What Happened To Serial Killer Billy Mansfield, Jr.?

Remains recovered from a Florida property in the Weeki Wachee Acres area of Spring Hill, Florida have been identified, according to CBS News. They belonged to 16-year-old Theresa Caroline Fillingim who went missing from Tampa in 1980. Fillingim was one of three victims recovered from the scene at that time, per the New York Post. Her death was linked to convicted serial killer Billy Mansfield, Jr., who owned the property described by neighbors as a "house of horrors." Mansfield, Jr. was convicted in 1982 of killing five women and girls in a five year time span which began in 1975 and ended in 1980.

After decades of effort, Fillingim was conclusively identified through new DNA testing technology called "Snapshot DNA Phenotyping," as CBS News reports. Instead of an exact genetic match, "Snapshot DNA Phenotyping" uses genetic material to build a description of what the person looked like instead. That information plus genetic material from Fillingim's sister helped authorities identify the teenager. Only two of the four bodies recovered from Mansfield, Jr.'s property were easily identified at the time, as the Post also notes. Mansfield, Jr. was a known sex offender when he was arrested in 1980 (via Oxygen).

Mansfield, Jr.'s father was also a convicted sex offender

As Florida news outlet WFLA explains, Mansfield, Jr.'s father, William Mansfield, Sr., was also a convicted sex offender. In 1980, around the same that his son was also arrested, Mansfield, Sr. was sentenced to a thirty-year prison sentence on forty sex abuse charges with dozens of children, as 1990 reporting from the Tampa Bay Times explains. After serving only 10 years of his sentence, Mansfield, Sr. was released on good behavior, as the Tampa Bay Times goes on to note. 

From the mid-1970s, Mansfield, Jr., himself, spent time in jail for sexually assaulting a minor. His sentence was cut short when he agreed to testify against a cellmate. Before long, though, Mansfield, Jr. was back in prison for assaulting two teenagers. In addition to sexual assault, Mansfield, Jr. was convicted of battery and kidnapping, as the Tampa Bay Times elsewhere reports. After serving that sentence, Mansfield, Jr. moved to California to work on a mushroom farm with his brother, Gary Mansfield.

The first Mansfield, Jr. murder

Soon after arriving in California, Mansfield, Jr.'s first murder took place, one of five — including Fillingim — he would be convicted of in 1982. At that time, the body of René Saling was recovered from a ditch. Per WFLA, Saling, who was a mother, was sexually assaulted and then strangled. She was 29 when she died. In the ensuing media coverage of Saling's murder, authorities received a tip: More bodies might be found on a Florida property that the Mansfield brothers owned. Acting on that information, police recovered four sets of remains. The first belonged to a woman named Sandra Jean Graham, who was 21 years old when she disappeared in 1980. 

As well as Sandra Graham, another Mansfield, Jr. murder victim was identified at that time. That girl was 15-year-old Ohio native Elaine Ziegler who disappeared while camping with her family in Florida, as WFLA reports. Two additional bodies could not be identified, including Fillingim. One Mansfield, Jr. victim remains a Jane Doe to this day. As the Daytona Beach news outlet WESH reported in 2022, court documents revealed that Mansfield, Sr., Mansfield, Jr., and Gary Mansfield all sexually assaulted the victims. Mansfield, Jr. then killed and dismembered them, as WESH also notes.

Mansfield's Jr. nearly escaped from prison

On the run, Billy Mansfield, Jr. and Gary Mansfield were arrested in Nevada. Mansfield, Jr. pleaded guilty to those crimes, as did his brother, Gary, who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the women as well as aiding and abetting their murder after the fact (via WESH). Those charges, as well as his conviction for abetting murder, were dropped when Gary Mansfield agreed to cooperate with the authorities, as Florida news outlet WFTV explains. In that first trial, the jury ruled 9-3 to convict Mansfield, Jr. for his crimes, as WFLA notes.

While awaiting retrial, Mansfield, Jr. nearly escaped from jail along with fellow inmate, Ben Barrigan. The pair managed to unchain themselves in a recreation yard at the facility and then climb up and over a roof. Mansfield, Jr. was recaptured less than half a day later. That prison break thwarted, Mansfield, Jr. was tried once more and convicted to 25 years-to-life behind bars (via WFLA). He also pleaded guilty to murdering the four women and girls recovered on the Mansfield property, as well as attempted sexual battery on a fifth victim. 

More victims may be out there

As Orlando news outlet WFTV explained in 2020, there may be more Mansfield, Jr. victims out there. As of that report, Gary Mansfield and his father, William Mansfield, Sr., are both still on the "house of horrors" Florida property where Mansfield, Jr.'s first four victims were found in 1980 and from which Fillingim's remains were recently identified. Authorities at that time arrived with a warrant to search Gary Mansfield's property on drug charges. Controlled substances and meth lab equipment were subsequently seized. But that's not all they found.

At that time, additional suspicious evidence was uncovered on a nearby property unrelated to Gary Mansfield's drug warrant. Though the exact nature of what was found was not disclosed, it was widely speculated to be additional human remains. At the time that Mansfield, Jr. was arrested, a tip indicated that there were more than four bodies on the property. As Mansfield, Jr.'s son noted, also named William (via WFTV) "Personally, I think there's a lot ... I just can't see someone gonna stop at one. And if there's four and five, you ain't stopping at one, you ain't stopping at four and five." Daytona Beach news station WESH reported in 2022 that what was uncovered in 2020 on the Mansfield property were indeed human remains. 

Fillingim family now has closure

Also according to WFLA , Mansfield, Jr. remains in prison at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton. He's serving his sentence in California because that's where his first murder, that of 29-year-old mother René Saling, took place. With Theresa's remains now identified, her sister said that her family now has some closure, per CBS News. Margaret Fillingim (now Margaret Johns) said (via CBS News) "It gives me peace because I know I didn't lose her ... [S]he was taken."

Sadly, the teen's parents died with no answers, as Fillingim's sister told Daytona Beach news outlet WESH. "I have a niece that knows and I have a cousin I keep in touch with that knows what's going on and then, besides my brother, that's it. It's just the four of us," Johns said. In 2020, Mansfield, Jr.'s son, William Mansfield told Fox 13 Tampa Bay that he believes his father may be innocent. That interview is available to watch on Youtube