Murder in Vermont

By Donald Guadagni

In 1981 Wade Willis was sixteen years old, he attended North Country Union High School with his cousin Roy Bullis and like most high school boys he had a girlfriend. Her name was Terri Weed she also attended North Country Union High School.

One afternoon while smoking pot together at the home of his cousin, Roy Bullis, Willis told Roy that Terri Weed was pregnant and that he was the father. Willis then told him that he was going to kill Terri Weed so that no one would know that she was pregnant. However, the students at North Country Union High School already knew of Terri’s pregnancy, and gossiped that Willis was the father. He was the object of torment and teasing at the school, because of it.

Wade said that he wasn’t too worried about killing her because he was a juvenile and not an adult. Afterwards Wade borrowed a pair of work gloves from Bullis and then left to meet Terri.

Wade and Terri walked together in the woods behind her house. Wade stopped where he had hidden the baseball bat and when Terri wasn’t looking he picked up the hidden baseball bat and began beating Terri in the head until she was unconscious. Wade then left her for dead and went back to his house.

Sometime later Wade called Roy to tell him that Terri was dead, and the two then arranged to meet near Wade’s home. Wade took a shovel from the garage, and then met Roy and went to where Terri was lying in the woods.

The boys were shocked that she was still breathing and alive.  Wade immediately started to hit Terri repeatedly with the shovel point in the head and stomach. He then dragged her by the hair further into woods where he began to bury her. Wade fearing she was still alive, hit Terri several more times with the shovel before he finished burying her. The boys then left the woods and went their separate ways back home.

Wade later called Roy at home and told him to tell anyone who asked about Terri’s whereabouts that she had left with two guys in a red car.

Later the Vermont State Police received two anonymous phone calls but only learned that there had been a killing.

Joseph Bullis, Roy’s father, called the state police and said that something terrible had happened in Morgan, Vermont. A few minutes later, Wade’s father, Duane Willis, called to request that the police hurry to his house because there had been a killing behind the Weed residence in Morgan. Corporals Rivard and Johnson left for the Willis residence.

Rivard and Johnson arrived and met Duane Willis and his wife in the kitchen of his house. “What’s the problem here?” Corporal Johnson asked. And Mr. Willis replied, “My son tells me he killed some girl.” He said that the girl was Terri Weed and that her body was in the woods behind Larry Weed’s residence. Mr. Willis also told them that Wade was sixteen years old. (First Juvenile defense assertion)

Corporal Rivard asked where Wade was, at which time Wade came from the living room into the kitchen; he said nothing. The officers discussed the situation privately for a few moments, and a short while later, outside the house, Corporal Rivard asked Wade, “Do you want to show us where it is?” Wade nodded his head affirmatively. The officers insisted that Mr. Willis accompany them because Wade was a juvenile.

Wade, his father and both officers went into the woods behind the Weed residence with Wade leading the way. The only conversation during the walk was an admonishment by Corporal Johnson to Wade to stay away from the Weed residence. There was no questioning of Wade, nor did Wade say anything.

When they reached the spot where Terri lay partially buried, the officers checked her wrist for a pulse. Finding no pulse they concluded that Terri Weed was dead. The officers then placed Wade under arrest and read him the Miranda warnings. The officers did not question Wade at that time and took Wade immediately to the state police barracks shortly after 5:00 p.m. The police officers once again advised Wade of his Miranda rights, this time in the presence of both his mother and father.

(The above is nearly quoted from the United States Supreme Court appellate brief of March 22, 1985, “overview of facts“)

“Willis was subsequently brought to the Orleans County Sheriff’s department holding jail. (Where I was a Deputy Sheriff and jail officer) pending his arraignment and preliminary hearing at the Superior Court House in front of the Sheriff’s Department office (1981) to determine whether he should be tried as an adult or juvenile.

As the jail officer, my testimony was solicited at the hearing and I opined that despite goading and teasing from the other detainees that his behavior and demeanor while at the jail was very composed and calm (Wade was not panicked or worried) and that Willis could be tried as an adult. Due to his families community standing other senior members of the Sheriff’s Department testified that they believed Willis should be tried as a juvenile.

Willis attempted to have the trial proceedings transferred to the Juvenile court. However the adult trial court reasoned that the criminal court would be better able to provide for the protection of the community. “The community is entitled to protection and an adult criminal court is better able to provide it”…. No evidence was presented to suggest that Willis lacked the sophistication and maturity to understand the nature and quality of the act of killing another human being.”

The court further explained that the Juvenile Court would lose jurisdiction over Wade in less than two years. And that the Juvenile Court could not possibly assure rehabilitation commensurate with the serious nature of the crime alleged and Wade’s learning disabilities.

Wade Willis was subsequently convicted in April 1982 as an adult of first-degree murder, and was sentenced to 10 years to life on May 18th 1982.. He served over 19 years in prison before getting his first adult taste of freedom in 2001.”—- Donald Guadagni


Caledonian Record Newspaper

Jun 18, 2001

Wade Willis Out of Prison

Wade Willis, convicted of murder in one of the Northeast Kingdoms most gruesome killings, got out of prison Thursday.

An official with the Vermont Department of Corrections confirmed Willis has been furloughed.

Willis is living in a trailer his family bought him in White River Junction, said Bill Soule, acting superintendent of the Southeast State Correctional Facility, the prison in Windsor that Willis just left.

Willis, now 36, was 16 when he killed his girlfriend in the tiny Northeast Kingdom town of Morgan.

Terri Weed, 15, was pregnant with Willis & child. Authorities believe the motive for the murder was that Willis was enraged about the pregnancy.

He lured her into the woods and beat her with a baseball bat, leaving her for dead – or so he thought.

When he returned with a shovel to bury her, he saw she was still breathing. He used the shovel to hack her to death, finishing the job while a horrified cousin of his watched him do it.

Tried as an adult, Willis was convicted in April 1982 of first-degree murder. He got 10 years to life. He served over 19 years in prison before getting his first adult taste of freedom this week.

The Willis furlough has been in the works for nearly two years. The plan has been controversial in White River Junction, where community leaders have known Willis wanted to go.

Why White River Junction? It is near the Southeast State Correctional Facility, the prison where Willis has served much of his time and received much of his treatment. Also, it is close to Lebanon, N.H., where his sister lives.

Willis is not being returned to the Northeast Kingdom, where his roots are, out of respect for the wishes of the victim’s parents, who live in Newport.

The victim’s family has opposed the idea of freeing Willis.

The victim’s sister, Lorna Robinson, who also lives in the Northeast Kingdom, has been the family spokesperson.

On Friday, she told The Caledonian-Record, “We knew (the release) was going to happen, so it’s not a big shock to us.”

“But it doesn’t make us any happier,” she continued. “If anything, it makes us feel more hopeless. We feel like we’ve lost the battle.”

Donald Guadagni is the Sheriff’s Deputy pictured in this photo of The Burlington Free Press of 1981. He is helping to escort Wade Willis to the local Court House.

The Dandelion Run was created in memory and honor of Terri Weed, in order to help victim’s of violent crime.

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Further Reading and Sources:—May-16—24–2020.html?soid=1107378559323&aid=sar1_TtinPk

Bio: Donald Guadagni is an international educator, author, and writer currently teaching and conducting research in Beijing China. His publication work includes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, science fiction, fantasy, humor, academic, romance, humor, true crime. International photography and his artwork. Former iterations, military, law enforcement, prisons, engineering, and forever the wayward son.

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Publishing Editor for The Yard: Crime Blog.

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