Wielding a hunting knife over his step-sister on the stairs of their home, Wayne W. Williams stabbed her 16 times and had no intention of stopping.
Prosecutors said if the woman’s boyfriend hadn’t been at home and intervened, the step-sister surely would not be alive today.
“Mr. Williams came remarkably close to ending the life of his step-sister,” Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp said in court Monday. “It came remarkably close to being that.”
Williams was sentenced Monday to serve 25 years in prison for what Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez called a “horrific attack” on an unsuspecting victim in March of 2014.
After reviewing photographs of the victim’s injuries, Menendez said it was one of the most serious assaults he’d ever seen someone survive. The stab wounds were not “slight piercings,” he said; they were “intense, violent and destined to end her life.”
The victim did not appear in court Monday, but told her story to a Juneau grand jury, an audio recording Kemp played for Judge Menendez on Monday. The incident only lasted two and half to three minutes, but “it felt like forever,” the woman testified.
The victiim said she and her step-brother, who lived at their parents house on Simpson Avenue in Douglas at the time, argued earlier in the day on March 28, 2014, and that he left the house. He had been drinking at the time.
When he returned later in the afternoon, he came home to find the house locked, and he threw a rock up at his step-sister’s bedroom window. She said she opened the window and told him to stop because he might break it. She went downstairs and unlocked the door.
She was halfway up the stairs when he came in, and said to her, “Don’t f– talk to me like that, or else I’m gonna do something about it,” she told the grand jurors.
“Oh, really?” she said she responded.
The judge later lamented, “That’s all it took.”
Williams looked at his step-sister, took out a folding buck knife with a three and a half inch blade from his pocket and flipped it open.
“He just charged me with the knife and proceeded to stab me,” she was heard saying on the audio recording.
He stabbed her in her face, in her side, in her arms that she raised to protect her face. She screamed out for help, and her then boyfriend came out of her bedroom and saw the two on the stairwell. The boyfriend pushed Williams off and Williams stumbled down the stairs.
“He wasn’t done,” the boyfriend later told the grand jury, according to his testimony. The boyfriend stood between Williams and his girlfriend, he said, then telling the grand jury he heard Williams say, “I’m going to kill you b–,” during the attack, according to the audio recording.
The woman ran back up the stairs to her bedroom and called 911, and Williams eventually left. Police arrested him two days later, March 30, 2014, when a citizen tipped off police that a person matching the suspect’s description was pacing in front of his home on the beach. Williams has been in custody since his arrest.
According to grand jury testimony from Dr. Pamela Gruchacz, a general surgeon at Bartlett Regional Hospital, the victim had narrowly escaped serious injury. One of the stab wounds punctured her liver, but Gruchacz was able to cauterize it to stop the bleeding in time. Another stab wound to her neck — just two centimeters away from her jugular — could have been deadly. Another in her clavicle was close to an artery near the heart, which could have been life-threatening.
“She could have bled to death,” Gruchacz said to the grand jury of the life-threatening nature of some of the wounds. She said she counted 16 stab wounds in all.
Williams was charged with attempted first-degree murder; he pleaded guilty in April. A plea deal in place capped his possible jail time at 25 years.
On Monday, Assistant District Attorney Kemp requested 35 years in prison with 10 years suspended (25 to serve), plus 10 years of probation. She said there’s almost “no hope” in rehabilitating Williams — he’s been in and out of the criminal system since he was 13, accrued 22 convictions as an adult including two felonies, and that he has been provided countless opportunities to change.
“Justice demands a sentence that focuses on isolating Mr. Williams,” Kemp said.
“I don’t think that it’s time to write Mr. Williams off yet,” defense attorney Eve Soutiere countered.
Soutiere said alcohol has been a life-long issue for Williams — he began drinking when he was 10 years old. She said his sentence should consider his potential for rehabilitation, and requested 30 years with 15 years suspended (15 years to serve), plus 20 years on probation following his release from prison.
If the case had gone to trial, Soutiere said the defense would have argued that Williams was taking antiseizure medication at the time of the attack. Coupled with alcohol, the side effect of the medication can be anger or violent behavior, she said.
“Mr. Williams is not saying that he didn’t do it, but I think that helps to shed some light on why we’re here today,” she said.
When given a chance to speak, Williams apologized.
“It’s something I can’t believe I did myself,” he said.
But Judge Menendez agreed with the state and said Williams has “dim” potential for rehabilitation this late in his life. Menendez called Williams’ attack against his step-sister “ruthless” and said he had to protect the public from him.
Said Menendez: “I think you’re a very dangerous person.”