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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 9, 2006

Death penalty sought for killing at Wheeler

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Naeem Williams

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Tarshia Williams

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Richard Lee Tuck Chong

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The U.S. attorney's office in Hawai'i will seek the death penalty in the case of a Schofield Barracks soldier accused of beating to death his 5-year-old daughter last year.

It is only the second time the U.S. Justice Department has approved capital punishment in a Hawai'i case since the federal death penalty law was enacted in 1994.

Army Spc. Naeem Williams was indicted by a federal grand jury in February 2006 on one count of first-degree murder. He is accused of the beating death of his daughter, Talia Williams, at the Williams' Wheeler Army Airfield apartment on July 16, 2005.

Last night, Tarshia Williams, Talia's mother, said from her South Carolina home that it was a "blessing" that the death penalty was approved for her former husband. Naeem Williams was granted custody of Talia in December 2004.

"I just wanted justice for my daughter. I've been praying for this for a year," Williams said. "I just want him to be punished for everything he did to my child. I feel like justice is about to be served."

Tarshia Williams said it's been a difficult year for her and she recently marked the anniversary of her child's death by releasing balloons at her grave.

"He tried so hard to get my daughter away from me ... ," Tarshia Williams said. "When I got my baby back, my baby was unrecognizable."

No trial date has been set, but Williams said she will be here for the trial.

David Klein, Williams' attorney, said that he will fight the imposition of the death penalty if his client is found guilty of murder.

"This is a tragic case that is being compounded by the unfortunate decision by the government to seek the death penalty, especially given Mr. Williams' lack of criminal history and exceptional military service," Klein said.

Williams remains at the Federal Detention Center in Hono-lulu, Klein said. He declined further comment.

Federal authorities said Talia was an abused child and that her father beat her and knocked her to the floor on the day she died. An autopsy showed that Talia died of "inflicted head trauma due to battered child syndrome," and authorities reported that the apartment's walls were spattered with blood.

Yesterday, U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo said that the decision to seek the death penalty was made by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

"The Department of Justice has determined that the torture and murder of a young child warrants the death penalty. So we will march accordingly," Kubo said. He declined further comment.

Delilah Williams, Naeem Williams' wife, also has been charged with the murder of Talia.

The death penalty won't be sought against Delilah Williams, U.S. Attorney Marshall H. Silverberg said.

Naeem Williams is only the second person in Hawai'i who has faced the possibility of execution since the federal death penalty was enacted in 1994. The death penalty in four other capital murder cases was rejected while U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno was in office.

In 1999, then-U.S. Attorney Steven Alm was given the go-ahead to seek the death penalty against Richard Lee Tuck "China" Chong. Chong was charged with the 1997 shooting death of William Noa Jr. in Makaha over what prosecutors said was a $100 drug debt. Chong eventually pleaded guilty to the murder charge and was sentenced to life in prison. In September 2001, Chong committed suicide in his cell at the federal penitentiary in Lompoc, Calif.

Capital punishment was abolished by the Hawai'i territorial Legislature in 1957. The last execution under state law was in 1944.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.