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Sick woman's helper accused in death

William "Billy" McHenry has taken care of Suzie Fugett, a disabled cancer patient, since last year. Police say he killed a man.

By ADRIENNE P. SAMUELS, Times Staff Writer
Published December 12, 2003

LARGO - Jeans splattered with what looked like blood. A knife with a red and black handle. Somebody else's computer and DVD player.

Those are a few of the things police found in Suzie Fugett's house Wednesday night while investigating a murder.

Then they told Fugett to leave. They said that her male companion was being arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

She didn't believe it. She had met William "Billy" McHenry at a local McDonald's last year, and she brought him home soon afterward. They had talked of marriage.

McHenry, 34, was arrested late Wednesday in connection with the stabbing death of Lucas Kay McCauley, 30. McCauley's body was found on Sunday in his apartment at 1701 Valencia Drive W in Largo.

"I feel like the biggest fool in the world," said Fugett, 55, starting into a fresh pack of Doral cigarettes. "The police seem to be very sure it was Billy. But that's not the Billy I knew."

McHenry was Fugett's friend.

Her husband died 11 years ago. She is disabled, has cancer and often breathes from oxygen tanks. McHenry baked dinners, cleaned and looked after her, Fugett said. The couple didn't have a car, she said. So McHenry, a window washer, walked miles to work every day.

He had walked to the nearby Publix to buy their dinner on Wednesday night when police showed up, she said.

" "Just wait, Billy will be back,' " Fugett recalled telling the police. "Then they told me Billy won't be coming back."

Fugett said she doesn't remember McHenry leaving the house on Saturday night to go to Club Z102. She says the couple didn't have enough money to go out.

McCauley was last seen alive at the Largo area nightclub, so police went there to ask questions. Here's what police said they learned:

Doorman Narvel Cardin remembered checking McHenry's ID, and that McHenry and McCauley left the club together. Bar owner Chris Petersen was holding a birthday party for his wife that night and was taking photographs. Some of the pictures show McHenry and McCauley together. The shirt and a second pair of jeans worn by McHenry in those pictures matched the clothing found at McCauley's house, where police believe the murder occurred, police said.

Police arrested McHenry and searched Fugett's home at 498 Sixth Ave. NW.

The doorman's tip helped the police quickly "resolve" the case, said Lt. Michelle Smith. The shirt was key.

"There's something on that shirt that led us to believe that he's our suspect," Smith said. She declined to elaborate.

Police said the computer found at Fugett's house belongs to McHenry.

Fugett said that the confiscated knife is not hers and that McHenry's belongings would be put in the garage. She doesn't know if McCauley and McHenry were friends.

At least one neighbor is happy to see McHenry go.

"She's in bad shape, and he takes care of her, but the guy was totally whacked out," said Jimmie Phillips, 35.

In June, Phillips said, he and McHenry got into a fight when McHenry demanded that Phillips fork over $100. In the end, it took officers and stun guns to detain McHenry, Phillips said.

Police charged McHenry with battery and resisting an officer with violence after that incident.

"I'm glad he's gone, but not for this reason," Phillips said.

Since 2000, McHenry has been arrested for not registering as a sex offender, criminal mischief, domestic battery and possession of marijuana, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Fugett's family gathered at her house on Thursday. One cousin said McHenry had a bad temper and that the family had asked Fugett to leave him after some money came up missing and the phone got cut off.

Fugett said she is still in shock.

"I never knew somebody in my life that would kill someone."

- Adrienne Samuels can be reached at 445-4157 or Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

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