A Jacksonville, Florida mother will spend the rest of her life behind bars after allowing her daughter to starve to death, hiding the body in the trunk of her car, disposing of the child, and then filing a missing persons report, the Florida Times-Union reports.
Brianna Shontae Williams, a 30-year-old former Navy petty officer entered a guilty plea for second-degree murder six months ago for the 2019 death of her 5-year-old daughter, Taylor Rose Williams, the Times-Union says.
Williams’ defense attorney fought for a minimum 20-and-a-half year sentence, while the prosecution wanted a life sentence, the Times-Union says.
Circuit Court Judge Kevin Blazs said he spent the weekend reviewing all evidence presented during the trial, which included reports of Williams’ “unstable” family life littered with claims of abuse, and a report that indicated Taylor’s death was a result of starvation, the Times-Union says.
Blazs added that Taylor “was not valued from the time of conception by either her father or mother,” the Times-Union states.
“Her mother suffered from an eating disorder. The father complained that the victim was not being properly fed. The defendant then removed the victim from child care about four months prior to the victim's death. Taylor remained home alone and unprovided for throughout that time period,” Blazs said, the Times-Union reports.
Judge Blazs called the murder a “tragedy all around.”
Brianna Williams reported her daughter missing on Nov. 6, 2019 and an AMBER Alert was issued, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) Facebook page. At the time of the post, police were on scene on the 600 block of Ivy Street, and said that Taylor was allegedly last seen at midnight on Nov. 6. At bedtime, Taylor wore a purple shirt and pink pajama pants, according to the JSO statement.
Williams claimed her daughter had vanished overnight, andthat the back door was found unlocked, according to the JSO.
While a neighborhood-wide search began for the girl, which expanded to her old apartment, a sheriff at the time couldn’t confirm when anyone last saw Taylor alive, the Union-Times adds, though it is believed she was last seen in May 2019. People Magazine reports that a daycare worker claimed to have last seen Taylor in April 2019.
The sheriff said that Williams cooperated with police until confronted with discrepancies in her story, the Times-Union says.
On Nov. 7, the JSO posted again to their Facebook page, asking for information regarding whether anyone had “seen Brianna Williams with Taylor Williams in Jacksonville in the past six months.”
On Nov. 25, the JSO’s jarring Facebook update read: “Missing Person Case is now a death Investigation. Amber Alert cancelled.”
The search ended when investigators found Taylor’s remains on Nov. 12, about four miles outside of Demopolis, Alabama, close to where Williams grew up, the Times-Union says. People Magazine reports that Taylor’s decomposed body had been placed inside of a garbage bag and buried in a shallow grave in a wooded area.
Police charged Williams that same day, and she tried to kill herself, resulting in her hospitalization, according to the Times-Union, noting that her arrest warrant said she “did willfully torture, maliciously punish, or willfully cage” Taylor.
In July 2020, the Times-Union revealed disturbing details of the case via court documents, saying that investigators discovered a closet in Williams’ apartment that smelled of decomposition and human waste, noting blood stains present on the carpet and walls that tested positive for Taylor’s DNA.
Investigators believed Williams locked her daughter in that closet when she wasn’t home, the Times-Union says.
Friends and family members filled in additional details to police, that Williams complained about Taylor hiding food and subsequently punished her with a “time-out”, the Times-Union says. Neighbors claimed to have seen Taylor wandering around alone, looking for her mother, the Times-Union says.
A former co-worker claimed Williams was “wild and dangerous” when it came to men, and that she was into BDSM, the Times-Union adds.
When police asked the coworker what she believed happened to Taylor, she replied: “Starved her, locked her in the room. Not feeding her. Starved her to death,” the Times-Union says.
Upon searching the dumpster behind Williams’ residence, police discovered cards and school papers bearing Taylor’s name and a stuffed teddy bear that said “Happy Birthday Taylor”, several pairs of soiled girl’s clothing, and sex toys, the Times-Union says.
According to People Magazine, the decomposition scent also lingered in the trunk of Williams’ Honda Accord. A cadaver dog allegedly picked up on the scent in the empty trunk, along with that of cleaning fluid, People adds.
Police also revealed GPS records that showed Williams drove from Jacksonville to Alabama three times within three days before reporting her daughter missing, the Times-Union reported.
People Magazine adds that upon returning from that trip on Nov. 3, Williams posted a Craigslist ad seeking help to move into a new apartment. Investigators believe Taylor was dead before Williams moved to the new apartment, and kept the child caged between April and November until her death, People says.
“I failed”, Williams says in a sentencing statement.
“I failed as a mother, a protector and as a decent human being... and I didn't take advantage of any timely opportunity to right my wrongs. I apologize to everyone affected by this tragedy. I am punished every day since losing my baby,” Williams said in a statement, read out by a public defender when she told the judge she was too nervous to do so herself, the Times-Union reports.
A psychologist who evaluated Williams testified that Williams was anxious and depressed, displaying signs of schizophrenia and mood disorders, the Times-Union says.
In reviewing the evidence over the weekend, Blaz took note of Williams’ “outstanding” history in the Navy and her lack of criminal record, the Times-Union says. However, he also pointed out the severe lack of food in Williams’ apartment, and how underweight Taylor appeared to be in photos, the Times-Union says.
He also noted how Williams failed to report the death of her daughter, instead disposing of the body, the Times-Union states.
“She then lied to law enforcement repeatedly over the course of investigation in order to conceal what she had done, which was to transport the body out of state and dispose of the body, which this court construes as the consciousness of guilt,” Judge Blazs said, the Times-Union reports.
In her statement, Williams acknowledged that she “lied and lied some more”, according to the Times-Union.
Williams will be credited with 1043 days of time already served, though she still faces a lifetime behind bars, which Judge Brazs claimed is for the best, the Times-Union says.
“I wanted to ensure that the community is protected and that the decision is rendered in a way that does not dishonor the death of Tayor Rose,” the judge said, according to the Times-Union.