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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Killing to avoid paying child support

MARIANNA — Prosecutors said Wednesday that child support was Wesley Williams’ motive in a 2005 quadruple murder, but the defense called the state’s argument “somewhat suspect.”

Williams, 25, is accused of killing Danielle Baker, 19, and three of her four children, Amad, 3, Amarion, 1, and Aaron, 3 weeks. Baker was shot to death inside her Cottondale Village apartment on March 17, 2005. The three boys suffocated after being bound with duct tape.

Williams, who fathered two of the boys, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and three counts of aggravated child abuse. He faces the death penalty if convicted as charged.

Testimony in the trial began Wednesday afternoon and continues today.

Prosecutor Larry Basford told jurors in his opening statement that Williams killed Baker and the children because he didn’t want to pay child support.

“He was angry at Danielle because she was messing in his business, and he didn’t want to have to pay child support,” Basford said.

He said to understand what happened the morning of March 17, 2005, jurors would have to look weeks and months before that date. Basford said Baker discovered that Williams, with whom she was having an on-again-off-again relationship, had impregnated another woman even though he was living with a girlfriend in Sneads. Basford said Williams got angry at Baker for calling his girlfriends and “stirring things up.”

“They have a heated conversation, and he threatens to whip her ass for messing in his business,” Basford said.

At the same time, he said, Baker had taken steps through the courts to get Williams to start paying $676 a month in child support.

Basford said the morning the killings were discovered, Sheriff Lou Roberts broke the news to Williams that his two sons had been killed. Basford said Williams turned away, put his face toward a wall and said, “No, no, no. He then composed himself and came back.”

Roberts “was surprised and amazed at the lack of emotion displayed by the defendant upon hearing that his two oldest sons have been killed,” Basford said.

Williams had been driving around the night of the killings with a friend, Donald Allen. The two had gone from Chattahoochee to Liberty County, where they spent some time with two girlfriends. When they left around 1 a.m., Williams’ cell phone records showed he called Baker nine times, many of them only a few seconds long as phone service cut off.

Basford said the last call was about 2:30 a.m., and it was recorded as coming through the cell tower at Marianna, which would put Williams in the area around the time of the killings. Williams denies being in Marianna at that time, and his girlfriend in Sneads said he was home with her before 3 a.m.

Allen originally told investigators that he did not see anything unusual in Williams’ behavior or his dealings with Baker that night. Basford said that a year later, Allen was arrested on a probation violation and told investigators then that Williams had confessed to him that he killed Baker because she tried to get his income tax refund.

Allen said he saw Williams with a gun at Williams’ apartment in Sneads. Basford said officers searched the yard and found a .38-caliber bullet, the same caliber used to kill Baker. The bullets could not be positively matched as coming from the same gun.

The last piece of evidence investigators found was a small limb hair on the duct tape used to bind one of the children; it was matched to Williams through mitochondrial DNA.


Deputy Public Defender Walter Smith said that same DNA would match 13 of every 1,000 blacks and all of Williams’ relatives on his mother’s side of the family. He said there also is no way of saying how that hair got on the tape, since Williams had been at the apartment a few weeks before.

Smith refuted Basford’s theories of Williams’ motives for the killings. He said both Williams and Baker had multiple sexual partners who they were both aware of. Smith said Baker talked to Williams’ current girlfriend an hour before she was killed, and it was common for them to converse.

“You’re not going to hear anything about Wesley Williams being one of those possessive, controlling types,” Smith said.

He said Baker was not seeking child support. She was on welfare, which was a far more consistent form of payment than the irregular child support payments she could expect from a person making minimum wage at a grocery story. Smith said at the time of the killings nothing had been filed seeking child support from Williams.

“That motive for the crime is somewhat suspect and it doesn’t really hold up,” Smith said.

In addition, he said, even if Williams was mad at Baker over the child support issue, it didn’t make any sense for him to kill the children, especially someone else’s child. Smith said if Baker died, the children and the welfare checks on their behalf would go to Williams.

He said the only reason Williams was charged was because Allen, in an effort to keep himself out of jail for the probation violation, lied to investigators about Williams killing Baker. Smith said it worked because even now, years after his arrest and a failed escape attempt with which he also is charged, Allen remains free.

Smith said the evidence in this case, including DNA, points to two other unidentified people committing this crime. He said the time of the killing can be ascertained by two people living next door to Baker at the time, who heard voices, water running and possibly a gunshot between 2:45 and 3:15 a.m.

“They heard Danielle Baker say, ‘Why are you doing this to us?’” Smith said.

He said the tape that was applied to the three children obviously was done by two different people; one did a meticulous job and the other was sloppy. Smith said no one knows why Baker’s daughter was spared. He said she was asleep under a bed at the time and the killers might not have known she was there.

“I expect that what you’re going to hear is that Wesley Williams is not an upstanding guy,” Smith said. “He’s not the most responsible guy in the world, but he’s certainly not a cold-blooded killer. I think what you’re going to get from the evidence is it’s not going to make a lot of sense and there’s certainly going to be reasonable doubt about Wesley Williams’ involvement in the homicides.”

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