In 2015 a Charleston, West Virginia sex worker named Heather Saul met a man, Neal Falls, online who wanted to become a client. Unfortunately, there are not many resources available to sex workers to help them screen clients and keep themselves safe from predators, and they (rightfully) are reticent to talk to police as they could be charged with prostitution. It’s not clear if Heather ever agreed to take him on as a client, but we do know he found her address and went to her home. Falls gained entry and immediately attacked Heather when he got inside by strangling her, pointing a gun at her, and telling her he would kill her if she did not comply with his orders.
Heather says, “He walked over here to me and just stuck the gun in my side and told me, ‘Live or die.’”
Heather believed the man did not want to use his gun (at least right away) and was able to fight with her attacker. She grabbed a nearby tool that was meant to pick up after her dog, Fancy, and swung it at him, forcing Falls to set down his gun in order to try and grab it. As he did this, Heather gave up the tool and grabbed his gun instead, immediately shooting and killing Neal Falls.
Heather’s back was broken and she dislocated her shoulder in the struggle and she was hysterical when police arrived. They found 4 pairs of handcuffs in her attacker’s pockets. When Falls’ car outside of Heather’s house was searched, they found a kill kit, confirming what might have happened to Heather if he had been able to subdue and rape her. The kill kit contained guns, an axe, a machete, knives, a sledgehammer, more handcuffs, duct tape, a shovel, garbage bags, a tub that could fit an adult woman, bleach and other cleaning supplies. He also had a King James compact reference bible.
Charleston, West Virginia Police Lt. Steve Cooper said, “What comes to mind when you look at those items is a serial killer kit…I believe that [Heather Saul] saved lives and hopefully we’ll be able to bring some closure to some other families too.” Cooper also added that he has been a detective for 18 years and has never come across such a kill kit in his career.
Heather also noted that Falls seemed experienced during the attack, “You could tell from his upper-body strength, you could tell that he’s done this for a long time. He knew how to keep control of me.”
Police have linked his kill kit and Modus Operandi to nine murdered and disappeared women in three states. Because Falls is dead, he likely will never be conclusively linked to these cases. The names of these women are:
Lindsay Marie Harris
Misty Marie Saens
Wanda Lemons (missing)
If you are interested in the investigation into Neal Falls’ possible victims, this podcast is a good place to start.
Neal Falls was born in 1969 and grew up in an abusive family near Eugene, Oregon. He was obsessed w weapons and military paraphernalia from a young age. He worked in unskilled and transient jobs. Around 2000 he got in trouble for abusing animals. Also around that time he went on a sex tourism trip to the Phillipines, but was never charged with that crime. In 2008 he was asked to quit a job after sexually harassing a coworker.
Also found in Falls’ pockets was a list of six women who worked as sex workers. Upon investigation, the women on the list were still alive. The list may have been intended victims for Falls.
Heather Saul was not charged with any crime and is considered a hero in her hometown.