Baltimore man charged in wife's death wrote letter about killing her

Cleaven Williams testifies about letter before trial

February 14, 2011|By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

Four days before Cleaven L. Williams Jr. stabbed his wife seven times on a Baltimore street, he wrote a letter outlining plans to kill her, according to testimony he gave in court Monday.

"I figured that I had a [sexually transmitted disease] and I contracted it from my wife," Williams said, explaining that he wrote the undelivered letter because he was upset. "I write a lot, that's my vent."

The admission was made during a hearing held Monday afternoon on whether the letter — found by police on the passenger seat of a car he shared with his wife — could be entered into evidence at his trial, which is scheduled to begin with opening statements Tuesday. A jury was selected Monday.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Timothy J. Doory will rule on the motion to suppress the letter Tuesday morning.

Williams is charged with murder in the death of his wife, Veronica Williams, who received a restraining order against him moments before he attacked her in front of several witnesses on North Avenue on Nov. 17, 2008. She died three days later.

He has claimed in court papers that he's not criminally responsible — Maryland's equivalent of the insanity plea —and suggested Monday that it was a spur-of-the-moment act he can't remember. But the note, in which he talks about killing his wife and describes how he wants their three children raised, could show prior intent, making it key to the state's case.

Prosecutor Kevin Wiggins called it a "confession," a "last will and testament" akin to O.J. Simpson's "If I Did It," the book that hypothetically described his own wife's killing, leading defense attorney, Melissa Phinn, to object.

She claims the letter was illegally obtained without a warrant, leaving it up to the state to prove otherwise.

Wiggins put three officers on the witness stand Monday — including the officer who disarmed Williams by shooting him twice that November day — along with one of the victim's cousins, who had helped Veronica Williams leave her husband two weeks before she was killed.

Carlin Robinson testified that her cousin, Veronica Williams, was afraid to go inside her own home, and left Cleaven Willams on Nov. 2. She and her children lived with Robinson for two weeks, before Veronica Williams went to Baltimore to appear before a judge who granted the protective order.

While she was inside, Cleaven Williams had spotted their car, unlocked the door and got inside, he said.

"I figured she was in the courthouse," Williams said, adding that he wanted to talk to his wife.

According to court records, he jumped her. It was about 3 p.m. and Baltimore police Officer Joshua Laycock was just getting off work when he happened on the scene, the officer testified Monday.

"I saw what appeared to be a man on top of someone else, struggling," Laycock said. He said he soon realized "It was a man who was stabbing a woman repeatedly."

Laycock shot Cleaven Williams with his Taser, then he shot him with his gun, twice, he said, adding that Williams begged to die, "He said, 'Kill me, kill me.'"

On the stand, Williams said he wasn't suicidal and that he hadn't planned to kill Veronica Williams that day, despite the letter left in the car he was driving. He said he wrote the note Nov. 13, when he believed his wife was cheating on him. He was about to call a health clinic to find out whether he had contracted a sexually transmitted disease — which he hadn't — and said he wrote the note as a form of therapy.

He also acknowledged that he was the attacker, however, saying that when he came to, he saw that they were "both lying in the street. … I realized that I stabbed her."

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