Real Name: William Eugene Hilliard
Aliases: Garlon Houston Russell, Rusty
Wanted For: Fraud, Rape, Child Molestation
Missing Since: September 1988
Details: In February of 1988, Garlon "Rusty" Russell arrived at the Sunny Sands nudist resort in northeast Florida and asked to become a member. Although the nudist colony had stringent requirements for joining, namely that single men were usually ineligible, he managed to ingratiate himself with the colony's leaders and was awarded membership. He had told the owners that he had no family and that his parents were killed in a car crash, and when asked about his last place of employment, he claimed to have been recently discharged from the U.S. Air Force. He claimed that their estate was in probate and that he'd be wealthy once it was settled.
Rusty soon became well-known and well-liked within the community. He was especially loved by the children of the community; they thought of him as an uncle or a brother. He claimed to be a film buff; he renovated an empty store in Crescent City, fifteen miles away, and stocked it with videotapes that he allegedly acquired while in the service. Police now suspect that he stole the tapes while he was in Texas. For members of Sunny Sands, he had a special deal: he sold the tapes to them and then bought them back at a slightly higher price. He called it a "tax dodge". He gave them a check and told them to cash it after ninety days. He then had them give him the tapes back, so that he could sell them as "used tapes" and not have to pay as much in taxes.
Sunny Sands investors noted that, at first, Rusty was keeping up with his promises. They got their money back along with the 20% interest. Some residents invested up to $1000 with him and received that money back plus the $200 interest. After four months, he wanted to expand the store. He approached a neighbor for a $20,000 loan; she quickly agreed. Just six weeks later, he asked a second couple for $20,000 more. He didn't tell the couple about his first investor. He told them that he needed money to buy more tapes and equipment. They agreed to it, as they would make some interest on the money.
Rusty flourished at Sunny Sands, surrounded by happy families who helped support his business. However, his friendly and caring facade was destroyed on August 28, 1988, when he was accused of molesting an eleven-year-old girl, the daughter of close friends in the nudist colony. She claimed that he threw her against the wall and onto his bed, where he touched her all over. She hit him three times and then fled in terror.
Rusty was arrested by the state police, charged with sexual battery. Initially, he was held without bail. When questioned, he insisted the assault was just horseplay, that they were "wrestling" and that nothing sexual occurred. The police did not believe his story. However, his friends in the nudist colony could not believe that he molested her. They convinced the judge to release him on $25,000 bail. He convinced Bob Pickens, his landlord at the video store, to post his bond.
Bob arranged to have the money available within twenty-four hours. During that same time period, the nudist colony's owners, the Noonans, also tried to find money for Rusty's bail. However, they soon discovered that he was overdrawn at the bank and had been lying to them about what he owned. They also discovered that he was having problems with his creditors and payments were past due. The Noonans, realizing that he had duped them, tried to contact the bonding agent. However, he was able to be released from prison before the investigators were notified of his fraudulent dealings.
Rusty was also able to convince Bob to buy the video store, claiming that his reputation had been ruined. Later, Bob learned that he was the third person who bought Rusty's inventory. After he learned the truth, he tried unsuccessfully to get the bail revoked. After being released, Rusty sold his car to two separate individuals. He then rented another car and left the area; he never showed up for his court date.
Although fraud played a part in Rusty's status as a wanted man, police had said the major charge against him was the child rape, where he could face a death sentence. Recently, investigators used Air Force records to determine that his real name is William Eugene Hilliard. He has previously been arrested in at least fourteen different states. He has gained more than half a million dollars from his scams. He is also wanted for fraud in Texas.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the September 27, 1989 episode. It was also profiled on America’s Most Wanted.
Results: Captured. Several viewers contacted the telecenter to report that Hilliard was living in South Carolina. He was arrested at a convenience store in Murrells Inlet just a day after the broadcast; he was living under the alias Ronald Edward Kent. On October 20, he was returned to Florida to face charges. He was found guilty of rape, fraud, and child molestation, and sentenced to life in prison. Hiliard's defense, where he stuck by his story that he and the girl were playfighting, did not hold water. The judge further recommended that Hiliard be permanently ineligible for parole, noting to the defendant that he was a sick individual who molested a young girl.
- Nudists Hope Suspect Found Through Unsolved Mysteries - September 24, 1989
- 'Unsolved Mysteries' to feature Volusia case - September 26, 1989
- TV Crime Show Helps Police Find Child Molester Suspect - September 29, 1989
- Nudist To Face Charges After TV Show Airs - October 21, 1989
- Hilliard Enters Not Guilty Plea in Sex Case - November 8, 1989
- TV cameras turn national focus on Volusia - January 10, 1990
- Hilliard Pleads Not Guilty - March 14, 1990
- Jury selection - April 24, 1990
- Teen Tells Jury Details Of Attack - April 26, 1990
- Just Wrestling With Girl, Nudist Says, But Jury Says Guilty - April 27, 1990
- Sex offender seeks retrial - May 29, 1990
- Volusia Man Gets Life In Child Rape Case - June 16, 1990
- William Hilliard Sex Offender Profile
- William Hilliard Florida Department of Corrections Inmate information