07/04/10 — Testimony continues in Williams trial

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Testimony continues in Williams trial

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on July 4, 2010 1:50 AM

A judge in Wayne County Superior Court on Friday dropped charges of attempted rape and attempted first-degree sexual assault against Brandon Lee Williams, who is on trial in the shooting death of a Fremont mother of two.

After a motion to drop the charges by defense attorney Geoff Hulse, Judge Arnold Jones III decided that there was insufficient evidence to pursue the sex-related charges.

However, Jones also rejected Hulse's motion to drop the first-degree murder charge against Williams, accused of the death of Silvia Benitez Morales.

He faces life in prison if found guilty.

Mrs. Morales, 28, was found shot to death on March 3, 2008 in a bedroom of her 1273 Black Creek Road home. After months of investigation, Williams was implicated and became the first Wayne County murder suspect to be interrogated on video camera, in response to a state law that took effect in 2008 requiring that detectives interviewing a murder suspect at least make an audio recording of any interrogations, among other requirements.

Williams, then 23, was a "person of interest" soon after the death, investigators have said.

He was arrested about three months later by lead investigator Detective Sgt. Tammy Odom and Detective Lt. Carl Lancaster.

Later, after a tumultuous stay in the Wayne County Jail, during which Williams was moved to one-man cells at least four times, he requested another conversation with detectives.

Before a a two-hour interview with Sgt. Odom and Lt. Lancaster, Williams waived his right to be represented by an attorney and the right to remain silent -- waivers documented with forms that he signed and initialed.

In another videotaped interview, Williams confesses to going to Mrs. Morales' home, where the two became involved in a scuffle after Williams set down his weapon, the defendant said on the recording.

The scuffle led to the shooting, Williams said on the recording, after he claimed the safety was disengaged on the weapon.

Earlier in the trial, which started Monday, Hulse unsuccessfully argued that the confession was given involuntarily. Jones ruled that the confession could be used as evidence.

On Friday, after Assistant District Attorney Matt Delbridge closed the state's case, Hulse opened his defense by calling the defendant to the stand.

Williams testified for a short time before the court had to conclude for the day, at 11 a.m., so the judge could speak at the funeral of recently deceased Magistrate Remona McIver.

Hulse is expected to continue examining Williams when court re-opens after the Fourth of July holiday, at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.