Following more than two weeks of often grisly and occasionally shocking testimony, the trial of the 32-year-old man accused of killing a woman best known as a member of the North Carolina State Board of Education entered its last phase. The jury announced late Friday afternoon that they found the defendant guilty of first-degree murder, rape and breaking and entering.
Deliberations lasted about 5-1/2 hours in this “guilt phase” of the proceedings. On Monday, the same jurors will be asked to decide the defendant’s sentence: life in prison or death. Wake County prosecutors seldom ask for the death penalty, but they believe this crime calls for the most severe penalty the system has to offer.
The 62-year-old grandmother was visiting Raleigh for a few days in 2010; she was resting after cosmetic surgery at the time of the attack. The defendant allegedly broke into the house, sexually assaulted the victim and beat her to death. At trial, prosecutors presented DNA evidence gathered from the scene and from the victim, as well as testimony about the defendant’s psychological and emotional problems.
Prosecutors said that the afternoon of the attack the defendant was a killer bent on satisfying a sexual urge. Witnesses, including the defendant’s mother, told of the defendant’s issues with alcohol and drugs and his sex addiction. Some emotional problems began when he was a child; others surfaced when he was a teenager. He had a hard time holding down a steady job.
While the defendant’s family kept to themselves after the verdict was announced, the victim’s family spoke with the press. Her children said they bore the defendant’s family no ill will. They also said that the sentencing phase would be difficult, but they offered no comment about the possibility of the death penalty.
Source: News & Observer, “Williford found guilty of first-degree murder,” Josh Shaffer, June 2, 2012