Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dorothy Williams, Chicago Serial Killer of Elderly Victims - 1989


On April 18, 1991, at the age of 36, Chicago serial killer Dorothy Williams was sentenced to death for strangling to death frail 99-year old woman Mary Harris. She pleaded guilty to two other murders at a later hearing. In 1987 she had strangled Lonnie Laws, 79, with his own belt, and the following year stabbed to death Cesar Zuell, 63, A blanket commutation by the Illinois governor saved Williams from execution scheduled to take place in 1995. Prosecutor John McNerney told the court that Dorothy Williams was “a reverse Robin Hood who steals from those who have nothing and uses it for her own selfish interests.” Williams’ death sentence was later commuted.

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The commentary from the Illinois Prisoner Review Board paints an eloquent picture of a sociopathic career criminal:

EXCERPT: For pocket money, Williams beat and stabbed her three murder victims. Despite their frailty these people fought hard for their lives and died slow, painful and, as a result, chillingly horrific deaths. It is shameful that these victims lived long and fruitful lives only to die during every person’s worst nightmare: a home invasion by a brutal stranger. These helpless seniors, frail with age and medical disabilities, opened their doors to terrifying deaths, inflicted by a worthless criminal who has no place in civilized society. Williams is a street cunning, brutal murderer convicted with overwhelming physical, forensic, and testimonial evidence. Williams gave three court-reported confessions to three separate murders of senior citizens. [Illinois, Oct. 2002 session; Prisoner Review Board; Petition for Commutation of Death Sentence]

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EXCERPT: The State introduced as well evidence that the defendant had robbed four other elderly persons in their apartments, which were located in the same building in which Harris had lived and in similar housing nearby: Frederick Adamson on July 4, 1989; Clyde Simmons on July 1, 1989; Martha Foster on April 4, 1989; and Jasper Irving on both April 4, 1989, and January 11, 1986. A police officer with whom Adamson had spoken concerning the robbery of July 4, 1989, testified that Adamson had stated that this was the third time that the defendant had robbed him. The defendant's fingerprints or palmprints were found within the apartments of Caesar Zuell and Martha Foster following the commission of the offenses alleged to have been committed therein and on the exterior door of the apartment of Lonnie Laws. The evidence indicated that in order to gain entrance to the apartments of many of these elderly persons, as well as the apartments of still others, defendant used various ruses, including the pretense that the resident knew or was related to her and the deception that defendant had come to aid the resident. The evidence indicated that defendant was often physically abusive of these elderly persons whom she robbed. Another witness, Emma Lipsey, described an episode in October of 1973 in which defendant hit her in the mouth with a wooden milk crate about 18 inches square, knocking out two of her lower teeth as a result. On May 30, 1973, defendant kicked a police officer 10 to 12 times in the face and chest after he arrested her for creating a disturbance by the use of loud, profane, and vulgar language in a crowd of about 50 that had gathered in response to a street fight between two other persons. On March 10, 1975, defendant was convicted of the offenses of delivery and possession of marijuana and sentenced to 18 months of misdemeanor probation and fined $200. On November 23, 1989, while the defendant was incarcerated awaiting trial, she was verbally abusive and verbally threatening to a correctional officer. [Illinois Supreme Court, The People Of The State Of Illinois, Appellee,  v. Dorothy Williams, Appellant. Justice Harrison delivered the opinion of the court: September 22, 1994]

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Oct. 1973 – “Another witness, Emma Lipsey, described an episode in October of 1973 in which defendant hit her in the mouth with a wooden milk crate about 18 inches square, knocking out two of her lower teeth as a result.”
May 30, 1973 – “defendant kicked a police officer 10 to 12 times in the face and chest after he arrested her for creating a disturbance by the use of loud, profane, and vulgar language in a crowd of about 50 that had gathered in response to a street fight between two other persons.”
Mar. 10, 1975 – “defendant was convicted of the offenses of delivery and possession of marijuana and sentenced to 18 months of misdemeanor probation and fined $200.”
1986 – prosecutors assert that in addition to the three murders Williams robbed five other elderly victims between 1986 and 1989.”
Dec. 5, 1987 – Lonnie Laws, 79, strangled with own belt and suffocated to death.
Dec. 6, 1988 – Cesar Zuell, 63, stabbed to death.
Jul. 4, 1989 –  A police officer with whom Adamson had spoken concerning the robbery of July 4, 1989, testified that Adamson had stated that this was the third time that the defendant had robbed him.
Jul. 25, 1989 – Mary Harris, 97, strangled to death.
Sep. 6, 1989 – Arrested.
Apr. 18, 1991 – Williams, 36, sentenced to death; for Mary Harris murder.
Sep. 4, 1991 – pleads guilty to murders of Zuell and Laws; sentenced to life terms for the two murder charges and a seven-year prison term for a robbery she also pleaded guilty to.
2003 – death sentence commuted.

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Other sources: [Matt O’Connor, “2nd Woman Sentenced To Death Row,” Chicago Tribune (Il.), April 19, 1991] [“Strangler Pleads Guilty In 2 Other Murders,” Chicago Tribune (Il.), Sep. 5, 1991]

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For similar cases, see: Female Serial Killer Bandits

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