Since You Asked

I would like to commend Gary and Adam Zoll for holding a man threatening women and children at bay last spring until police arrived. They absolutely deserved the award bestowed upon them by Medford police last week. However, wasn't the man they confronted — Howard William Baker — convicted of killing a man back in the 1990s? I seem to remember him from that case. If this is true, then the Zolls took an even bigger chance than we at first thought!

— Tim G., Medford

You are absolutely correct, Tim. That was, in fact, the same Howard William Butler, 62, convicted of first-degree manslaughter back in March 1999.

And had our crime reporter, Chris Conrad, been at the top of his game for Friday's Mail Tribune story detailing the Zolls brave act, then you already would have known that.

According to a story in Saturday's Mail Tribune, Gary Zoll and his nephew, Adam Zoll, were honored for their brave act last May. They heard some commotion on a playground near their family business, Zoll's Lawn & Garden Equipment on West Main Street. When they investigated, they saw Butler cursing and screaming at three women and several small children on the playground.

They confronted Butler, who eventually produced a steak knife and began threatening them. They held him at bay with a folding metal gate until Medford police arrived.

Butler is no stranger to Medford police. Aside from numerous felony and misdemeanor convictions over the past 15 years, he served six years in prison for killing Ronald Pageau outside an abandoned house in north Medford.

On the night of Nov. 16 1998, Baker and David Zahner were camping out illegally behind a boarded-up home on North Central Avenue. According to trial testimony, Pageau started the fight in a drunken rage. He threatened a homeless woman who was staying in the house with her 8-year-old son, and then attacked Baker when he tried to intervene.

Although it was proven during the trial that Pageau was the "initial aggressor," the evidence was clear that Baker and Zahner repeatedly beat and stomped Pageau on the ground after he had been knocked out. A postal carrier found the body the next day, in the front yard. An autopsy revealed Pageau's skull was badly fractured.

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