This is one of those stories that you’re going to wish was fictional. Tragically, it’s not.
In what appears to be yet another tale of long-term torture and abuse, a beautiful seven-year-old girl has lost her life at the hands of a family member (or members) who were at best neglectful and at worst sadistic, callous, and murderous.
The story is being told across news outlets and all over Facebook from various perspectives, but from what I’ve been able to pull together, it goes something like this.
At 4:44 AM on Saturday, May 23, 2020, an unknown caller requested police in Stockton, California perform a welfare check at the home of Billy Williams, his wife, Takiesha Williams, and their six children. Four officers responded to the home where they discovered seven-year-old Billie Williams in the garage, unresponsive and covered in multiple bruises.
Sadly, medics pronounced Billie dead on the scene.
Billie Symone Williams was born on October 8, 2012. She died on May 23, 2020.
Upon questioning the adults in the home, the officers took Billie’s father, 30-year-old Billy Dee Williams, into custody. He was initially charged with torture, child abuse, and murder. Five other children in the home were taken into custody by Child Protective Services.
Joe Silva, Public Information Officer for Stockton Police Department, said, “We don’t see these types of cases all the time in our city. But, any time you hear of a case like this, it’s just disheartening for everybody involved.”
“It’s just very disheartening,” he continued. “Everyone’s wondering, how could this father do this to his small daughter?”
Stockton Police believe Billie was “severely abused.”
A woman on Facebook mentioned Billie in a comment, saying, “She was in a class at Oakwood Elementry that I’m a PAAS in. Billie was the sweetest child. Always helping others. Kind, loving, caring. This breaks my heart.”
Family members who did not wish to be identified told a reporter on Saturday, “We’ve been crying all morning. It’s very heartbreaking… When she was around us, she was happy.”
An aunt told reporters, “My niece was a very good little girl, very quiet. She just did what any other kid did. Play in the dirt, whatever. She didn’t deserve any of that that happened to her.”
A family member said, “We was getting ready for my other grandson’s birthday party today, and it was bittersweet.”
During a press briefing, Officer Silva said, “Officers took the father into custody, and he was booked and processed into the San Joaquin County Jail.”
He added, “People in the home, including the stepmother who lived there, and the 7-year-old’s biological mother, they have been talked to by investigators.”
Another member of the family said, “Soon as the police came, they took him into jail, and then [Takiesha] get to stay in the house. But I feel like if you at the house when a child die, everyone in the house should go to jail.”
The family held a candlelight vigil honoring Billie at 6:00 PM on Sunday, May 24, placing balloons, flowers, stuffed animals, candles, and photos, some poster-sized, on and around the garage door of the home in the 1300 block of Candlewood Way where she died.
On May 26, a relative posted a photo of a new memorial site at 1325 E. Scotts Avenue, saying they had to move it. In the comments of the post, she explained, “They said we could’ve got in trouble because it was private property.” She continued, “…her monster was trippin I guess.” I took that to mean that Billie’s stepmother, Takiesha Williams, demanded the memorial be removed from her property.
Billy’s older sister, Alice, believes her brother has been falsely accused. In a lengthy Facebook post, Alice provided quite a bit of background information on the family. (Formatting edited for ease of reading; also edited for length.)
“…No one knows my brother the way I do. I been around him since he was born, and when I say I have sat here and tried to think of a time that my brother has gotten mad or even raised his voice in anger, so hard I have tried and I can’t think of not one…
“My mother is a single mother of 11 children who have all grown up in the same house hold with me being the only one to have a bit of the street life because I chose to thinking I was grown and had to learn the hard way. Each and every one of my siblings have always been really close; even when they started having children of their own and living their own lives, they have always stayed close. Doing everything together with their boyfriends or girlfriends and children, out of all of my siblings including myself there are 7 boys and 4 girls.
“None of my 7 brothers has ever sold drugs, hung out on street corners, joined gangs, been involved in any illegal activity, or even sagged their pants. My brothers were raised to be responsible, loving men, to work hard and take care of their family, and to respect the law. Not to break the laws, not to be the stereotype of what people think of a black man or what a black man should be, not to abandon their children, not to be disrespectful, not to abuse women…
“If anyone truly knew [Billy], they would know that my brother is a nice size guy, but he is very soft spoken; he don’t yell or get loud. Even when he is super excited, he don’t be loud talking; he is always a very calm man and has always worked, ever since he was old enough to work. He is and has been the sole provider for his family for a while now, taking care of his two beautiful little girls from a previous relationship, three boys that are older than his girls that are not his biologically, and a set of twins, one girl and his first boy, and then his wife. He just purchased his first home at 30 years old; he works all during the week at a warehouse, and he has maintained this job for a good while now, meaning years, and was working 16 hour shifts. I don’t know if he still does the 16 hours, but what I do know is that his wife is a stay at home mother, taking care of the children.”
