to death.
In BEHIND THE MASK: A True Story of Obsession and Savage Genius, Stella Sands tells the full story of librarian William Coday, who had a deadly history more than two decades long, stretching across two continents.
Interview By Barry Leibowitz, Senior Writer at 48 Hours | Mystery
It's a truism that you can't judge a book by its cover. How is it true with this book?
Sands: The title and image on the cover of Behind the Mask suggest that the murderer wears a literal mask in doing his murderous work. However, that is far from the truth. The perpetrator is a much more complex human being than one who might hide behind a literal mask. Indeed, the mask is metaphoric.
What drew you to this case?
Sands: I was fascinated that a brilliant young man could commit almost the exact same type of savage murder twenty years apart—and in the interim, live a "normal" life: get a law degree, a Masters Degree in Library Science, hold down high-level jobs; marry and divorce twice.
What's the most compelling or surprising aspect of this story that you can reveal?
Sands: Most compelling is the man Coday himself: the fact that he could speak many foreign languages; that he came from a middle class home; that he attended college and grad school; that he wrote a "novel" about his love for the second woman he murdered—after he murdered her; that he remained friends with the two women he married and divorced; AND, as if that isn't enough, that he was able to commit suicide on death row!
What fascinating forensics or investigation details came to light?
Sands: Actually, Coday left all his bloody clothing and the hammer and knives at the scenes, so there was no question that he committed the murders. After the second murder, he flew to Europe, where he remained for many months, traveling and writing his book. He ultimately turned himself in.
Do you ever have nightmares because of this story?
Sands: No. I can't explain why.
BONUS QUESTION: What question should Crimesider have asked you that we didn't...and what's the answer?
Sands: Question: Why might readers be interested in this book and the murderer, William Coday?
Answer: He's somebody who could be living next door; somebody you'd want to date; somebody who helped you in the library; somebody who could speak "your" language (English, French, German, Spanish); a confidant; a best friend; a co-worker; a lover.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stella Sands wrote the true-crime book Baby-faced Butchers, as well as other works including Odyssea and Natural Disasters. She is Executive Editor of Kids Discover, an award-winning magazine with over 400,000 subscribers geared to children 7 to 12 years old. Her plays, Lou Passin' Through, Black-eyed Peas, andE-me, have been produced in Off-Off Broadway theaters in New York City.