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Murder suspect bludgeoned Otter Tail County mother, son with pipe wrench, charges say

Denise Mcfadzen and Dalton Mcfadzen1 / 2
William Hillman2 / 2

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — William Hillman, who's charged in the killings of a mother and son at their rural Frazee mobile home, told investigators that when he woke up early Tuesday, April 17, everything went black and he didn't remember what happened next, according to Otter Tail County District Court documents.

Hillman told investigators that when he came out of the blackness, he realized he had done "a bad thing," the documents said.

That "bad thing," a relative of the victims told Otter Tail County sheriff's investigators, was that Hillman had used a pipe wrench to kill 42-year-old Denise Mcfadzen and her son, 21-year-old Dalton Mcfadzen, then tried to leave the rural home in a vehicle.

Hillman, 21, who gave his address as 43230 505th St. — the same home where the Mcfadzens' bodies were found — was formally charged Thursday, April 19, with two counts of second-degree murder, court documents show.

Hillman was granted a public defender, though one has not yet been named, a staff member in the Otter Tail County Attorney's Office said Thursday.

According to court documents:

Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the home about 5:17 a.m., with the relative of the Mcfadzens saying that his mother and brother had been assaulted with a pipe wrench by a man named "William," who was trying to leave in a vehicle.

About 5:25 a.m., the county dispatch office received a 911 call from Hillman saying he was at a nearby residence and that he had done a "bad thing" and needed to be arrested.

Deputies arrived at the scene about 5:29 a.m., and found Denise Mcfadzen lying outside the front entrance of the mobile home, dead, with visible blunt-force trauma to her head. In the home, they found Dalton Mcfadzen lying face down in a bed in a bedroom near the front entrance. He was also dead, apparently of blunt-force trauma to his head.

Detectives found a large pipe wrench covered in blood leaning against the outside wall near the doorway.

When deputies arrived at the home from where Hillman had called 911, they found him with blood on his skin and clothing. He was taken into custody without incident.

At the Otter Tail County Operations Center, Hillman told investigators that he lived where the "accident" happened, and that "I killed two people," according to court documents.

Hillman told investigators about how he had awakened early Tuesday, then everything went black and he remembered nothing of what occurred next. Hillman said when he came out of the blackness, he realized he had done "a bad thing" and tried to find a police officer.

He told investigators he tried unsuccessfully to drive away and then walked to the neighbor's home.

Hillman told investigators he assaulted his mother in the past and was diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed to the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center for a year and a half.

Court records show that Hillman was declared mentally ill in 2016 in Cass County, Minn., and hospitalized in the St. Peter treatment center, after attacking and threatening to kill his mother in an attack on her April 10, 2016, in her Pine River home.

An evaluation by a psychologist found Hillman mentally incompetent for trial, and he was officially committed in June 2016 for inpatient treatment for schizophrenia.

Hillman's "very substantial thought disorder" grossly impaired his judgment, capacity to recognize reality, and to reason or understand, according to Dr. Charles Chmielewski's evaluation, dated May 13, 2016.

"He does pose a substantial likelihood of physical harm to others," Chmielewski wrote at the time, concluding that it wasn't clear whether Hillman would be willing to take medication to treat his condition.

He was released from treatment in November 2017, court records said.

Hillman told the Otter Tail County Sheriff's investigators he was prescribed medication for his mental illness, but had stopped taking it about five months ago and then went to stay with his father in California.

He returned to Minnesota because his father was going to jail, and for a time stayed with a friend in Detroit Lakes. He then went to live with the Mcfadzens, where he had been for the last month and a half.

Hillman said the Mcfadzens had not threatened him, court documents stated.

When asked more about the incident, Hillman told investigators that he would tell Denise and Dalton Mcfadzen that, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I did it."

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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