Linda Williams was a 39-year-old paraprofessional at Bel Air Elementary School. Shaun Williams, 12, was an orphan adopted from El Salvador and a seventh-grade honor student at Lakeside Middle School.
Sometime around June 19, 1991, Mrs. Williams' unemployed husband, 39-year-old Luke Williams III, beat her to death and strangled Shaun at their home in the Bridlewood subdivision in Evans. He piled their bodies into a van and drove across the Savannah River to a remote area in the Sumter National Forest in Edgefield County.
There, Williams propped the bodies of his wife and son in the van as if they were driver and passenger, then crashed the vehicle into a tree in a shoddy attempt at simulating an accident. He then poured gasoline in the van and set it ablaze.
The horrific case went unsolved. One year later, a story in The Augusta Chronicle raised questions about the murders, even as Williams attempted to cash in $525,000 in life-insurance policies he'd purchased a month before his wife and son's deaths. Two days later, Williams was in custody - charged with two counts of murder.
After a nine-day trial in 1993, Williams was convicted and sentenced to death.
Here we are now, 17 1/2 years later, and Williams at long last has been scheduled for lethal injection.
This case glowingly illustrates the greatest problem with capital punishment: The overwhelming need to be certain means that justice is far too long delayed.
Williams has been awaiting death nearly six years longer than his adopted son lived. Under such circumstances, justice isn't just delayed; it's denied.
Williams' sentence is scheduled to be carried out at 6 p.m. Feb. 20 in Columbia. Linda and Shaun Williams didn't deserve to die, but their killer does - and at long last will.
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