PCSO identifies remains, gets new leads in 1985 cold case

The gravesite where the skeletal remains of William Arthur Fiegener were found in 1985 on a property near Farm-to-Market Road 51 and Veal Station Road. Fiegener was 22 when he was murdered.

WEATHERFORD – A homicide case that went cold for 35 years will be cleared by exception by the Parker County Sheriff’s Office following the death of the offender. 

William Arthur Fiegener, of Brooklyn, New York, was 22 when he was killed and buried on property near Farm-to-Market Road 51 and Veal Station Road in Weatherford. Fiegener’s remains were discovered in October of 1985, but were not identified until December of 2019 through partnerships with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Using a new technology, Parabon NanoLabs, which does DNA phenotyping, they were able to positively identify the remains as Fiegeners.

PCSO Criminal Investigations Division Sgt. Ricky Montgomery said through witness interviews, they were able to put together a story of the events leading up to Fiegener’s death.

“What we learned was that in 1984 our victim, Billy Fiegener, was having some issues at home in Brooklyn and getting into trouble running with the wrong crowd. So a decision was made that he was going to go out to California to stay with a guy on a horse ranch in hopes of staying away from a bad element and keeping himself out of trouble,” Montgomery said. “After some time goes by, [Fiegener] is approached by a guy named Forrest Ethington and he convinces Billy to travel from California to Texas with the idea of making a whole bunch of money. What their plan is is they’re going to come to Texas and do some robberies of coin shops.”

Ethington was living in the Lake Dallas area at the time and he, along with Fiegener, pulled off a couple of robberies, Montgomery said.

Following those robberies, Fiegener decided to pull a smash and grab robbery on his own using Ethington’s daughter’s car. Fiegener was caught and set to go to court for the robbery, Montgomery said.

“Ethington became angry about this and told a witness he was going to kill Billy. A short time later, he called that same witness and said that he had killed Billy,” Montgomery said. “I’ve talked to two people that said Billy had a big mouth, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut, and my understanding is that Billy was caught during that burglary and was set to go to court. [Ethington] was worried he was going to flip on him and so that, to me, seems like the motive for killing Billy.”

After Fiegener’s death, Ethington put together another crew and robbed a coin shop in Pantego, Texas in Tarrant County, Montgomery said. The coin shop owner was shot in the back of the head three times by one of the crew members. After stealing coins, Ethington and another man arranged to attend a coin show to sell the pieces, but were discovered by other coin collectors.

“What they didn’t do was they didn’t take the coins out of the packages and those had the handwriting of the owner of the coin store. Well, that’s really a small, tight-knit community and there were enough collectors that came by that they were able to identify his handwriting on those packages,” Montgomery said. “They called the FBI and the FBI seized all the coins and that’s how they got caught.”

Ethington was arrested for the Pantego case and served about five years in prison before appealing the case in 1991.

Ethington was then arrested and sent to prison again in 2010 for aggravated sexual assault of a child.

“He died in prison, in the Estelle Unit in Huntsville, back in October of 2019 at the age of 81,” Montgomery said. “So, it will be cleared by exception and what that means is we have enough to get a warrant for him for murder if he was still alive; however, because he’s deceased, we can’t really file the case so we’re going to clear it by exception and the reason for the exceptionally cleared status will be death of the offender.”

Montgomery said he really doesn’t know why Ethington chose Weatherford as the location to kill and bury Fiegener.

“I don’t know how he got to FM 51 and Veal Station, that’s beyond me, other than maybe they drove until it was a dark area,” Montgomery said. “It was kind of desolate and back in 1984 I don’t imagine there would have been very bright street lights in that area.”

Montgomery said after they were able to identify the remains of Fiegener, it made the rest of the investigation a lot easier.

“It became easier to put the story together because most people, with the exception of Ethington, that were involved in this investigation were still alive,” Montgomery said. “And if it hadn’t been for the sheriff pushing us out to travel, I don’t know that we would have been able to get all of this information over the phone, so it was fortunate that he pushed us out there to get those interviews done.”

Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler thanked Montgomery and all the other agencies involved in solving the case.

“I am exceedingly proud of our investigators and the agencies which assisted us in solving this murder case,” Fowler said. “Through this tragedy, several law enforcement agencies joined resources to close this case and bring the family some sort of closure regarding their son. I want to personally thank our Criminal Investigations Division Sgt. Ricky Montgomery, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Brevard Florida County Sheriff’s Office, Federal Heights Colorado Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Texas Rangers for their invaluable assistance in helping solve this case.”

Autumn Owens is a staff writer for the Weatherford Democrat, a sister publication of the Mineral Wells Index.

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