In a plea bargain with prosecutors Friday, serial killer Scott Wilson Williams was sentenced to life without parole in the shootings and dismemberment of three Charlotte-area women between 1997 and 2006.
Williams entered an Alford plea in Union County Superior Court. That means he acknowledged prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him of three counts of first-degree murder in the three women's deaths.
Union County prosecutors earlier sought the death penalty against the former state road crew worker from northern Union County.
But District Attorney John Snyder said Friday he offered the plea deal “in light of the nature of the case, the sensitivity of the victims and the uncertainty of capital punishment.”
The evidence against Williams included DNA and ballistics from weapons found on his property, detectives said. Investigators also read statements by Williams and two more victims who survived, which show the 44-year-old picking up women, torturing and killing them.
They also portrayed Williams as a fetishist and predator who was insecure in his sexuality and quick to anger.
Williams' attorney, Frank Wells of Asheboro, said the defense “did not have any grounds on which to dispute the statements” read in court.
“It wasn't a close call,” Wells said. “The evidence was overwhelming.”
Superior Court Judge Richard Boner handed Williams three consecutive life sentences. They involved the deaths of Sharon House Pressley in 1997, Christina Outz Parker in 2004 and Sharon Tucker Stone in 2006. Their bodies – mutilated in similar but increasingly gruesome ways – were found off rural roads in Union County and Chesterfield County, S.C.
Williams also entered Alford pleas to first-degree charges of kidnapping, rape and sexual offense against two more women in 1995 and 2000. Williams let both women go.
The serial murder case has been one of the most gruesome in the Charlotte area in recent years. But its resolution Friday was low key. Only about a third of seats in a Union County courtroom were filled. Attending were fewer than two dozen family and friends of the victims and Williams.
Williams walked in a side entrance, tieless and wearing a gray suit. Shackled at the wrists, he answered Judge Boner's questions softly, saying “Yes” and “No” and showing no emotion.
His buzzed hair had grayed since his arrest in March 2006. He sported the same thick, dark mustache and a pair of wire-frame glasses.
As investigators read evidence against him, the courtroom was quiet.
According to Union County Sheriff's Lt. David Linto, one survivor told investigators that Williams removed her shoelaces, wrapped them around her breasts and tightened them until her breasts turned blue.
“He said, ‘I was once your worst nightmare; now I'm your guardian angel. If anyone (messes) with you, I will kill them,'” the woman told detectives.
According to testimony, Williams also told investigators that he planned to cannibalize one woman's remains, but was turned off by the smell of cooked flesh.
Union County Sheriff's Sgt. Brian Helms testified that when Williams was confronted by detectives at his home in northern Union County in early March 2006, he yielded.
“He was sitting on the couch. He shrugged, placed his head in his hands and said, ‘I didn't mean to hurt those girls,'” Helms told the court.
Near the two-hour hearing's end, family members of victims had a chance to speak.
“At first I was shocked about him not receiving the death penalty. But I guess God has a plan …” wrote Heather Brown, daughter of Sharon Stone, in a statement read to the court by her brother, Scott Hinson.
“My mom was always around smiling,” Brown wrote. “She called every holiday and for my birthday. She was not a woman of the streets. She worked as hard as she could at restaurants, until she met Scott Williams.”
As Hinson and other family of the victims entered statements into the court record, Williams' gaze tilted toward his shackled hands, and he rocked slightly in his chair.
He watched as the earliest known victim, a survivor, made her statement.
The woman, now in her 40s, held up a photograph of herself taken shortly before her 1995 abduction from the parking lot of a 24-hour supermarket and her subsequent rape. It showed a smiling woman with curly brown hair. She described herself as “very vivacious and full of life.” She has since married and has “a beautiful child.” But she spoke in a slow, soft monotone.
“At least I was lucky to survive,” she said. “But mentally and emotionally, I constantly look over my shoulder.”
Defense attorneys and prosecutors had discussed a plea arrangement for “a long time,” said Jonathan Megerian, Williams' co-counsel. But it wasn't until Thursday that Williams gave the final OK, Megerian said.
The court appointed Megerian and Wells, both of Asheboro, in January. Williams' previous attorneys withdrew citing a shortage of support staff and a strained relationship with their client.
Following Williams' arrest, Judge Boner sealed documents that contained many details of the case. Several media organizations, including the Observer, sought to obtain the documents after Williams' March 2006 arrest.
According to records that were made public, investigators seized assorted whips, chains, handcuffs, knives and handguns from Williams' home.