WOODLAND PARK, N.J. – At 3:52 p.m. on Nov. 19, 2016, Khalil Wheeler-Weaver used his phone to Google date-rape drugs.
One hour and 53 minutes later, he used the same phone to solicit Sarah Butler for sex, offering $500. Butler was nervous.
“Wow,” said Butler, 20, a college student who communicated with Wheeler-Weaver on a social media app called Tagged. “You’re not a serial killer, right?”
Ten days later, Butler’s body was found under a pile of leaves and sticks in Eagle Rock Reservation.
Details connecting Wheeler-Weaver’s cellphone searches for date-rape drugs, his interest in deadly poisons and his attempts to contact women for sex filled a day of testimony Thursday in Essex County Superior Court in Newark, New Jersey. Wheeler-Weaver is accused of murdering three women and attempting to murder a fourth in a three-month killing spree in the fall of 2016.
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In court on Thursday, prosecutors introduced hundreds of pages of records detailing how Wheeler-Weaver used his cellphone to learn how to create drugs potent enough to knock a human being unconscious. He sought instructions to kill a person using household chemicals like bleach and ammonia.
His searches included, “How to make homemade poisons to kill humans” and, “What chemical could you put on a rag and hold to someone’s face to make them go to sleep immediately," according to cellphone records and testimony by Newark Police Lt. Michael Krusznis.
Meanwhile, Wheeler-Weaver searched for ways to erase evidence online, according to testimony. “If I erase all the contents and settings will it track?” he typed, in an apparent reference to a cellphone’s location tracker.
Interspersed with these searches, Wheeler-Weaver also sought information on how to become a police officer, Krusznis said, including a search for “Police entrance exam practice test.”
Wheeler-Weaver grew up in a comfortable home in a middle-class neighborhood in Orange, New Jersey. His stepfather is a police detective, and his uncle is a police officer. Wheeler-Weaver worked as a security guard at a hotel and also at a grocery store.
The crime spree appears to have begun on Aug. 31, 2016, when Robin West, 19, an alleged prostitute, was last seen. Her body was found Sept. 21 in an abandoned building that had been set on fire.
Location tracking on Wheeler-Weaver's phone put him at the address of the house just before the fire. After driving away, he circled back to watch firefighters battle the blaze, the prosecutor said.
The remains of a second alleged victim, 33-year-old Joanne Browne, were found on Dec. 5, 2016, at a vacant home. She had been struggling with homelessness and mental illness, her mother testified.
The would-be fourth victim, "T.T.", testified during the trial about her terrifying ordeal, waking up in the back seat of her car with duct tape on her face and getting "choked back to sleep," said prosecutor Adam Wells said.
Eventually she managed to loosen the tape by "screaming and crying," prosecutors said. She persuaded Wheeler-Weaver to take her to a motel to retrieve some belongings. There, she freed herself by locking herself alone inside a motel room.
Wheeler-Weaver was taken into custody Dec. 6, 2016. After he was led from his home, police officers searched his bed. They found two cellphones on the nightstand beside his bed. A third was discovered under his mattress.
This article originally appeared on North Jersey Record: New Jersey victim texted 'You're not a serial killer?' before death