LUKE A. WILLIAMS, III, v. JON OZMINT
Excerpt from the appeal case
The facts, as recounted by the Supreme Court of South Carolina in its opinion in Williams’s direct appeal, are as follows:
At approximately 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 19, 1991, the bodies of Linda Williams (Wife) and Shawn Williams (Son) were discovered inside the family van in a forest in Edgefield County, South Carolina, approximately six miles from their home near Augusta, Georgia. The front bumper of the van was against a tree, and fire had partially damaged the vehicle. The investigators detected a strong odor of gasoline and found several metal cans containing gasoline inside the van. Wife was discovered in the driver’s seat, which was positioned so far back that her feet could not reach the pedals, and Son was seated in the front passenger seat. Blood was found on a piece of PVC pipe on the van’s floorboard. Wife was dressed in a gray t-shirt, gray sweatpants pulled down to her upper thigh, light pink socks, nylon panties, and she was not wearing a bra or shoes. Son was also shoeless and was wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants.
Wife suffered a black eye, a contusion on the bridge of her nose, contusions on her left forearm, and abrasions on her left shoulder. These injuries were consistent with having been caused by a human fist. The autopsy revealed that Wife’s cause of death was blunt head trauma due to a beating. Son suffered a bruise to his forehead, as well as abrasions to his chin, back, and right side of his neck. His cause of death was asphyxiation due to manual strangulation. Wounds created by the fire were postmortem. Although the deaths occurred within the same time frame, a specific time of death was not determined.
At trial, several friends of Wife testified that she always dressed neatly and would not go out in public dressed in a t-shirt without a bra. Additionally, they stated that because Wife was short in stature, she always positioned the driver’s seat of the van close to the steering wheel. One friend stated that she last spoke with Wife by telephone at 2:50 p.m. on
A bath towel and Son’s tennis shoes with blood stains on them were found at Williams’ home. In addition, Williams’ right hand was severely bruised and swollen — this injury was consistent with having occurred on June 19th. Williams told a friend that on the day of the homicides, Wife and Son were planning to go shopping at Columbia Mall in Columbia, South Carolina. Prior to receiving the autopsy results, Williams informed the friend that Wife had been beaten to death, and Son had been strangled with a plastic wire wrap similar to wire wrap Son had in his bedroom. When asked if he killed Wife and Son, Williams did not respond.
Williams and Wife were experiencing significant marital and financial difficulties. Neighbors and friends stated that they frequently overheard Williams and Wife engaging in hostile arguments. One neighbor testified that she heard a "loud thump" during one of the arguments. In addition, Williams and Wife had declared bankruptcy, and foreclosure proceedings had been initiated against their home.
Williams had substantially increased life insurance benefits on Wife and Son during May of 1991, designating himself as beneficiary. On May 7, 1991, Williams upgraded existing policies with Allstate Insurance Company to include auto related death benefits in the amounts of $100,000 for Wife and $20,000 for Son. Williams forged Wife’s name on the enrollment form. After their deaths, Williams made claims under two Allstate policies in the amounts of $200,000 on Wife and $45,000 on Son. Williams also took out new life insurance policies for Wife and Son with State Farm Insurance Company effective May 30, 1991, providing Wife with death benefit insurance in the amount of $250,000 and Son with $25,000 in death benefit insurance. [Williams applied for $500,000 in death benefitJune 18, 1991. A neighbor testified that on June 19, 1991, a car drove into the driveway at Williams’ home between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. Further testimony established that at approximately 7:00 a.m. on June 19, 1991, Wife’s van was not parked in the driveway.insurance for Wife; however, until the policy was approved a binder limited the amount of coverage to $250,000.] Williams indicated on the claims forms that Wife and Son had died in Edgefield County, South Carolina.
State v. Williams, 468 S.E.2d 626, 628-29 (S.C. 1996).