Abuse of little girl detailed in Hawaii court allegations
By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Jim Dooley
Hawai'i-based soldier Naeem Williams battered his daughter Talia for months before beating the 5-year-old to death in July 2005, but the child was also cruelly abused by her stepmother, according to new detailed allegations filed in federal court.
Williams has pleaded not guilty to murder and the federal government plans to seek the death penalty if he is convicted in the trial that begins next year.
Williams' wife, Delilah, reached a deal with prosecutors in 2006 in which she pleaded guilty to murder and agreed to testify against her spouse in return for a sentence of 20 years rather than life in prison.
Terms of the plea deal were sealed after U.S. District Judge David Ezra agreed with defense attorneys' arguments that disclosure of its contents might jeopardize the Williams' rights to a fair and unbiased jury trial.
But psychiatric reports filed in court last month contain details of some of Delilah Williams' admissions to investigators.
She admitted physically beating Talia after the little girl came from South Carolina to live with her father and stepmother in Hawai'i in December 2004.
Delilah Williams allegedly began "physically punishing" Talia with a belt because the child repeatedly urinated and defecated on herself, but stopped the abuse in April after Talia began resisting, according to an October 2008 court report from psychiatrist Pablo Stewart based in part on FBI interviews.
Talia would "dig her nails into (Delilah) and other times try to grab the belt from Delilah's hand to prevent from being hit," Stewart said in his report.
Delilah then "deferred much of the responsibility of taking care of and disciplining Talia to Naeem," but did not stop personally punishing the child altogether, Stewart reported.
"On June 29, 2005, Delilah administered a beating to Talia that she considers the 'worst beating' that Talia sustained from her," Stewart said in his report.
"Delilah hit Talia in the face and then with a belt all over her body. Once Talia fell to the ground, Delilah continued to stomp on Talia multiple times, once specifically in the stomach," Stewart wrote.
"As a result of being kicked in the stomach, Talia had accidentally 'pooped' on herself. While Delilah was stomping on Talia, she yelled to Talia that she 'hated' her, she was 'stupid,' and that Talia 'ruined' her life," Stewart wrote.
Stewart's report was one of three written by experts hired by Naeem Williams' lawyers that question the defendant's guilt because of his low intelligence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Silverberg argued that Naeem Williams' mental capabilities should be excluded from the trial phase of the case and considered only if he is convicted and faces the death penalty.
In the trial phase, the government must prove Williams intended to commit the crimes he is charged with and the threshold of proof is "very low," Silverberg wrote in a legal memo.
"As to count one, did the defendant intend to inflict extreme physical pain on Talia when he allegedly repeatedly whipped her with a belt and punched her?" Silverberg wrote.
The second charge against Williams is that he willfully attempted to inflict injury upon his daughter. The government intends to prove that on at least three occasions, Williams tied Talia to a bed post "so that he could whip her for more than an hour each time," Silverberg said in his memo.
Williams duct-taped Talia's mouth and eyes closed "so that she could not scream ... and could not see" while she was whipped, according to the prosecutor.
Silverberg also alleged that Williams deprived his daughter of food "for up to two days at a time." Williams took "all her furniture from her room, made her squat down and walk and quack like a duck," then beat her "with a belt if she failed to do those humiliating exercises," according to the government.
WAITED TO CALL 911
Talia Williams died July 16, 2005, after her father allegedly beat her and knocked her to the floor of the apartment the family occupied at Wheeler Air Field.
Naeem and Delilah Williams waited to call an ambulance until they cleaned blood stains from the walls of the apartment, according to court records.
"I didn't want investigators to come over and think I was abusing her," Naeem Williams allegedly told Army officials after his daughter died.
An autopsy determined that she died of "head trauma due to battered child syndrome."
Talia was born in South Carolina on March 20, 2000. Her mother, Tarshia Williams, was never married to Naeem Williams and the couple broke off their brief relationship soon after the child was conceived, according to court records.
MOTHER L0ST CUSTODY
Talia was raised by her mother in South Carolina, and in September 2003, Tarshia Williams agreed to a South Carolina Department of Social Services order that moved the little girl to the home of Naeem Williams' grandmother, Virginia Williams, according to Stewart's report.
"Tarshia was allowed visits and was subject to retrieving Talia if she successfully completed parenting classes," Stewart wrote.
But Virginia Williams told Stewart that "Tarshia did not satisfy the obligations laid out for and subsequently lost her parental rights to Talia," the report said.
"Naeem obtained legal custody of Talia on 3/20/2004, but Talia remained with Virginia until 12/05/2004 when she moved to Hawai'i with Naeem and Delilah," Stewart wrote.
An attorney for Delilah Williams said in court here in 2005 that Tarshia lost custody of Talia after the little girl was hospitalized in South Carolina for "malnourishment and neglect," allegations that Tarshia Williams denied.
"What they are saying is false," Tarshia Williams told The Advertiser in a 2005 interview.
"What happened was that a lot of allegations went on about me and my lifestyle, and I didn't have the support I needed to win the case. It was based on me going against a married person. Naeem had benefits and could give her a better life," she said.
Tarshia Williams said her daughter was not malnourished but suffered from health problems from the day she was born.
The girl weighed only three pounds at birth, her mother said.
Talia was "always behind in weight and was taking steroids to grow," her mother said.
Tarshia Williams sued federal authorities here last month, allegedly that they failed to take steps to protect Talia after receiving reports that the child was being abused.
Mark Davis, local attorney for Tarshia Williams, declined comment on the custody proceedings in South Carolina, saying they involve issues that "are hotly disputed" that will be resolved by the court.
The government has not yet filed a response to Tarshia Williams' suit.
The murder case against Naeem Williams is the first involving the death penalty in Hawai'i since the territorial government abolished capital punishment in the 1950s.
Williams is believed to be the first defendant in the country charged under a 2003 federal law that imposes the death penalty in murder cases involving "a pattern or practice of assault or torture against a child."
Reach Jim Dooley at email@example.com.