Suspect in stabbing deaths of mother and sister pleads not guilty

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A man with a history of mental illness pleaded not guilty today to charges that he murdered his mother — a veteran San Diego child-abuse detective — and his 18-year-old sister at their Rancho Penasquitos home.

Brian Rockwell Williams, 24, was ordered held without bail. If he is convicted in the stabbing deaths of 52-year-old Donna Williams and 18-year-old Briana Williams, the defendant would face 52 years to life in prison, said Deputy District Attorney Kristen Spieler.

About 1:15 a.m. Monday, Rancho Penasquitos residents were awakened by the sounds of a woman screaming. They looked outside to see Briana Williams struggling with her 6-foot, 300-pound brother on the balcony of their home on Paseo Montril, outside her bedroom window, the prosecutor said.

At one point, Briana was seen hanging from the balcony by her hands, and eventually dropped to the pavement below, according to Spieler, who said the defendant was seen calmly walking back into the home.

Within minutes, police arrived and found the defendant in the front yard, standing a few feet from where his sister lay dying, the prosecutor said. Near Briana's body was a bloody knife, Spieler said.

When officers made entry into the home, they found the body of Donna Williams face-down in Briana's bedroom, the prosecutor said.

Both of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene.

The defendant's sister suffered multiple slashes to her throat and about 20 stab wounds to the chest, according to Spieler. Her mother was stabbed at least twice in the stomach and had a severe gash to her throat, the prosecutor said.

The motive for the attack was unclear, but Spieler said the defendant's state of mind would be important in the case, as it is in all murder cases.

Defense attorney Richard Gates said the defendant had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, but was not undergoing treatment at the time of the murders. It was not clear if he was taking any medication for the condition.

Judge David Szumowski granted Gates' request to have the defendant placed in protective custody.

“The pattern of the disease that he suffers from includes self-harm as well as harm toward others, as we've seen,” Gates told reporters. “You know, when you're talking about a significant mental illness like schizophrenia, you're talking about a young person who's in their 20s, this is the beginning of the disease.

“When you have a situation when you're living with a mentally ill person — like the detective was — it puts you into a conflict situation, because the mentally ill resist treatment,” he said. “As every mother would tell you, they're not likely to send their child out — even a 24-year-old, 6- foot, 300-pound child out — untreated into the community.”

Late last month, officers went to the Williams family home on a call of a disturbance involving the son, according to police officials, who declined to provide details about that incident.

Donna Williams spent 31 years with the SDPD, much of it in the agency's Child Abuse Unit, SDPD Capt. Jim Collins said. The detective — whose late husband, Howard Williams, also had been a San Diego police officer — was a “cornerstone” of her division, Collins said.

Her daughter — a recent graduate of Mount Carmel High School — had planned to attend a San Francisco design college on a full scholarship, according to Collins.

A status conference was set for July 26 and a preliminary hearing for Aug. 2.

Categories: KUSI