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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Head trauma killed 5-year-old

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Delilah Williams



The Honolulu Medical Examiner's Office concluded yesterday that 5-year-old beating victim Talia Williams died of "inflicted head trauma due to battered child syndrome."

Meanwhile, state authorities yesterday found Talia's 4-month-old half sister and placed her in protective foster custody. The infant was in fine condition, said Derick Dahilig, spokesman for the state Department of Human Services.

Talia's stepmother, Delilah Williams, had given the infant to a cousin Saturday evening before calling 911 to say her stepdaughter may be dying, according to papers filed in federal court. Talia was later pronounced dead at Wahiawa General Hospital that night.

According to court papers filed Monday:

Delilah Williams told U.S. Army investigators that her husband, Naeem Wil-liams, spanked Talia with a belt Saturday morning for wetting herself. He struck her again later that day after she wet herself again. This time the child fell and hit her head on the floor. She lost consciousness, and the Williamses did not immediately call 911, the papers said. When EMS personnel arrived, she was unresponsive and without a pulse.

Delilah and Naeem Williams are in custody as investigators probe Talia's death. Delilah Williams was charged with murder Monday in federal court.

Talia's mother, Tarshia, told KITV-4 that Naeem Williams prevented her from speaking with their daughter and complained to the Army that court-ordered telephone access had been denied.

"I just felt like something wasn't right because no one ever got in contact with her," said Tarshia Williams, who lives on the Mainland. "No one really talked to her. So I knew they were hiding her for a reason."

Court papers stated that Talia was beaten by her father every day since March but human-services officials could not say yesterday if anyone had reported the child was being abused.

Former neighbors of the Williamses said they moved to the Islands last summer and were initially assigned to housing at Schofield Barracks because Naeem Williams did not bring Talia and Delilah was not pregnant at the time. After the baby was born in spring, however, the couple moved to a larger apartment at Wheeler Army Air Field.

Robin Noland, who lived next door to the Williamses when they lived at Schofield Barracks, said he thinks that Talia arrived in December. She rarely saw the child outside, however, and the couple kept to themselves.

"It's tragic," Noland said. "I am stunned. You keep thinking: 'God, maybe I could have done something.' I can't imagine what that little girl went through."

Talia's death left Noland angry.

"There had to be some indicators," she said. "I guess somebody missed something."

Ilka Turney, who lives nearby on the street, said the couple said little to neighbors.

"They used to live here but they didn't really talk to anybody," she said. "They didn't say hi to anybody. They didn't let the little girl go outside. We never saw her outside."

Talia was enrolled at the pre-school at Wheeler Elementary from Feb. 1 to May 5, school principal Joe Lee said yesterday. He would not discuss whether educators saw or reported abuse.

"I can't say anything," Lee said. "We've already been advised that we need to allow the investigation to take its course. We are working with the military police."

Officials at Schofield Barracks would not discuss the case.

"We take this incident very seriously and an extremely thorough investigation is being conducted by a team of military authorities," said Maj. Stacy Bathrick, spokeswoman for the 25th Infantry Division (Light) and U.S. Army, Hawai'i.

Bathrick would not identify Naeem Williams as the suspect in military custody but did say "a suspect" is being held in pretrial confinement and has not been formally charged by military authorities.

A Tennessee man who identified himself yesterday as Naeem Williams' stepfather said the family was not discussing what happened to Talia or the allegations against the couple.