Trial starts in kidnapping, body dumping case
The prosecution claims a Rockford, Ill., man killed his ex-girlfriend’s lover, then forced her to help dump the body in Janesville by threatening to take her life.
The defense claims the ex-girlfriend helped commit the murder, dumped the body in Janesville alone or with someone else.
Attorneys gave their theories of the case to jurors during opening statements Monday in Rock County Court. They said the case hinges on the credibility of the woman, who never reported the murder to police.
Raymond C. Williams, 40, is on trial for felony charges of kidnapping and hiding a corpse in the March 2007 murder of Travel Hester, 27, in Rockford.
He is accused of killing Hester and kidnapping his ex-girlfriend to help hide the body in Riverside Park in Janesville.
A jury in Winnebago County, Ill., acquitted Williams of homicide.
‘She was petrified’
During opening arguments, prosecutor Gerald Urbik said the woman previously had dated Williams and had a restraining order against him.
Williams had beaten the woman several times, Urbik said, and the relationship ended.
The woman and her new boyfriend, Hester, were celebrating Hester’s birthday Sunday, March 11, 2007, when they returned to the woman’s Rockford home and went to sleep, he said.
Hours later, the woman awoke to Williams holding a metal pipe in her bedroom, Urbik said.
Williams then beat Hester to death, he said. He forced the woman to hit him, too.
Williams threatened to kill the woman if she told police, Urbik said.
He also forced the woman to help cover up the murder, he said. The woman was terrified and cooperated.
The two put Hester’s body in her car’s trunk and drove around Rockford to find a hiding place, he said.
They returned to the woman’s home when it became light, Urbik said.
The woman then went to sleep, and Williams left, he said.
“Cleary (the woman) had an opportunity to leave the house and call police,” Urbik said. “She was petrified. She was worried that he would kill her.”
She also was afraid police would think she was involved, he said.
Later, Williams and the woman cleaned the murder scene, Urbik said. Williams’ fingerprints were found on cleaning supplies.
The two wrapped Hester’s body in a shower curtain, and Williams bought the woman a replacement shower curtain, Urbik said.
Williams fingerprint was found on the new curtain, he said.
Drive to Janesville
The following day, the woman went to work for a couple hours and talked to her mom, he said. She never told anyone about the murder.
She returned home that night when Williams decided they had to dispose of the body in Wisconsin, Urbik said.
Williams then forced her to join him on a trip to Beloit and Janesville, he said.
They hid the body in Janesville’s Riverside Park, Urbik said. Williams knew the park because he had lived in Janesville.
Williams stopped at a Janesville gas station after dumping the body, he said. Williams was caught on the station’s video camera.
Williams then drove to an area near Blackhawk Technical College off Highway 51, he said. He forced the woman to throw a bag of Hester’s clothing out her car window.
Williams’ shoes were later found in the bag with Hester’s clothes, Urbik said. Williams’ fingerprint and Hester’s blood were on a shoe.
The two then returned to Rockford, Urbik said. A construction worker found Hester’s body the following morning.
In Rockford, the woman was again separated from Williams, but she never reported the murder to police, he said.
She didn’t tell anyone about the murder until police questioned her, Urbik said.
During questioning, the woman cooperated and led police to the gas station surveillance video and clothes bag, he said.
When Williams was arrested, he claimed he had not been in Janesville or with the woman, Urbik said.
During the defense’s opening statements, defense attorney Michael Murphy said the woman was involved in the murder.
The woman’s home was the murder scene, and she admits being there during the crime, Murphy said.
The woman, a convicted criminal, covered up the murder, he said.
She cleaned the murder scene, used her car to dispose of the body and dumped Hester’s clothes along Highway 51, Murphy said.
“She has a reason to lie,” he said. “She’s involved.”
The woman never reported the murder to police or anyone else, despite several opportunities, he said.
She wasn’t afraid of Williams killing her, Murphy said. She was afraid of getting caught.
And no physical evidence links Williams to the woman’s car, he said.
If convicted, Williams faces up to 50 years in prison.
Williams remains in the Rock County Jail on $30,000 cash bond.