Monday, March 17, 2014
HONOLULU (AP) — The stepmother of a 5-year-old girl who prosecutors allege was beaten to death by her father testified Friday that she and the former Hawaii soldier abused the girl regularly and that they pulled her out of school so that others wouldn't see the signs the abuse left on the child's body.
Delilah Williams testified for the prosecution in the capital murder trial against Naeem Williams that they decided to pull the girl, Talia, out of elementary school because they worried that school officials would notice the abuse and have them arrested.
"She started having marks on her body," Delilah Williams said, noting that she and Naeem Williams dressed the girl in clothes that covered the marks while the special-needs child was still enrolled in school then left her at home by herself after they pulled her from classes.
The testimony will satisfy terms of a plea deal the stepmother made with prosecutors in which she acknowledged her role in killing the child as part of a pattern and practice of assault and torture. The agreement calls for a 20-year sentence.
Delilah Williams — who worked as an administrator registering children for daycare at Schofield Barracks — said she and the father repeatedly cursed at Talia, called her names and hit her almost daily. She said the child slept on the floor of an empty bedroom and was denied food for two or three days at a time.
Williams said she was mandated to report suspected abuse as part of her job.
Naeem Williams could face the death penalty if convicted of murder in the July 16, 2005, death. The federal trial allows prosecutors to pursue the death penalty in a state that doesn't have capital punishment.
Delilah Williams said Naeem Williams bound the girl to a bedpost with duct tape before beating her with a belt. In one of those taping incidents, she said, she recalled the child having a "pleading look."
The stepmother said she attempted the taping routine once herself, but she found it wasn't effective because the girl was still able to squirm around.
"It required too much effort, also, so I decided not to do it again," she said.
Much of her testimony was delivered with an even, calm voice. But she sounded like she was going to cry when she described a beating she inflicted on June 29, 2005.
Williams said she came home from work that day and saw that Talia had wet herself.
"I started stomping on her," she said. "I just continued stomping on her until it felt like a bone cracked under my foot and she defecated on herself."
She forced the child to sit on a toilet and pushed on her stomach so hard that a toilet pipe broke, causing a leak. She said she then grabbed Talia by the hair and slammed her head against a wall.
"I left to get my nails done," she said.
It wasn't the first time she grabbed the child by the hair, she said, describing a time when she pulled Talia by the hair at the top of her head because she was slow going up the stairs. "A big chunk of her hair" came out, she said.
"Everything that I did to her was all wrong," she said, but that the stomping was the most "severe" incident.
She also described another incident when her husband punched the child in the stomach for eating a doughnut. The girl wasn't allowed to go downstairs to eat while she was home alone, Delilah Williams said.
The stepmother said the day Talia died, the girl walked backward out of her bedroom, during a belt-beating from her father, with her hands in front of her saying things like "no daddy," and "can we stop now?"
Delilah Williams said the girl and her father were out of her view when she heard the thump of what sounded like a body hitting the floor. She said she later saw Talia on her back, with stiff arms. She told her husband to put water on her in the bathtub so that, "maybe she'll snap out of it."
But Talia started wheezing and the stepmother told the father, "she's faking. Just leave her alone," Delilah Williams said.
Her husband said to call 911, but she refused because she wanted to wait until her cousin could pick up their infant daughter, she said.
They packed up the baby's things and devised a story about Talia falling in the shower, she said.
Prosecutors say the couple waited two hours before calling 911. Talia was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Naeem Williams is expected to take the stand during the trial, his defense attorney John Philipsborn told jurors in his opening statement.
Philipsborn said his client was poorly equipped to take care of Talia and was married a controlling, angry woman who took control of his finances and other daily tasks.
Jennifer Sinco Kelleher can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jenhapa