William C. Shrubsall gained an infamous reputation in 1988 when, as a teenager, he killed his mother with a baseball bat on the night before he was to graduate as class valedictorian from LaSalle High School.
Despite the horrific crime, he had a close relationship with his mother’s sister, June. I Epp. The bond was strong enough that she bailed her nephew out of jail after the killing. She also sent him money while he was in prison.
And when Epp died last year, she left him half of her estate.
But now that bequest, worth more than $41,000, is likely to end up in the hands of a Niagara Falls woman Shrubsall sexually abused 22 years ago, after he served the sentence for killing his mother.
A court in Albany court ruled last month that Shrubsall, now known as Ethan MacLeod, shouldn’t receive the money left to him by his Aunt June.
The State Attorney General’s Office went to court to block the payment under New York’s Son of Sam Law. It was enacted to prevent criminals from cashing in on their crimes, after 1970s New York City serial killer David Berkowitz, who called himself “Son of Sam,” obtained a lucrative book deal.
The state law also says that if a felon who committed one of several serious crimes obtains significant money within three years after his sentence is up, the cash belongs to his victim – if the victim files a claim.
Shrubsall’s sentence for the 1995 sexual assault of the Niagara Falls woman isn’t up yet. In fact, it hasn’t even begun.
That is because he committed more sexual crimes in Canada while he was on the run from the sexual assault in Niagara Falls. And he may never get out of prison in Canada, after a judge there designated him a “dangerous offender.”
William C. Shrubsall’s notoriety began on the night of June 24-25, 1988, the night before his graduation as LaSalle High School’s valedictorian. That’s when he hit his mother in the head with a baseball bat more than 20 times.
Marianne Shrubsall had screamed at her son for more than three hours before the attack, according to his defense attorney.
Shrubsall’s statement to police said she threatened to kill him, and at his sentencing, he referred to himself as an abused child.
The killing resulted in a guilty plea to a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter and a sentence of five to 15 years in state prison.
Shrubsall appealed the sentence, and the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court granted him youthful offender status. He was released from prison in March 1992 after serving 16 months. Before he went to prison, he completed two years at Niagara University.
After his release, Shrubsall earned a degree from the University of Pennsylvania and returned to Niagara Falls.
But he was arrested in April 1995 for grabbing a woman’s buttocks as she walked down the street. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in that case.
The following year, Shrubsall went to trial in Niagara County Court on a separate first-degree sexual abuse charge stemming from an incident with a Niagara Falls woman in May 1995.
He did not show up for a court appearance on May 15, 1996, and he had left a suicide note at his Aunt June’s house, implying that he was going to throw himself over the falls.
“Tonight I took the $5 you gave me, brought some alcohol, got drunk and walked to the Falls. To my knowledge, no one has ever survived the American Falls. I don’t suspect I will either,” the note said.
But Shrubsall didn’t throw himself over the falls. He crossed the border into Canada, and his whereabouts were unknown until the following year.
In the meantime, the jury convicted him in absentia of the sexual abuse felony, and he was sentenced to seven years in prison. He never served a day of that sentence, because of his crimes in Canada.
Using the alias Ian Thor Greene, Shrubsall went to Halifax, where he lived at first in a homeless shelter and later with a college fraternity, pretending to be a 19-year-old college student.
In 1998, he was charged with assaulting four women in separate incidents in Canada, including a baseball bat attack on one in the store where she worked.
He was convicted in all four cases and has been in prison in Canada for 19 years. While in custody, he legally changed his name to Ethan Simon Templar MacLeod, taking the two middle names from the lead character in a 1960s TV series, “The Saint.”
Shrubsall is serving his possible life sentence in Beaver Creek Institution, a medium-security federal prison in Gravenhurst, Ont., 113 miles north of Toronto.
In recent months, he exchanged letters with David G. Boniello, a Niagara Falls attorney who handled his aunt June Epp’s will.
Boniello represents the other heir named in the will, Epp’s 88-year-old husband Rudy H. Epp, who now lives in Welland, Ont.
Through their attorneys, Shrubsall and Rudy Epp declined to be interviewed. But Boniello said he has talked to Shrubsall by phone and exchanged letters with him about Aunt June’s will. Boniello said he didn’t know at the time that the Son of Sam Law might prohibit Shrubsall from collecting.
Boniello said when he went through June Epp’s effects, he found a $20,000 bail receipt she kept after bailing out Shrubsall following his murder arrest and numerous letters Shrubsall wrote to his aunt.
Boniello said a relative told him that Aunt June sent Shrubsall money orders while he was in prison, and Boniello said Rudy Epp confirmed that. Boniello said he didn’t know how much money Aunt June sent to her imprisoned nephew.
“Emotionally, she was supportive,” said Nancy Charbonneau, a Toronto attorney who has represented Shrubsall in Canadian parole hearings.
“They had a positive relationship, I know that much,” Charbonneau said.
In a Dec. 9 letter to Boniello, written in a small, clearly legible hand in blue ink on lined paper, Shrubsall asked about the status of the estate.
“I would really appreciate the kindness of this information so that I may restore my focus to the memory of my Aunt June and to my continued coming to grips w/ her passing,” he wrote.
June Epp was 85 when she died of cancer Jan. 19, 2016, in Mount St. Mary’s Hospital, Lewiston.
She once had been a caseworker for the state Labor Department, so Boniello contacted the state retirement system regarding her estate, because Shrubsall was listed as the beneficiary of Epp’s state pension.
“He got a portion of her retirement, directly to him,” Boniello said of Shrubsall.
But then the state agency found out Shrubsall’s history.
“They were absolutely outraged. They couldn’t believe it,” Boniello said.
The Attorney General’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the case.
Boniello said Rudy Epp has received his $41,000 share of the estate, but Shrubsall hasn’t gotten his, and he may never.
Life without parole?
Shrubsall, now 46, was declared a dangerous offender in 2001, which under Canadian law means there is no definite end date for his prison sentence. He could be kept in prison for the rest of his life, if the Parole Board keeps rejecting his release.
In March of this year, the appeals division of the Parole Board of Canada upheld the board’s rejection of Shrubsall’s latest parole request. The case can’t be considered again until 2021.
“He might never get out. Most never get out,” said Charbonneau, the Toronto attorney representing Shrubsall. “With a life sentence, you have a very, very good chance of getting parole once you reach your parole eligibility. Dangerous offenders are eligible for parole after seven years, but they rarely get parole.
You only get parole if the board is convinced you’re rehabilitated. There’s a prejudice against them because of the designation. ... It’s the worst designation you can have.”
If Shrubsall, or Macleod, ever is released, he would be deported from Canada to serve the seven-year state prison term for the 1995 sexual assault in Niagara Falls. He also could be prosecuted for bail jumping.
“He’s been working earnestly on his rehabilitation,” Charbonneau said. “He’s doing well.”
The sexual assault victim, who still lives in Niagara Falls, has three years to file a claim for the $41,000, said Janine Kava, director of public information for the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
The money is being held in an escrow account, waiting for her, Boniello said.
The woman did not return several calls seeking comment.