No new leads in Williams’ case; son believes shooting was accidental

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I t might have been an accident, but it was still murder in the eyes of James “Jimmy” Williams’s family.

And that’s how, on Tuesday, Bob Williams of Opp described the drive-by shooting of his father nearly 16 years ago.

Williams’ shooting is a textbook example of a “cold case” – no leads and no information to bring the shooter or shooters to justice – and with the recent announcement that the Covington County District Attorney’s Office has assembled a cold case task force, The Star-News is shining light on some of the county’s most interesting unsolved cases.

Star-News archives describe the Sept. 16, 1997, death as a “case of criminal mischief gone tragically wrong” when an unknown gunman or gunmen shot at a stop sign at the intersection of County Roads 91 and 89. One of the bullets missed the sign, flew through the front door of a chicken house and struck the elder Williams in the abdomen.

Williams discovered his father on the chicken house floor and called 911; however, he bled to death before the ambulance could make it to the hospital.

“I guess, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Williams said of his father.

The two men were working at the younger Williams’ poultry farm, spreading peanut hulls inside one of the four houses with a tractor. Working with a system, the younger Williams would bring the hulls up from a compost barn and his father would spread them.

“It was our last load before we were going to eat lunch,” Williams said. “He left with that load. I was pushing hulls, cleaning up, and he never came back. I walked to the front of the compost barn, and there was an old rusty car, the fenders were rusted off, an old yellow colored Buick.

“I saw it come in and turn around at the chicken house and then it went back toward Kinston really fast,” he said. “At the time, it didn’t mean a whole lot to me.”

But as the investigation progressed, the quick glimpse would come to mean a whole lot – it, and the five shell casings recovered from the roadway, were law enforcement’s only lead.

The elder Williams was conscious when he was found, but was unable to provide any information.

“He told me he’d been shot,” Williams said. “He was a Christian man, and he was praying…but the doctors said even if he’d been shot at the ER door, they probably couldn’t have saved him.”

Williams said he thinks about the shooting every day. Talking about things brings the terrible day back into focus and reminds him that his father isn’t the only casualty of the accident gone wrong, he said.

After the shooting, his mother, Anne, grieved herself to death, he said. It was her habit to cook lunch for the men, and the two were about to head home when the shooting occurred.

“She never cooked lunch again,” Williams said. “She lived for six years after that and grieved herself to death.

“Daddy loved Walmart as good as any woman, and shopping was something they did together,” he said. “She went one time after he died, and said, ‘I’ll never do that again.’”

Williams said he couldn’t face looking at the chicken houses, so he sold the property.

He said in the 16 years since the shooting, nothing new has emerged in the case.

“I would hope that they would come forward; that their conscience would get the better of them,” he said. “There had to be at least two of them, but for someone to never talk…

“I have no idea who did it,” he said. “But I wonder. I wonder if they’re sitting in a restaurant, watching me, knowing who I am, and me not knowing who they are. It gets to you, but you go on. You don’t have a choice.

“I think it was an accident gone wrong, but they done it regardless,” he said. “It was murder. Did they intend to do it? I don’t think so. Do they know they did it? Yes.”

Star-News archives indicate police were searching for information on a Buick Electra 225, beige or cream-colored with a damaged right rear fender. Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to contact the Covington County Sheriff’s Office at 334-428-2640 or one’s nearest law enforcement agency.