‘He shot her, reloaded, then shot her again’
The murder of Hendrika Williams was a tragedy as old as time, Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Francis said in court Friday, a classic case of “If I can’t have her, no one can.”
Francis began opening statements Friday in the murder trial of Richard Williams, accused of killing his estranged wife with a nail gun, then turning the weapon on himself Oct. 22, 2005.
“Rick (Richard) Williams is a jealous, angry, selfish man,” Francis said. She referred to Hendrika “Hetty” Williams as a loving mother, a gifted teacher and a devoted wife who wanted a new chance at happiness.
“He took that away from her,” Francis said. “She never got a chance for that life.”
Francis picked up a large Remington power-driver nail gun identical to the one used in the killing, slightly straining to raise the heavy tool.
“He shot her, reloaded the charge, reloaded another nail, shot her again, reloaded another nail, then shot her again,” Francis told the jury. “He shot her once in the temple, once in the back of the head, and once through her heart.”
Francis said 35 pounds of pressure is required to load a nail into the gun for discharge. Jordan Hughes, who was renting the basement at the time of the killing, said he could hear a woman moaning loudly for about 10 minutes.
“It was a monotone, loud-pitched tone,” Hughes said. “I wasn’t sure what was going on and I had only been there a few nights, so I thought it wasn’t my place to intrude.” Hughes went back to sleep after the moaning stopped.
Richard Williams remained expressionless throughout court proceedings Friday.
The mother of a blind girl who Hendrika Williams worked with cried quietly in the second row of the gallery. One of Hendrika Williams’ brothers and his wife were also present but remained outside the courtroom for most of the day.
Hendrika Williams had filed for legal separation from her husband three months before he killed her, Francis said, adding that Richard Williams later filed divorce papers. She was having a romantic relationship with Stephen Burns, her boss at the Grass Valley School District, and she was in love with him, Francis said.
In his opening, Williams’ defense attorney, Stephen Munkelt, said the Williams’ relationship was “a love story with a tragic ending.” Williams was extremely distraught over his wife’s relationship with Burns, which she attempted to keep a secret, Munkelt said.
Williams found out about the affair while he eavesdropped on a call between his wife and her friend a month before the killing. The stress of the betrayal combined with side effects from withdrawal of his anti-depressant medication Paxil drove him to kill, he said.
“Rather than a cold, calculated, angry plan, his decision to stop taking Paxil led to an incredible state of unconsciousness,” Munkelt said. “He was trapped inside his own living nightmare.”
Francis displayed pictures of the crime scene, where the Williamses both lay bleeding with medical personnel trying to revive them.
She read the suicide note – written the morning of the killing – in which Williams blamed his wife’s friends and Burns for the estrangement and said goodbye to the couple’s two children, Sarah and Briana.
Munkelt painted a sympathetic picture of his client, telling jurors Williams had a paper route as a young child, and he went to church every Sunday in his youth, “sometimes twice.”
The Williamses’ former neighbor, Chris Shurte, testified Richard Williams had a sinister side, and tormented his wife after he found out about the affair.
“(Richard Williams) saved some poison oak, went into her room and spread it all over her sheets, underpants and bras,” Shurte said. “He was real tickled about that.
“He was giggling. He knew it was wrong but he thought it was just great. He was happy because she got poison oak.”
Shurte said Richard Williams called him several times as he recovered in the hospital from the nail gun wounds, wanting him to sell his motorcycle for him. Williams bought the motorcycle after the separation and kept it at Shurte’s house to keep his wife from getting it in divorce proceedings, Shurte said.
Shurte saved a voice mail recording of Williams asking for the favor and forwarded it to sheriff’s investigators. He said he was angry with Williams for killing Hetty, whom he had liked.
“It changed my life,” Shurte said, glaring at defense attorney Stephen Munkelt, who was cross-examining him.
Francis also played part of a videotape of Burns testifying about his relationship with Hendrika Williams. He could not attend the trial in Napa because he has terminal brain cancer.
He said Hendrika “did amazing things” for the blind girl she worked with, trying to make school easier for her.
Francis plans to play the rest of the tape of Burns’ testimony at 9 a.m. Monday in Napa County Superior Court. Francis has about 20 people on her list of witnesses.
Munkelt is expected to call fewer witnesses. The trial is expected to last two more weeks.
To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4236.
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