GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The trial for an inmate accused of strangling a female corrections officer in the Kent County Correctional Facility last year started Tuesday.
The prosecution is trying to prove Willie Lee Wilson Williams intended to murder Deputy Jaclynn Rodriquez when he hid outside of his cell and attacked her. The defense would like the jury to at least consider a lesser charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm.
Williams, who faces charges of assaulting a prison employee, escape from jail through violence, assault with intent to murder and being a fourth-time habitual offender, made a brief appearance in court Tuesday. He decided not to sit through the trial and instead listened from another room.
The day began with jury instructions and went right into opening statements, followed by showing in-jail video of the night in question.
On Sept. 14, 2012, the prosecution said, Williams was let out of his cell to retrieve a roll of toilet paper from another inmate. Officials thought he was secured back inside his cell, but instead he hid behind some pillars in the jail pod until Rodriguez made her rounds.
That is when Williams attacked Rodriguez, authorities said.
"He strangles her as she fights for her life," said prosecuting attorney Robin Eslinger. "And after he strangled her for several seconds, you'll be able to see that she stops fighting because she goes unconscious from the strangulation."
"I was pretty sure he was going to kill me. ... I was terrified," Rodriguez testified Tuesday. "I thought I was going to die. I couldn't breathe."
Rodriguez said there was a moment she hoped she would die so she wouldn't suffer any more.
But she fought back, she testified, grabbing at Williams' genital area to get him to let her go, but then lost consciousness.
The prosecution claims Rodriguez could have died if it wasn't for other inmates coming to her aid, subduing Williams and using her radio to call for help.
Then-inmate George Eisen testified that he saw Williams choking Rodriguez and that "he wasn't letting up."
"I thought she was going to die," he said.
Eisen said he kicked his cell door until it broke to get out to help the guard. He said he and other inmates went after Williams, hitting him with a fan and beating him.
"I'm just letting Mr. Williams have it. I'm pounding him," he said. "I've got him pinned ... giving it to him."
The defense claims Williams had no intent to kill because he needed Rodriguez to open the doors as his main goal was to escape.
"He didn't intend to kill her," argued defense attorney Michael Liquigli. "He would have gotten nothing from killing her. There's no benefit to killing her. She's no longer a hostage. She's no longer a help. Why would he want to kill her? And that's what you have to decide."
The trial is expected to resume Wednesday morning.
Williams was in the jail on armed robbery charges after a string of robberies in July 2012 when the alleged assault occurred. He was convicted of those charges last week.
Two Kalamazoo men are in jail after Kalamazoo officers found them with money stolen from Sunny Mart Friday afternoon.
Two people were taken to the hospital after one vehicle crossed the center line, causing a head-on crash in Ada Township Friday night.
A baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony must serve gay couples despite his religious beliefs or face fines, a judge said Friday.