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Ax-attacker guilty of all counts

(Photo by John Cook)
William R. Williams stands during a recess in his trial Thursday. A jury found the 60-year-old Indianfields Township man guilty of assault with intent to commit murder, and five other felony charges Friday afternoon. On May 26, Williams struck his wife twice in the head with the blade of an ax, and left her to bleed in bed while he went to work. Upon returning home that evening, he damaged his Mertz Road home and told police an intruder had broken in and assaulted his wife.

A man accused of attacking his wife with an ax has been found guilty of all six counts he faced.

An eight-man, four-woman jury found William R. Williams, 60, of Indianfields Township, guilty as charged for attacking his wife with an ax on May 26 as she lay in bed in the couple’s Indianfields Township home.

The jury announced its verdict at about 3:30 p.m. Friday in Tuscola County Circuit Court in front of Circuit Court Judge Amy Grace Gierhart, after about one hour of deliberation.

The most serious charge, assault with intent to commit murder, carries a possible sentence of life imprisonment. Williams was also convicted of four counts of lying to a police officer investigating a felony and one count of false report of a felony. The latter five counts carry a potential four-year prison sentence.

In the early morning hours of May 26, Williams struck his then 57-year-old wife twice in the head with the blade side of a splitting-maul ax. He then left to work a shift at his job at Palace Sports & Entertainment at Meadow Brook Amphitheatre in Rochester Hills. He returned home that evening, found his wife alive but unresponsive, damaged a door to the home, then called 911 to report that his house, at 1850 Mertz Road (M-24), had been broken into and his wife assaulted.

The trial began with jury selection and opening arguments Tuesday, and continued until Friday afternoon, when Tuscola County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Reene, and Williams’ defense attorney, Gregory Bringard, of Caro, made closing arguments. At about 2:30 p.m., the jury began deliberation.

A call to 911, an emotionless husband

On May 26, Tuscola Central Dispatch received a call – from Williams – involving a home invasion, with multiple Michigan State Police, Caro Post, units dispatched to investigate. Upon arrival they discovered Williams’ wife lying in bed with two lacerations, one on the left side of her face, the other on the left side of her head. While securing the scene, police questioned Williams at the home before transporting him to the MSP Caro Post.

There, he told investigators that he came home from work at about 5 p.m., found a door to his home damaged and his wife wounded.

Multiple MSP troopers, as well as paramedics and EMS personnel that arrived on scene, took note of Williams’ lack of emotion.

Witness Greg Martin, an MSP Caro trooper, told the court that Williams appeared emotionless, both at his home, and during his interview at the MSP post. Another MSP Caro trooper, Dan Reynolds, also commented on the witness stand about Williams’ lack of emotion. Reynolds noted that Williams was more focused on other details of the day, such as the damage to his property, and didn’t ask many questions about the well-being of his wife.

Both Martin and Reynolds told the court his demeaner caused them concern.

Two Mobile Medical Response units arrived on scene, one of which transported Williams’ wife to McLaren Lapeer Region hospital, where she arrived in critical condition.

On-scene paramedics noted on the witness stand that Williams did not ask if he could assist them, or ask to accompany them to the hospital, which loved ones often do at the scene of an injury.

(Photo by John Cook)
Michigan State Police Forensic Scientist Shane Hill (right) goes over evidence with Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene Thursday in the trial for William R. Williams. Williams was found guilty Friday on six felony counts, including the possible life offense of assault with intent to commit murder, for attacking his wife with an ax in their home on May 26.

The truth comes out

Williams told investigators on May 26, both at the scene, and at the MSP post, that he had not struck his wife with the ax. The next day, however, his story changed.

On May 27, Williams was interviewed by MSP Detective Tiffany Watson, and admitted to hitting his wife with the ax. Watson then asked lead investigator Detective Sgt. Jeffrey Hook, of the MSP Caro Post, to enter the interview room, and for Williams to repeat to Hook what he told her.

The interview between Hook and Williams was recorded and played during the trial on Friday morning.

Williams said that on May 25, he drank beer and ate dinner with his wife, and that he laid down in bed at around 8 p.m. to go to sleep, adding that he and his wife slept in separate bedrooms. At about 3 a.m. the next morning, Williams said he entered his wife’s bedroom to complain about her television being too loud.

Williams told Hook his wife then threatened to hit him with an ax, and that he hadn’t brought the ax into the bedroom. In the earlier interview with Watson, Williams said his wife held the ax in the bedroom, and that he grabbed it away from her.

“She was just super mad at me. She told me not to come in there, the bedroom, but I went in there anyways,” Williams told Watson. “She held up the ax and I grabbed it from her and smacked her.”

In the interview with Hook, Williams said “She kind of laid back down and then I grabbed (the ax) and just went boom.”

Williams’ wife suffered two lacerations, one to the left side of her face, just above the eye, and another on the top-left side of her head.

Williams then told Hook that he sat in his car for about an hour, before re-entering the home and carrying on like it was normal day – he made coffee, took a shower and left for work.

Williams arrived at work, in Rochester Hills, at about 7 a.m. on May 26. He said he left work at about 8 a.m. to take a $170 gift card to a woman who lived in Dearborn Heights. He then returned, finished his work day, and drove home.

