JEALOUSY BLAMED IN TRIPLE HOMICIDE

CAROL DEMARE Staff writer
Section: MAIN,  Page: A1

Date: Tuesday, February 8, 1994

Correction: ***THE FOLLOWING CORRECTION WAS PUBLISHED ON FEBRUARY 9, 1994*** Because of an artist's error, the location of the triple homicide in Albany was misidentified in a map in Tuesday's editions. The shooting occurred behind 128 Ida Yarbrough Apartments, just north of Livingston Avenue and west of North Pearl Street. Because of an editor's error, the location where police found the shotgun allegedly used in the shooting was also misidentified. The gun was found in a Dumpster on Lark Drive.

A man described as a hard worker and caring parent went into a rage Sunday night and pumped at least eight shotgun rounds into his estranged wife, her boyfriend and her sister as three children watched from a nearby car, police said Monday.


Willie Henry Williams apparently was jealous over his wife's relationship with another man and angry over her claim that Williams was not the father of her 3-year-old daughter, authorities said. The triple homicide at the Ida J. Yarbrough housing complex in Arbor Hill was the first murder of three or more people in Albany since 1987, when Robert L. Beebe shot three people in the South End.


Killed at 11:15 p.m. Sunday in the parking lot behind 128 Ida J. Yarbrough Homes were:


Lee Ann Williams, 30, of 126 Ida Yarbrough Homes, also known as Lee Ann McLean. She was the suspect's wife.


Mercedes Lewis, 28, of 166 Clinton Ave., who also used the name of Merdie Lewis, the sister of Lee Ann Williams.


Nathaniel Durham, 30, of 220 Green St., also known by the street name "Skate." Authorities said he was dating Lee Ann Williams.


Willie Henry Williams, 40, who lived on the second floor at 326 First St., was on foot when taken into custody behind the Whitney M. Young Jr. Health Center, 300 to 500 yards from the shooting scene. He surrendered to Officer William Warner without a struggle just minutes after the shooting, police said.


Williams led police to a Dumpster off Lark Drive into which he threw the 20-gauge Mossberg shotgun, Capt. Vincent D. Foley said.


Witnessing the shooting from a nearby car were Willie and Lee Ann's sons -- Corey Williams, 16, and Willie Leon Williams, 12 -- and Lee Ann's 3-year-old girl, Diamond, Foley said. He said he did not know the girl's last name or who her father is.


The suspect had borrowed the car to return Diamond to her mother's home. The boys lived with Williams, police said. The couple had been estranged for about five years, according to authorities, who did not know when they married.


Coroner Timothy Cavanaugh said he was told that the 16-year-old boy "drove away once the shooting started."


Deputy Police Chief William Murray said, "I believe at least one of the kids was in Schenectady, and maybe two." Officers were told by a relative where to look for them.


As for a motive, Foley said, "I would say it was a love triangle."


Chief Assistant District Attorney Lawrence P. Wiest said he understood that Williams is not the baby's father. But Wiest said he does not know when Williams learned that.


What actually set off Williams, who stands 6 feet tall and weighs 268 pounds, is unclear.


"I don't think they ever got that story straight -- what set him off," Wiest said. "Just seeing her and the guy she was seeing and the third woman who was instrumental in putting those two together," he said. Indications are that Lewis may have introduced her sister to Durham.


The bodies were badly shot up. "It was the standard devastating shotgun wounds," said Lt. Jack Nielsen, head of the Albany police forensic unit.


Cavanaugh, who pronounced all three dead at 12:50 a.m. Monday, said all the shots were fired at close range. Autopsies were conducted on the victims at 2:30 a.m.


Lee Ann Williams was struck three times on the upper body, Nielsen said. Lewis was shot once in the back when she was out of her car, he said. She got back in, and then was shot twice more in her upper body and head, he said. Durham was struck twice, Nielsen said.


"There were conflicting reports (that Lewis) attempted to beep the horn" when she got back in the car, according to Lt. John DiNovo.


It is not known whether Williams reloaded the gun. Murray said police have yet to examine the Mossberg, which can hold from four to eight rounds.


When recovered from the Dumpster, the Model 500 was "covered with blood" and was in two pieces, Murray said. It could have broken as it was thrown in, he said.


Dana White, president of the tenants association at Ida Yarbrough, said she worked with Lee Ann as a nurse's assistant at University Heights Health Care Center on Northern Boulevard. She said Lee Ann kept to herself. "She was a nice person," she said.


Her husband was considered stable, had not been in trouble with the law and was well-liked by his co-workers at Quala-Wash at 820 S. Pearl St., where he cleaned tank trucks.


"He seemed to be a hard-working guy," Foley said.


District Attorney Sol Greenberg said, "He had a clean record and was gainfully employed."


Williams is being held at the Albany County jail on three counts of second-degree murder and one count of criminal possession of a weapon. He pleaded not guilty to the charges at an arraignment Monday morning before City Court Judge Madonna Stahl. No bail was set.


Authorities gave this chain of events leading up to the shootings:


At some point Sunday evening, Williams called Lee Ann at her sister's home on Clinton Avenue and said he wanted to return Diamond, who had been visiting him. Lee Ann told him she would be home in a half-hour. Williams went to Ida Yarbrough, but his wife was not home. So he went to Lewis' home and waited outside, apparently without the victims' knowledge. He then followed Lewis' car to Ida Yarbrough.


Williams got out of his car with the shotgun and confronted the three, Wiest said.


Witnesses said Williams and Durham talked, DiNovo said. Williams then started firing at Durham, striking him first in the heart and then the neck, he said.


Lee Ann Williams ran over to her husband "and tried to grab the gun and he shot her," Cavanaugh said. She was hit in the heart, and then the back.


Lewis died from a shotgun blast to her face after Williams fired through the car window, Cavanaugh said.


Williams' co-workers at the tank-cleaning plant were shocked on Monday.


Rachid Walker, 40, a foreman who said he has worked with Williams for 15 years, said that just Friday Williams got an award for having no safety problems at work, and he "was in good spirits."


"He was more soft than he was mean," Walker said. "Willie was a big man, but he never pushed his weight around."


Workers at Quala-Wash are randomly tested for drugs, the workers said. They said Williams did not use drugs and at parties they only saw him drink soda.


Another co-worker, Chet Bolinger, 39, of Schenectady, said, "Willie would usually tell you flat out if something was bothering him." He described Williams as sociable and steady at work. "He put a lot of hours in trying to take care of his kids."


Paul Mckeige, 58, another worker, said, "We thought they had had the wrong guy."


Walker said, "That wasn't the Willie we know who did that."


Staff writer Mike Hurewitz contributed to this report.