The day after she found her mother's mutilated body, Sheila Mayor recalled how the woman would work eight-hour days each summer as a hospital housekeeper -- then waitress a few hours more to raise enough money to clothe six children for the upcoming school year.
Once school began, Dessie Williams would retire to her full-time job at Union Memorial Hospital, spending her off-hours to get the rest she needed to keep her diabetes in check.
"She always took care of all of us," recalled Norman Williams, one of her five sons. "She really prided herself in the upbringing of all of us."
Yesterday, when many people were celebrating Christmas, brother and sister were at their mother's Govans home, reflecting on both the love and dignity shown by the hard-working woman and the shock of her slaying Monday morning -- a slaying that city homicide detectives said was among the most gruesome in memory.
Police on Monday obtained a warrant charging Mrs. Williams' 30-year-old son with first-degree murder and possession of a deadly weapon. Clifton Williams was described yesterday by his siblings as being emotionally disturbed and as having acted erratically in recent days. Late yesterday, police were still looking for him.
According to homicide detectives, Clifton Williams is alleged to have linked several extension cords together and attacked his mother with an electric circular saw while she lay asleep in her bed. She was 50.
The day before Christmas began uneventfully, according to Mrs. Williams' children.
Mrs. Mayor, 33, said she left her mother's house in the 5200 block of Ivanhoe Avenue to run some errands, peering first through the cracked doorway of her mother's bedroom. Her mother was asleep, and the household cat was sleeping at the foot of the bed.
Shortly before noon, she said, she returned to the house. She opened the front door a few inches but, chained from the inside, it lurched to a stop. "I yelled through the opening of the door," she said, "but no one came."
Then she ran around to the back yard and entered through the basement door.
Once in the living room, she heard Christmas music playing on the stereo.
"I didn't have to get up the stairs all the way to see my mother -- I screamed and ran out of the house," Ms. Williams recalled. Her mother was lying in a pool of blood on the second-floor hallway.
Homicide detectives, called to the scene by a neighbor, said the victim had been savagely cut by the electric saw -- a tool that belonged to Clifton Williams, according to his brother and sister.
Late Monday night, police recovered the saw. Mrs. Mayor said they found it stashed in an exposed space above the dropped ceiling in the basement of the house.
Clifton Williams lived in the house with his mother, Sheila Mayor and her husband, Antoine Mayor. Mrs. Mayor said Mr. Williams lived on federal disability payments, which his mother would distribute to him in installments during the month.
Mr. Williams, according to his brother and sister, had been diagnosed a paranoid-schizophrenic earlier in life. Medication kept his condition under control, they said, but he was prone to lapses when he would refuse to take his pills. Then, his behavior would become increasingly irrational.
"He was different from all of us," Mrs. Mayor said. "You do something one way, and he'd do the opposite."
"But we always felt he didn't have the capability of hurting anybody," Norman Williams said, adding that his brother had been hospitalized a few times with psychiatric problems. "I think at times he knows what he's doing, and at times his mind is cluttered."
Recently, he had gone a long time without his medication, the brother and sister said. Norman Williams said his brother was extraordinarily neat most of the time. But recently his room had fallen into disarray with cereal strewn in the drawers, pictures posted on the ceiling and a pair of jeans tacked to the wall.
Mrs. Mayor said her brother kept the electric saw in his bedroom, using it at times to cut wood into pieces. "The lights would flicker when he turned it on," she said. "I said, 'You can't saw wood like that in your room.' "
"I'm not angry," the daughter added. "I know he's sick and needs help. I'm worried about where he is. I don't want him to hurt himself. I want him to get help."