Jurors convict Illinois man of hiding murder victim in Janesville

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Ann Marie Ames
Ted Sullivan
Saturday, February 13, 2010
— A Rockford, Ill., man acquitted of murder in Illinois will serve up to 50 years of prison in Wisconsin for kidnapping his ex-girlfriend and forcing her to help him hide a corpse in Janesville.

A jury Friday afternoon convicted Raymond C. Williams, 40, of felony charges of kidnapping and hiding a corpse in March 2007.

Williams was on trial for five days in Rock County Court.

He is suspected of murdering Travel Hester, 27, in Rockford and then kidnapping his ex-girlfriend to help hide the body in Janesville’s Riverside Park.

A jury in Winnebago County, Ill., acquitted Williams of homicide.

Rock County Assistant District Attorney Gerald Urbik said the case highlights the “severe” issue of domestic violence in the community.

“An expert witness taught the jury a lot about domestic violence and showed how the victim was acting under severe distress when she was kidnapped and forced to help hide the body,” Urbik said. “This is an extreme example of domestic violence and the dynamics of victim behavior.”

In closing statements, Urbik and Assistant District Attorney Gwanny Tjoa said the woman had previously dated Williams and had a restraining order against him.

Williams had beaten the woman several times, they said, and the relationship ended.

The woman and her new boyfriend, Hester, were celebrating Hester’s birthday when they returned to the woman’s Rockford home and went to sleep, Tjoa said.

Hours later, the woman woke to Williams holding a metal pipe in her bedroom, he said. Williams beat Hester to death, and he forced the woman to hit him, too.

Williams also beat the woman and threatened to kill her if she told police and didn’t help cover up the slaying, Tjoa said.

Williams forced the woman to help clean the murder scene, Tjoa said, and the two were seen on video in a store buying cleaning supplies.

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.

The woman then went to sleep, and Williams left, Tjoa said. The woman also left her home alone that day, but she never told anyone about the murder because she feared Williams would kill her.

Later that night, Williams forced the woman to help him dump the body in Riverside Park, Tjoa said.

The two put Hester’s body in a shower curtain, and Williams bought the woman a new shower curtain, Urbik said. Williams’ fingerprint was found on the new curtain.

A pipe Williams ditched on the way to Janesville was found outside Rockford, he said. Williams later hid the body behind large rocks in the Riverside Park.

After hiding the body, Williams stopped at a gas station to buy a beverage for the woman, Tjoa said. He was seen on the store’s surveillance video.

On their return to Rockford, Williams made the woman dump Hester’s clothing, he said. Williams’ fingerprint and Hester’s blood were found on Hester’s shoe.

The two returned to Rockford, prosecutors said, and Hester’s body was found the next morning.

Williams was acquitted of murder because his case wasn’t properly prosecuted in Illinois court, Urbik said.

Defense attorney Michael Murphy told the jury the woman had no credibility.

The woman could have been lying to cover her involvement in the murder or confused because of post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.

“She doesn’t know what’s up or what’s down, frankly,” Murphy said.

No physical evidence ties Williams to the body dumping scene or car, he said.

The woman also never reported the murder, despite many chances, Murphy said.

“She’s party to a crime and has never been charged,” he said.

Williams faces up to 50 years in prison when he is sentenced April 14. His bond was revoked.

Last updated: 12:55 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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