The Killings Started
Trial and Conviction
On June 21, 1981, Williams was arrested, and on February 27, 1982, he was found guilty of the murders of Cater and another man, Jimmy Ray Payne, 21. The conviction was based on physical evidence—matching fibers found on the victims and in Williams’s personal possessions—and eyewitness accounts, and he was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.
Once the trial was over, law-enforcement officials declared their belief that evidence suggested that Williams was most likely linked to another 20 of the 29 deaths the task force had been investigating. DNA sequencing from hairs found on different victims revealed a match to Williams’s own hair, to 98 percent certainty. But that 2 percent doubt was enough to prevent further convictions.
While subsequent efforts—led by his own protestations—were mounted to prove Williams innocent, the killings stopped once he was imprisoned.