Williams says he was angry at wife, wasn't seeing 'eye-to-eye' with her

Defendant accused of fatally stabbing spouse in 2008; both sides rest cases; closing arguments set for Tuesday

February 17, 2011|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

A building contractor accused of stabbing his wife to death in 2008 described to a jury Thursday how in the weeks before the killing he had suspected her of seeing someone else. While testifying in his own defense, he said he'd seen a salacious photo of another man's anatomy on her cellphone and that he feared she had given him a sexually transmitted disease.

"We weren't seeing eye-to-eye on a lot of things," the 35-year-old defendant, Cleaven L. Williams Jr., said in Baltimore Circuit Court. "She kept saying, 'I'm leaving,' that she was giving me 30 days' notice. She was going to find a place. I even said, 'I'll help you move.' "

In October 2008, a month before the fatal stabbing of Veronica Williams on a North Avenue sidewalk, the defendant and his wife were no longer sleeping in the same room. He said they had disagreements over the use of a Chevrolet truck they bought on eBay, and one day got into an argument over whether he should go to Atlanta, ostensibly to attend a television awards show.

"I had female friends down there, and she didn't want me to go," Williams said, adding that his wife threw a phone at him and he retaliated by using scissors to cut off her hair extensions. "It was like a tit-for-tat thing," he said. The following day, after he had bought his plane ticket to Atlanta, his wife took the clothes he had planned to take with him, "put them in the bathtub and poured bleach on them."

Then, on the first weekend in November, Williams said, he locked her out of their house on North Avenue after she had taken their three children and spent a few days at her mother's place out of town. When she called him at 2 o'clock one morning to demand that he let them in, Williams, who was staying at a relative's house, refused. "Why don't you get a hotel room?" he said he told her. "I'm not coming down there." She responded by calling the police.

The relationship degenerated further when Veronica Williams sought and was granted a protective order against her husband, and a warrant was issued charging him with second-degree assault. The defendant told the jury that he sought a lawyer's help in trying to get the warrant "squashed" so as to avoid "the Central Booking situation."

Earlier Thursday, jurors heard from several members of the city police, one of whom acknowledged under cross-examination that four days before the killing, Williams had tried to turn himself in at the Eastern District precinct in response to the warrant, but the document could not be located and Williams was told to leave.

"I knew him," said Deputy Maj. Dan A. Lioi, recounting his history with Williams, a community activist. "We didn't feel he was a flight risk." Had he not known him personally, Lioi conceded, he would have arrested him immediately. In the following days, after the warrant had been found, Lioi said he and Williams were in touch several times by phone and text messages, ostensibly trying to arrange a time for Williams to surrender. It never happened.

On Nov. 17, Williams told Lioi by phone that he was on his way to his lawyer's office and that he would "get back" to him, according to the police commander. About an hour after that, Lioi learned that Williams had been arrested in the stabbing of his wife of almost 10 years.

The following March, Lioi was suspended with pay pending an internal investigation into the way he had handled the Williams matter. In May 2009, he was reinstated after being cleared of wrongdoing.

Zabiullah Ali, a pathologist who conducted the autopsy of Veronica Williams, described for the jury the seven stab wounds she suffered in the face, head and neck, and the slashing injuries to her hands as she tried to fend off the blade. The murder weapon was a hunting knife with a 41/4 –inch blade, according to the prosecution.

Williams testified that he had urged his wife to have a weapon in the Chevrolet because he was concerned for her safety, and said she kept a kitchen knife in the truck because she refused to carry a gun. Williams said on the stand that she had stabbed him first, in the neck, during an argument in the truck. He said he does not remember attacking her, but recalls being shot by a police officer who rushed to the scene.

After both sides rested, Judge Timothy J. Doory told the jury there would be no court session Friday or Monday, and said closing arguments would go ahead on Tuesday.


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