Triple-homicide trialmay wait until 2009

After a two-year lag in pretrial proceedings, a Union County man accused of shooting three women and leaving their mutilated bodies near rural roadsides may face a jury by the end of the year, says District Attorney John Snyder.

But a defense attorney for Scott Wilson Williams, accused in one of the highest-profile murder cases in the Charlotte area, says he doesn't expect trial that soon.

The case involving Williams and the killings of three women in nine years is too complex, says defense attorney Frank Wells of Asheboro. “We have an obligation to our client to make sure we understand the case,” said Wells, appointed to the case in January.

The case has been stalled by the appointment of new defense attorney Wells. Williams' side also says the discovery phase – in which both sides share information to prepare for trial – has moved slowly. And there was a turnover in prosecutors after Snyder took office in January 2007.

Meantime, court filings show that Williams, who hasn't yet entered a plea in the crimes, has written letters from Central Prison in Raleigh maintaining his innocence.

“I am a innocent man falsely incarcerated as a inmate and felon in Central Prison (in Raleigh) and that is against … all of my constitutional rights as an innocent man,” Williams wrote. Five of his letters are on file in the Union County Clerk of Court's office.

Williams, 45, a former state road crew worker, is charged in the deaths of Sharon House Pressley in 1997, Christina Outz Parker in 2004 and Sharon Tucker Stone in 2006.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Williams also faces charges linked to sexual offenses against a woman in 1995 and another in 2000.

Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey has said that Williams knew the three slain women because they “lived a high-risk lifestyle, and he was a part of that high-risk lifestyle.”

Victim Pressley was charged with prostitution seven months before she died, and she and Parker both had prior drug convictions. Records show that Stone pleaded guilty to a series of misdemeanors during the past five years, including providing false information to an officer, writing bad checks and failing to appear in court. Police said Parker and Stone knew each other.

The court has sealed documents that contain many details of the case. Several media organizations, including the Observer, sought to obtain the documents after Williams' March 2006 arrest.

Superior Court Judge Richard Boner ruled in April 2006 that unsealing documents “best described as macabre” would result in more attention from mainstream media and tabloid publications. That could make it difficult to find impartial jurors in North Carolina, Boner wrote.

According to records that were made public, investigators seized assorted whips, chains, handcuffs, knives and handguns from Williams' northern Union County home.

Defense attorney Wells and co-counsel Jonathan Megerian succeeded Charlotte attorneys Bob Trobich and Pete Anderson. Anderson said he withdrew last December because he started a law firm in spring 2007 and didn't have enough support staff to handle the capital case.

Trobich said that when he and Anderson withdrew, they had not received “the vast majority of the discovery” evidence from prosecutors, including documents from the investigation, witness statements and lab results.

Michael Parker, who served as district attorney for Union County until January 2007 and is not related to Christina Parker, said he wasn't aware of any request for information.

“If the defense had asked for discovery, I'd have given it to him,” he said.