I Am a Killer: Charles Armentrout III

I think it’s fair to say that I destroyed my family a long time ago when I shot my father. And then I hurt them again. I mean like soul-wrenching pain... 

Charles "Billy" Armentrout III

When Charles Armentrout was 18, he went to live with his father. Having spent more than a decade living with his mother and a verbally and emotionally abusive stepfather, Billy (as he was known to friends at the time), was only too pleased to be able to start a new life with his dad.

Soon, however, Billy started running with a rough crowd. He began stealing money from his father and breaking into houses. He got into drugs and needed to fund his new habit. Within no time at all he was stealing and cashing cheques in his father’s name. Until one day - he was caught.

Faced with the prospect of a return to living with his stepfather and now fueled by narcotics, the teenager panicked. And panicked big. When Charles Armentrout Sr. returned home from work to have it out with his son about the cheques, Billy ambushed him. He fired nine bullets at the older man, hitting him with six at close range. All hit Mr. Armentrout in the chest. Incredibly, he would survive. Young Billy would go to jail.

Billy was charged with, and found guilty of, attempted murder and several gas station robberies. He was sentenced to 28 years, of which he would serve ten.

On his release in August of 1994, Billy understandably had trouble finding family members willing to take him in while he got back on his feet. It seems that firing half a dozen bullets into your old man’s rib cage tends to make people quite wary. 

One relative did open her door to Billy, though... his grandmother. Despite shooting her son almost dead, the elderly Inez Notter welcomed Billy back with open arms and allowed him to stay with her. She fed him, bought him clothes and gave him money. She even gave him a set of keys to his own car. The woman went above and beyond what was expected of her.

Charles Armentrout would repay his grandmother’s hospitality in the same way that he repaid his father’s. With explove violence. This time, Armentrout’s blood relative victim would not survive his shocking brutality.

81 year-old Notter had turned a blind eye to Armentrout stealing money from her for some time. By 1995, he had a $300 a day crack cocaine habit which needed feeding. Everyone has their limit, though. One day, she refused to hand over any more money to her desperate grandson. 

So Billy Armentrout decided to rob her. Only after he had incapacitated her first. After a few swings of a baseball bat connected, the old woman lost consciousness. There was no way back from what he had done, he figured. The only logical conclusion, his warped mind told him, was to finish the job. After ten more blows with the bat and several kicks and stomps, she was dead.

Armentrout tied his grandma’s body up with cord, wrapped her in a blanket, stuffed her into a trunk and left her in the basement. He then fled Missouri. He later tried, unsuccessfully, to cash some of his now-murdered grandmother’s cheques. It’s something which would have tipped police off as to his guilt were it not for the fact that he was already overwhelmingly - and quite unsurprisingly - the prime (and only) suspect in the case.

The manhunt barely justified the name. Soon, Charles "Billy" Armentrout III was caught, arrested, charged, tried and found guilty of first degree murder. As well as two counts of ‘armed criminal action’, robbery and one charge of tampering with evidence. In 1998 he was sentenced to death for his crimes.

Billy Armentrout has since spent more than two decades in a Missouri jail. For most of that time he denied killing Inez Notter, instead blaming her violent end on his friend, a man called Rick Lacey. But, as we discover in his episode of I Am a Killer, he’s recently changed his story. He now fully admits his truly dreadful crime. And in the most frank manner. What caused his change of heart? This significant turnaround in his thinking? Well, it may just be a victim impact programme put on by Potosi Correctional Center. At least, that’s according to one of his friends inside. Either way, he now admits to his crime and shows at least some level of regret and remorse.

Few people would argue that Billy Armentrout should be released back into society. But many would vehemently protest that the state should take his life. That option is no longer on the table after a 2006 appeal resulted in a St. Louis circuit judge reducing his sentence to life in prison. In exchange, Armentrout agreed to drop any and all future appeals of his conviction. 

He will serve the rest of his life in prison. None of his surviving family will visit him.

I Am a Killer continues on Crime+Investigation, Tuesdays at 9pm.