The prosecutor and defense attorney told the jury they agreed: the defendant did it.
Gregory Williams used a machete to kill his 78-year-old grandmother Millicent Williams, both sides said as Williams’ murder trial opened Tuesday. He mopped up the gruesome scene in her DeKalb County bedroom and then slept in her bed, leaving his cigarettes and liquor bottles on the nightstand. He dumped her body on the side of I-20 in DeKalb County in summer 2017, where authorities found it after a highly publicized monthlong search.
Jurors will decide if Williams was out of control because of mental illness when he committed those acts and will weigh potential verdicts ranging from guilty to not guilty by reason of insanity. The trial is expected to finish at the end of the week.
The state acknowledged Gregory Williams has been diagnosed with schizophrenia but said he knew “right from wrong” as he killed his grandmother because she planned to force him to move out of her South DeKalb home. The defense said he was off his medication and besieged by delusions when he turned the blade against the woman.
Millicent Williams was a retired home caregiver, who spent untold hours in the garden in front of her home off Flakes Mill Road. She was proud of her two-story brick house with white trim and a big front yard. But the home was often tumultuous because of her grandson.
“Mr. Williams had threatened to kill her. He locked her out. He got violent,” prosecutor Lance Cross told jurors. “As grandmas do, she kept taking him back in.”
Once, she went to court asking for a temporary protective order, noting on the form that her only grandson, a U.S. Army veteran, suffered from PTSD. She believed he’d served in Iraq in the early 2000s, but the Army has said he never deployed.
Defense attorney Daryl Queen said his client was diagnosed in 2010 with and had been hospitalized — voluntarily and involuntarily — because of delusions and hearing voices “telling him to do things.” One of the delusions that persisted in Gregory Williams’ mind was that he owned the house, not his grandmother, Queen said.
On July 22, 2017, Gregory Williams was living in his grandmother’s basement but she’d had enough of his erratic behavior. She called her son — Gregory Williams’ father, Milton — and left a message saying she was going to sell her house, find a smaller place and live alone. When Milton Williams called back, the phone went to voice mail repeatedly.
Four days later, relatives went to the house and found trash bags, along with some of Millicent Williams’ bedding, at the end of the driveway.
They also saw Gregory Williams behind the wheel of his grandmother’s Toyota Corolla. He looked at them and drove away without a word, according to the prosecutor. Milton Williams chased his son but couldn’t catch up. The family called police.
Inside the house, officers found evidence that a large amount of blood had been mopped up. Family members and investigators all feared the worst.
After learning that Gregory Williams had used his grandmother’s debit card at a nearby Kroger, police decided to wait there in case he returned. He was arrested there on July 27.
Police searched various locations and finally found Millicent Williams’ remains in mid-August in some woods down an embankment off I-20 westbound.
The prosecutor said the steps Gregory Williams took to hide the body and clean the scene were proof that the murder was a “calculated” crime. Cross said he hoped the jury would find the man guilty, or guilty but mentally ill, which would mean he’d be sent to a special prison unit.
Queen asked the jury to find the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity, which would require him to be hospitalized until a judge finds it is appropriate for him to be released.
“This isn’t your typical case where some guy does something extreme and tries to come up with a story for it,” Queen said Tuesday. “Delusion consumed Mr. Williams, and ultimately it caused him to take her life.”
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