On the evening of July 4—just days before William Glenn would be found dead from apparent strangulation—the Mississippi-born teacher told his moto-taxi driver to head north as he awaited further instructions from an unknown man.
The request surprised the driver, who calls himself Vang.
Former colleagues who worked with the victim in Bangkok, where he lived until May, described a man with a quick temper who had a problem with alcohol and a knack for getting himself into trouble.
But in the two months that he lived and worked in Phnom Penh, the American was a creature of habit, a loner who liked to drink but went to work and returned at the same times every day, according to Vang and staff at the two guesthouses he had stayed at.
“I only ever took [William] Glenn to work five days a week, in the morning at Golden Gate [American School] and in the evening at Collingwood [English Institute],” said Vang, who declined to give his full name for fear of becoming a suspect in the murder.
“He was always drinking beer at his guesthouse or outside marts but he was quiet, paid well and sometimes bought me food to eat.”
But at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, July 4, he came out of his guesthouse in Prampi Makara district and asked to be driven toward Central Market. As they were driving, teacher’s phone rang and he passed it to Vang. A Khmer-speaker told him to drive into the Boeng Kak area to the Al-Serkal Mosque.
“I thought it was strange so I didn’t want to bring him to that area because it was dark and I was afraid, so the man told me to drive across Chroy Changvar Bridge instead to a [karaoke] club called Diamond,” he said.
William Glenn, 43, asked him to stop at the Tela service station just over the bridge and went to the shop. When he came out, he was talking on the phone.
“He passed me the phone again and said the same voice said: ‘Are you the person sitting on the bike?’ Then a tuk-tuk which was already parked at the gas station drove towards us,” Vang said.
The tuk-tuk’s rain curtains were closed but Vang saw a Cambodian man seated inside push the curtain back slightly and shout to William Glenn: “Pay him, pay him.”
“He gave me $12 and handed me one [of two] cans of beer he’d bought, then he climbed into the tuk-tuk,” Vang said.
He doesn’t know where William Glenn went next. CCTV cameras at the Tela station automatically record over footage after seven days, but 28-year-old pump attendant Chum Tou on Wednesday recognized a photograph of the teacher and said he clearly remembered him arriving on a bike, entering the shop, then getting into a tuk-tuk.
Vang next saw the victim on Monday morning. William Glenn’s day job at Golden Gate school had finished for the holidays but at 9:30 a.m., he found Vang 100 meters down the street from his guesthouse and asked to go to the U.S. Embassy.
According to his wife in Bangkok, who recently separated from her husband but still kept in frequent contact with him, William Glenn texted her that day to say the embassy had kept his passport and he was worried because he planned to leave the country immediately.
Nittaya Glenn, 44, said her husband sounded upset when she called him the previous weekend. She says he told her he was afraid that if he stayed in Cambodia, he would have to kill someone.
“I told him to be calm, that the best option was to leave the country and go to China where he had taught before and I said I would pay for his flight. His passport was full but he said he would go to the Embassy first thing on Monday,” she said.
Ms. Glenn encouraged her husband to go to Cambodia in the first place. He was due to go to court in Bangkok because her sister had reported him to the police for stealing and selling her television. Though he had caused his wife trouble in their five years together, she did not want him to go to jail, so she gave him 20,000 baht, about $623, and told him to go to Phnom Penh.
Ms. Glenn said she does not know why the U.S. Embassy kept her husband’s passport and the embassy declined to comment due to privacy concerns.
But the Mississippi-based Clarion-Ledger newspaper Wednesday reported that William Glenn had “an open bench warrant from 2002 when he missed a court date for manufacturing methamphetamine and third-offense DUI.”
According to Cambodian police, U.S. Embassy officials who are working on the case told them he was wanted for drug offenses in the U.S.
Chhuon Narin, the deputy municipal police chief, also said Wednesday that a toxicology report on the body showed the victim had methamphetamine in his blood.
“Based on the inspection of the doctor and technical teams, we found he had drugs in his blood,” he said.
Ms. Glenn said she agreed to allow her husband’s body to be cremated Wednesday to respect the wishes of his family in the U.S.
At 3 a.m. on Wednesday, July 9, a villager reported seeing a tuk-tuk and motorcycle drive down the dirt road in Prek Pnov district and stop at the garbage pile where less than three hours later, William Glenn’s body was found. Police say they have no suspects.
The last time Vang, the moto-driver, saw the American was on Monday evening. The pair agreed to meet again at 4:30 p.m. at the guesthouse so William Glenn could go to Collingwood, but Vang waited for 20 minutes and the teacher did not show up.
“I saw him later at about 6 p.m. and he was drunk, walking down the street wearing army shorts and a striped sky blue t-shirt, before he turned a corner,” he said. “That was the last time I saw him before I heard on Thursday morning he had been killed.”