It was on the drive home, Williams told Hook, that he decided to stage a break in

“I think this whole thing took place because of her”

Hook testified on the witness stand Friday afternoon, telling Bringard that “I think this whole thing took place because of her.”

“Her” is a 31-year-old Dearborn Heights woman that engaged in a relationship with Williams, beginning in early 2015, the woman testified. She is the one Williams visited with the gift card the day he assaulted his wife.

According to her Wednesday testimony, the woman met Williams “Through one of those websites where you can set up dates and stuff.” She added that it wasn’t a dating website, but rather “I think most people just use it to set up, like a date, like a one-time type thing.”

The woman said she made contact with Williams. “We had an arrangement where he would give me money for sex, and that’s how I initially met him.”

Both Williams and the woman said they had sex once – during their first encounter in early 2015 – and that since they had meet in person a handful of times, but that most of their communication was done via text messaging.

The woman testified that her interest in Williams was financial, and that she received in excess of $10,000 from him between early 2015 and May 2017. An amount that Williams corroborated in his interview with Hook.

The woman, who had a boyfriend at the time –  who was aware of her interaction with Williams – said she told Williams the money was used for rent, groceries, or to pay for court fines. In reality, she said was using some of the money to fund her and her boyfriend’s heroin habit.

The woman testified that Williams sent her money usually about once a month, and that it was often sent through Western Union or Walmart. She added that Williams did not tell her he was married.

The woman said she was not interested in Williams romantically. When Hook asked Williams during the May 27 interview if he loved the woman, Williams replied “I don’t know.”

During a search of Williams car on the day of the crime, investigators discovered a bag of condoms, along with suspicious notes containing email addresses. When confronted with this information, Williams told Hook that he had been visiting a prostitute named Amber. And that he paid her $100 per visit and has been with her about five times, most recently two weeks prior.

“You can’t process this”: Wife on road to recovery

Almost a year after the attack, the recovery of Williams’ wife has surpassed doctors’ expectations.

“She’s in what’s called partial assisted living,” Reene told The Advertiser after the verdict. “The progress she’s made is absolutely mystifying from the doctor’s prospective. Obviously, her life is dramatically different then it was on May 26, but there was the thought that she would not survive, and that even if she did she would have very limited function. She’s exceeded those expectations.

“It’s still a life that is significantly different than what she had, and certainly what she wants.”

Williams and his wife did not have children. Hook testified that he visited Williams’ wife in November, shortly before the case was originally slated to go to trial, and that her condition would not allow her to testify during proceedings.

Reene said the severity of her injury is among the worst he’s seen during his career.

“It’s ranked toward the tops,” said Reene, who was assisted at the trial by assistant prosecutor Erica Walle. “We’ve had baby homicides that shock the conscious, but the level of brutality, the amount of force that was involved in inflicting the injury, then the callous response after what occurred – you can’t process this.

“No one engages in this behavior.”

Defense seeks guilt on lesser charge

During his closing argument, Bringard asked the jury to consider finding Williams guilty of the lesser charge of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder (in place of the assault with intent to murder charge). He didn’t deny that Williams had struck his wife with the ax, but maintained that it happened during an argument and that he had no intent to kill her.

The jury, however, sided with the prosecution.

“It was a tough case,” Bringard said after the trial. “The prosecution had some real powerful evidence that they presented. My client just wanted to exercise his right to a trial and that’s what we did.”

Bringard said that a plea offer was previously on the table, but it would have meant agreeing to a prison sentence of at least 20 years.

“My client is 60 years old now, he was 59 (at the time of the crime),” Bringard said. “And he basically looked at it as a life sentence.”

During the trial, Bringard highlighted the fact that Williams had never been in trouble with the law prior to May 26.

“This is Mr. Williams’ first criminal conviction, it’s the first time he’s ever been in trouble,” Bringard said “As the evidence showed at trial, he was going through a lot of stressors in his life – some of them were obviously self-inflicted – but he just made a terrible decision that night.

“Every time I talked to him, he regretted it and he wishes he could change it. But he can’t, and we both accept the jury’s verdict.

A guilty verdict

As the guilty-on-all-counts verdict was read, Williams looked straight ahead. The expression on his face did not change.

After the trial, Reene gave credit to the jury, which sat through four days of jury selection and testimony.

“I think the jury paid a lot of attention, that’s all we can ever ask,” Reene said. “They did an outstanding job of paying attention to every witness, every item of evidence all the way through, and we are certainly pleased to receive this verdict.”

Previously, Reene also gave praise to the Michigan State Police for its handling of the investigation.

“It was just tremendous work that was done by the state police,” Reene said in May after Williams’ arrest. “You start out with (a home invasion and assault) report, the circumstances, a horrific injury and you’re trying to patch this together as quickly as you possibly can. Which they did.

“It was pretty amazing, I just have to keep commenting on it.”

After the verdict was read, Reene immediately held a meeting with the members of Williams’ wife’s family.

“I believe she deserves this,” Reene said. “It’s some measure of justice in this situation. You can’t make things right, but you can make him accountable for what he did.”

A sentencing date for Williams will be set in the near future.

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