NORMAN — Despite hundreds of investigative interviews and DNA testing of at least 20 people, police still have no solid leads in the slaying of a mother and son in 2003.
On Dec. 6, 2003, a frail, homebound Marie Williams, 83, was found suffocated in her bed, and her son, John Patrick Williams, 47, was discovered strangled, garotte-style, in a den of the house they shared at 125 E Linn St. Police believe they had been dead about two weeks before the discovery was made.
“In all this time, after following every lead, talking to countless people, we have found no one who has a bad word to say about Marie. She had no enemies,” said Todd Gibson, the lead detective in 2003 who since has been promoted to captain and now heads the department's detective division.
John Patrick Williams seems to be the target of the killing, and Marie Williams “was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Gibson said.
John Patrick Williams, known to friends as “Johnny Buck,” was a familiar, flamboyant figure on the Campus Corner bar, music scene. He loved music, played guitar and often appeared at live music venues taking photographs of bands, friends say. His neighbors said he often could be seen and heard practicing his guitar and singing on his front porch.
“Did he have any enemies? No one stands out, but John hung out at places that had a diverse group of people and, among them, some unsavory characters,” Gibson said. “We don't know if he made someone mad or invited the wrong person to go home with him. He was a recreational drug user with a flamboyant personality. He often rubbed people the wrong way,” Gibson said.
John Patrick Williams was last seen alive about 24 hours before the Thanksgiving holiday that year. He was at Suger's, a strip bar on Campus Corner. Some of the people police have asked to submit to DNA testing were dancers or regular customers of the late-night club.
“That's the last known place he was seen alive, so we started there,” Gibson said.
Investigators theorize John Patrick Williams either invited someone home with him, or someone came over shortly after he arrived home.
“There were no signs of forced entry. The front door was unlocked. We think whoever killed him knew him,” Gibson said.
Police also think whoever killed him was angry with him, grabbing a power cord and strangling him in the room where John Patrick Williams kept his guitars, a piano and other musical equipment. The killer was probably surprised to hear Marie Williams in the next room, who may have been awakened by the struggle in the den. A pillow was used to silence her, quite literally, forever, Gibson said.
Police do have DNA evidence, skin cells found underneath Marie Williams' fingernails. Recently, they submitted a shirt to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for further DNA testing, Gibson said.
Called “touch” testing, it's a fairly new forensic technique requiring a small sample of cells that could be deposited on something like an article of clothing, Gibson said.
The police captain said investigators are looking for evidence of a second perpetrator or corroborating the DNA evidence under Marie Williams' fingernails.
“But DNA testing is only as good as our ability to match it to somebody,” he said. “Say the killer has since died, maybe got hit by a car, then we'll never be able to get a match. They will have carried their DNA to the grave.”
Detectives follow up on every tip, some of which trickle in periodically, Gibson said.
Most recently, detectives entered investigative reports on Nov. 9 and Dec. 3 of this year, based on interviews they conducted after receiving tips.
“Nothing substantive came out of the interviews, but it shows that the case is still active. We continue to get tips that we pursue,” Gibson said.
The bodies were discovered Dec. 6, 2003, after a landlord became worried because she hadn't received a rent check.
Nothing appeared to be taken from the house, Gibson said, but John Patrick Williams' brown Mercedes-Benz was found parked about a block away on Jenkins Avenue, near the railroad tracks.
“Not his normal parking place,” Gibson said.
The keys to the car have never been found.
John Patrick Williams had a tight circle of friends, who have tried to help investigators develop leads, the police captain said.
“We encourage them to reach out to us, to rethink the case. We believe they still might know something that could help us,” Gibson said.