LAWTON — A Fort Sill soldier pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree murder for starving to death his girlfriend's 10-year-old son.
The U.S. Army private, Connell C. Williams, 33, will be sentenced to life in federal prison without the possibility of release.
“I am guilty of charge and want to avoid the death penalty,” he told the judge in his plea paperwork.
In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors withdrew their request for the death penalty. The plea ended a jury trial after two days of testimony.
The murder victim, Marcus Holloway, died May 5, 2011, of severe malnutrition. The boy weighed 44 pounds at the time of his death.
“Marcus was a 10-year-old boy who was robbed of his life and subjected to a horrific and agonizing death by starvation,” U.S. Attorney Sanford C. Coats said. “Although nothing can bring Marcus back, I am gratified that Connell Williams has accepted responsibility for his crime. By pleading guilty, he will be in a federal prison cell for the rest of his life and never again harm a child.”
The boy's mother, Candice C. Holloway, 32, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder last year and agreed to serve 30 years in federal prison.
She and Williams lived together in military housing at Fort Sill. Both are from Virginia.
She testified against Williams for hours on Friday.
Williams admitted in his plea that he and the boy's mother had restricted the boy's food as punishment.
“I saw that this was causing a decline in his health. Marcus died as a result of this decision. This was child abuse,” he wrote.
After the boy's death, the state Department of Human Services reported that the mother admitted “Marcus was fed rice cakes, cereal bars and given water to drink on most days.”
“Ms. Holloway admitted she and Mr. Williams would hit Marcus on the buttocks, legs and head with a belt, plastic bat or drumsticks when he was disrespectful or would steal food. Ms. Holloway reported the night before Marcus died, Mr. Williams poured ice water over him as a form of punishment,” the state agency said. “She reported all she could recall Marcus eating the day before he died was a marshmallow pie.”
The trial judge, Stephen Friot, told jurors he respectfully disagreed with the U.S. Justice Department's decision to drop the death penalty.
The judge also told jurors that decision had to be personally approved by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
“I am certain that no one person would have been better qualified than you, the jury in this case, to sit in judgment of Connell C. Williams and to determine the outcome of this case. In my view, in a case like this one, no decision by one person can command the moral force that your verdict would have commanded,” the judge wrote in a statement thanking them for their service “in this heart-rending case.”
Prosecutors alleged Williams lacked remorse for what he did to the boy.