In an extremely rare move, the federal government is seeking the death penalty for a Fort Sill soldier who is accused of starving a 10-year-old boy to death. In the past 85 years, and possibly since statehood, only two men have been executed for federal crimes committed in Oklahoma. They were Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and kidnapper Arthur Gooch. Federal prosecutors in Oklahoma City gave notice in April they will seek a death sentence for Connell C. Williams, 32. His jury trial is set to begin in February. The murder victim, Marcus Holloway, died May 5, 2011, of severe malnutrition. His mother, Candice C. Holloway, 31, pleaded guilty in April to first-degree murder. She has agreed to testify against Williams. She also agreed to serve 30 years in federal prison. She will be sentenced after Williams’ trial. Williams and Holloway were indicted in September in federal court in Oklahoma City. Both are from Virginia. The two were accused of intentionally withholding food from the boy. Permission needed Holloway, her son and a daughter moved into military housing at Fort Sill with Williams in September 2010, according to the federal indictment. The abuse of the boy began in January 2011, according to the indictment. The boy turned 10 in February 2011. In paperwork for her guilty plea, Holloway wrote, “From January 2011 until May 5, 2011, I knowingly deprived my son ... of sufficient food for extended periods of time.” Prosecutors had to get permission from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to seek a death sentence in the case. They reported in their notice that a death sentence is justified because the offense involved torture and because the victim “was particularly vulnerable because of his youth.” Prosecutors also reported Williams has a history of stalking ex-girlfriends and has abused children before. Prosecutors also reported he lacks remorse. Prosecutors also reported that the victim’s 8-year-old sister “has been impacted by the death of her brother and the fact that she was forced to, in essence, participate in the abuse of her brother.” Williams admitted after the boy’s death that Marcus “had been on food restrictions as a form of punishment since January 2011,” the Oklahoma Department of Human Services reported. “Ms. Holloway reported Marcus was fed rice cakes, cereal bars and given water to drink on most days,” DHS reported. “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. “She reported all she could recall Marcus eating the day before he died was a marshmallow pie.” Defense attorneys have filed a notice they intend to introduce expert evidence that Williams has a mental disease or defect, or a mental condition, that bears on the issue of punishment should he be found guilty. Their notice does not elaborate. Defense attorneys also are asking that the trial be held at a small U.S. courthouse in Lawton or the Comanche County courthouse. Williams enlisted in the Army in November 2009 and was assigned to Fort Sill in August 2010.
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BACKGROUND: FEDERAL EXECUTIONS ARE RARE Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001 for the deadly 1995 terrorist attack, the bomb plot and the murder of eight federal agents. Federal prosecutors also sought the death penalty for bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols, but his jurors could not reach an agreement on punishment. Their deadlock meant Nichols was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release. Arthur Gooch was hanged in 1936 in McAlester for kidnapping. He and a partner kidnapped two policemen from Paris, Texas, and crossed into Oklahoma with them. One of the officers injured a hip before both were released. At his sentencing, Gooch said, “I think there have been worse crimes than mine, and I don’t see why I should hang.” The executions of McVeigh and Gooch are the only ones involving Oklahoma crimes in records of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons and a respected independent source, the Death Penalty Information Center. Both have lists dating back 85 years to 1927. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections lists Gooch as the only federal inmate executed at an Oklahoma prison. Awaiting execution are Edward Leon Fields Jr., who admitted killing a couple camping in the Ouachita National Forest in 2003, and Kenneth Eugene Barrett, who was convicted of killing an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper during a 1999 drug raid. Another man who once faced federal execution for a 1991 fatal shooting in Oklahoma was resentenced to a life term after an appeal.