Bail is denied in murder case
Murder suspect Richard G. Williams will stay in jail, according to a ruling issued Wednesday by Nevada County Superior Court Judge Robert Tamietti.
Friends of the slain Hendrika C. Williams wept and hugged each other outside the courtroom afterward, saying they felt relieved that Williams would remain in custody at Wayne Brown Correctional Facility.
“This was for Hetty,” said Kay Bauer, a friend of Hetty Williams, as a tear rolled down her cheek.
Three people, including Rick Williams’ in-laws, had testified they would fear for their safety should Williams be released on bail.
Despite his ruling, Tamietti asserted the constitutional presumption of innocence.
“Nothing (in this decision) abridges that presumption,” the judge said. “Mr. Williams is entitled to that presumption, and he will get it from this court.”
Williams showed no reaction to the decision. At the end of the hearing he spoke in low tones to his lawyer, Stephen A. Munkelt of Nevada City, waited for the bailiff to replace the handcuffs, and left the courtroom in the company of deputies.
In a carefully argued decision, Tamietti ruled there was “substantial evidence” that Rick Williams killed his estranged wife and planned her murder in secret – a special circumstance that could bring down the death penalty.
“Even in a special circumstances murder case, a defendant is entitled to bail,” Tamietti said, citing the California state constitution, “unless a judge finds that proof of guilt is abundant and the presumption is great.”
Tamietti argued the evidence, brought by Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Francis during three days of testimony, showed Williams acted with the intention of killing Hendrika C. Williams.
He cited the presence of a rifle-like cement nail gun and spent 22-caliber cartridges inside the locked Williams home, five protective washers that had been taken off the nails and left in the garage, and forensic testimony that Hetty Williams probably could not have used the tool to shoot herself.
Tamietti also rejected Munkelt’s earlier argument that the evidence could suggest Williams had had a plan for suicide that, in a sudden fit of rage, went awry.
He mentioned a sixth nail, also with the protective washer removed, found in Williams’ bedroom on a night stand next to the bed where the Williamses both were found with a total of five nail wounds.
“I think a jury might find, reasonably, that there are too many nails there for just a suicide plan,” Tamietti said. “If a jury found that murder with malice aforethought had been committed, and this had been placed on appeal, the (appellate) court would sustain the verdict” based on the evidence presented, Tamietti said.
That test, he explained, was his guide in denying bail.
Williams remained stoic throughout Tamietti’s discussion of his legal reasoning. Munkelt had no comment on the decision.
The next hearing, a felony conference, is scheduled for 1 p.m. on March 1.
To contact staff writer Trina Kleist, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call
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