Strangling of Gwinnett mom, toddler devastates family, neighbors

Natalie Nation and her son Cole Nation were strangled on Easter Sunday in Gwinnett County. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

Natalie Nation and her son Cole Nation were strangled on Easter Sunday in Gwinnett County. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

She wanted the best for her son, and Natalie Nation lived in the same neighborhood where she grew up so her little boy would be close to his grandparents.

“She loved her son with all of her heart,” Donna Kurhanewicz, a family friend and longtime neighbor, said Tuesday. “Her whole family loved the ground he walked on. He just lit up a room.”

On Sunday, 2-year-old Cole had hunted for Easter eggs at a gathering on a family farm. It had been a great day, full of fun and laughter, and no one could have imagined how the day would end. Late Sunday, Natalie and Cole were strangled inside the home where they rented a room, allegedly by the homeowner's son, according to police. Both mother and son died from their injuries.

Kurhanewicz said the Nation family, including Natalie and her two brothers, had lived in her Habersham Hills neighborhood for more than 20 years and had grown up with her own children. Teenagers in the neighborhood attended Dacula High School, and many were still close friends as adults, she said.

“This is just devastating,” Kurhanewicz said. “There are so many lives that have been affected by this.”

Brandon Williams, the suspect in the double homicide, had been acting strange, according to Brent Lenz, one of Natalie Nation’s longtime friends. Williams’ behavior was so odd Sunday night that Lenz recorded it on his phone and later gave it to investigators.

“He was talking to the TV screen, saying he had done sacrificed them,” Lenz told Channel 2 Action News.

Brandon Williams (Credit: Gwinnett police)

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When Lenz and Williams’ father were outside, Williams allegedly strangled the toddler and the child’s mother with a towel, according to police. Williams’ father called 911 after finding the two inside the house late Sunday. Williams was arrested at a nearby gas station.

Williams, 32, had been in jail several times previously and in a mental hospital, records showed. Earlier this month, police used a stun gun on Williams after neighbors complained he was looking into vehicles and licking windows.

When police arrived, an officer said Williams claimed that “he was outside looking for signs of the universe. He kept asking me and another officer if we were ‘six-pointed stars,’” a report stated.

Williams had also attacked Natalie before, and she had told Lenz about it. But it wasn’t enough for her to move out of the home.

Natalie and Cole Nation in an earlier family photo.

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In court Tuesday, Williams claimed he'd been illegally detained and hadn't killed anyone, and he said Natalie and Cole were still in the house. He was being held late Tuesday in the Gwinnett jail without bond.

On Tuesday, Natalie’s parents were too distraught to speak about the deaths of their only daughter and only grandson, Kurhanewicz said.

“They watched him all the time,” she said. “His papa was his favorite person in his whole life. Papa and O-ma are his favorite people in the whole wide world.”

A GoFundMe page was created to assist the family with funeral arrangements, which had not been finalized late Tuesday.

“This is totally devastating,” Kurhanewicz said. “The bad thing is we have to pass that damn house every single day. We’re always going to have to pass this house.”