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Crime & Courts

Suspect in UT runner’s death ruled competent for trial

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Published:   |   Updated: October 18, 2013 at 02:23 PM

Although one psychologist said he sees demons and devils, and other experts said he is borderline mentally retarded, David Earl Williams is competent to stand trial for murder in the shooting death of University of Tampa student Ryan McCall, a circuit judge ruled Friday.

Williams is accused of killing McCall, a runner on UT’s cross country team, during a robbery at the foot of the Eugene Holtsinger Bridge on North Boulevard about a mile from campus on Aug. 19, 2009.

Four mental health experts testified during a hearing Friday in front of Circuit Judge Christopher Sabella, who concluded that Williams is competent. The experts were split on whether they believe Williams is competent.

The victim’s father, Kevin McCall, who was in court for the hearing, said the judge’s ruling was “a relief that we’re moving to the next step now, that we don’t have to keep waiting to get to trial.”

He added, “It’s been four years now, and we’re still in it. It would be nice to finally get to something where we could get, not closure, but to where we could move on to the next part of our life.”

During the hearing, defense psychologist Valerie McClain, who was hired by the defense, testified when she saw Williams in September that he was hearing voices telling him to hurt and cut himself.

He “talked about seeing demons and devils,” she said, adding that Williams didn’t understand the severity of the charges he faces. “He did not understand the potential consequences,” she said, describing him as having “paranoid and very suspicious beliefs of trying to be killed and trying to kill people.”

McClain said Williams sees the role of the prosecutor as “trying to kill him” and the judge as “trying to hang people.”

She concluded he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, depression with psychotic features and mild mental retardation.

Psychologist Monica Epstein said when she saw Williams in May, he had a clear understanding of the charges and penalty he faces, but didn’t understand the court process. She said he experienced paranoid delusions and believed his own lawyer was out to kill him. He also believed the prosecutor wanted to kill him, and that the judge then presiding over the case didn’t like him because he doesn’t like black people.

Epstein said it was questionable whether Williams could maintain appropriate courtroom behavior.

Williams, who was present for the hearing Friday, did not experience any outbursts and sat silently throughout.

Epstein said she doesn’t think Williams has the ability to regulate his emotions.

But psychiatrist Donald Taylor, who said Williams has a borderline IQ, testified that the defendant is competent to proceed. Taylor said Williams is aware he is charged with first-degree murder, although he also said he didn’t know if the victim lived or died because Williams said he was in prison when it happened. Taylor said Williams also said he was accused of killing a man on a bridge.

He said Williams said the role of the judge, jury and prosecutor was to kill him.

But Taylor said that description was more immature than delusional.

He said when he asked Williams how he’s supposed to behave in court, Williams said, “crazy.” When he asked if that was really how he’s supposed to behave, Williams responded, “No. You’re supposed to behave good.”

Finally, psychologist Richard Carpenter said Williams is competent to proceed, although in some areas Carpenter said it was a close call.

Williams had told detectives he confronted McCall and McCall’s roommate, Michael Harahan, at the foot of the bridge, according to an arrest report. He said he hit Harahan on the head with a gun, then robbed him, the report said.

Williams told detectives he went through both of the students’ pockets but said another man shot and killed McCall, the report said.

Williams was arrested May 23, 2012, at a South Florida prison, where he was serving a sentence on unrelated charges.

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com

813-259-7837

Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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