Billie’s aunt Jeleesa created a GoFundMe campaign to allow the family to give Billie a fitting memorial. In the campaign, Jeleesa said, “Lil Billie my 7 year old niece was tookin from us on on May 23rd… my baby was a quiet loving and bright girl, I miss her lil spirit her smile and her hugs, she was stripped of her spirit before she left this earth… my baby girl will truly be missed.”
At Billie’s vigil on Sunday night, her cousin, Deanthony Reaves, spoke with reporters. “I just want her to be remembered as a sweet young girl, and she didn’t deserve this,” he said. “She’s definitely in a better place. It’s sad for us, but she’s in a better place… I want you all to know that she’s a loving and caring little kid.”
Carolyn Bryant, Billie’s great-grandmother, told reporters, “We just want justice for her, by any means necessary. We just want justice.” She added, “She was a sweet baby.”
Billie’s aunt, Salyna Tate, told a reporter, “She was a sweet little girl growing up, always had a smile on her face. She was in cheerleading for a while, and she looked happy at the time of doing it.”
Carolyn said of her grandson, Billy: “This is very much a shock. He grew up, never been in trouble. Just an innocent, humble young man.” She also said, “We pray to God to get us through this. This is a horrific thing to get through.”
Carolyn, the grandmother of 23 and great-grandmother of 11, including Billie, said, “That’s all we have left of her is pictures and memories. We can’t hold her anymore.”
Some family members claim the household has a history with Child Protective Services and prior allegations of abuse. The criminal complaint filed against Billy indicates some of the child abuse charges against Billy Williams are for children other than Billie.
A cousin of Takiesha Williams posted the following on Facebook on May 25: “My heart is literally broken… my cousin is married to the dad. I use to live with them when I first moved to California after I graduated. I stayed in the front house with my little cousins & my big cousin and her husband stayed in the back. I shared a room with Billie. Whenever I would come home from work she would tell me she hadn’t ate so I would Always go and get her food. They would have her locked in the bathroom drinking toilet water. I ended up taking pictures and calling CPS on my cousin and her husband & they took the two girls into Costudy . I can’t believe they would give them back! Now she is dead smh”
On May 26, San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar announced that Billy Dee Williams would be arraigned the following day on charges of torture and abuse in his daughter’s death. Markedly absent was the murder charge, but D.A. Salazar added, “This remains an open and active investigation, and we are working with Stockton Police Detectives, Children’s Protective Services, and the Medical Examiner’s Office to ensure justice is served in this case. We must remain vigilant in protecting the most vulnerable members of our community. With children away from school and daycare, we have lost an invaluable layer of protection for children in crisis. As the investigation proceeds and once the Medical Examiner determines the cause of death, additional charges can and will be filed as warranted against any persons responsible for the death of this young girl… Evil depends on good people keeping silent.”
Dr. Michael Hunter, San Joaquin County Medical Examiner, has indicated that additional time is needed to review all of the forensic medical evidence before they can determine a definitive cause of death. I would be the murder charge will be back on the table once Billie’s cause and manner of death is determined.
Billy Dee Williams was arraigned in court via video conference on Wednesday, May 27 on one count of felony torture and six counts of felony child abuse. The complaint filed against him in the Superior Court of California, County of San Joaquin, alleges in part “unjustifiable physical pain and mental suffering.” He is being held in the San Joaquin County Jail with a bail of $2.2 million. He was assigned a public defender, and his arraignment was continued until June.
Family members outside the Stockton County Courthouse protested Billy’s arrest, believing instead that his wife, Takiesha should be behind bars. Billie’s cousin, Danielle Bailey, told a reporter, “The family had not seen or had any contact with the children in months. Some family members hadn’t seen the family in years… because the stepmom didn’t allow the father’s side of the family to… have a relationship with Billie.”
Billie’s mother also spoke outside the courthouse. “I just want to know what happened to my baby,” she said. “She had a fun and beautiful spirit. She’s loving; she didn’t deserve this. She didn’t.”
She, too, blames Takiesha for her daughter’s death. “We put our trust in her, and she failed my baby, so she has to go, too.”
Billy’s mother, Mattie Palmer, hasn’t seen him since his arrest. She told a reporter she just wants to see her son’s face. “I wish I could see my son, because I feel he would open up and tell the truth. Right now, he is being silenced, and everything is being put on him.”
Police have said Takiesha Williams, Billie’s stepmother, is cooperating with the investigation. The D.A.’s office said they cannot comment on the stepmother because of the ongoing investigation.
Anyone with information about Billie’s death or prior abuse should contact the Stockton Police at (209) 937-8377 or the Investigations Division at (209) 937-8323.
Sources: CBS13 Sacramento, Facebook, PEOPLE, Fox40, ABC10, KCRA3, San Joaquin County District Attorney Facebook page