POMONA - The death penalty is reserved for not
only the worst crimes, but for the worst people - and Manling
Williams isn't the latter, said defense attorneys Monday.
Defense attorneys Haydeh Takasugi and Tom
Althaus made their closing statements in the penalty phase of
Williams faces the death penalty after she was
convicted on Nov. 4 of slashing to death her husband, Neal, and
smothering her two sons, Devon, 7, and Ian, 3, with a pillow in
their Rowland Heights home on Aug. 7, 2007.
Throughout the penalty phase, the defense tried
to reveal the story of Manling Williams, one they said was filled
with "pain, heartache, and diminished dreams."
Through that story, Takasugi said she hoped the
jury woukd grat her life.
"This is the hardest thing I have ever done,
wondering if I called the right witnesses, that I told you who
(Williams) is, that I made the right arguments," she said. "With
my heart racing, hand trembling, and voice breaking, I ask you to
allow this sister, this daughter, this mother to retreat back to
her cell ... to do so each and every day until she awakes no more
... to do so at the hands of God and not the hands of man."
Deputy District Attorney Stacy Okun-Wiese spoke
with conviction to begin statements Monday.
"Make no mistake about it, granting life
without parole is granting leniency," she said.
Okun-Wiese asked jurors to consider the impact
of the murders in determining a penalty.
The family of Neal Williams has been damaged
beyond repair, she said.
"The defendant not only took the lives of Neal,
Devon and Ian with these murders. She took a piece of Jan (Neal's
mother) with her, a piece of Mala (Neal's sister) with her. She
ruined more lives than I can count."
In the end, all those families have left are
memories, Okun-Wiese said, as she showed recent photos of Neal and
"There will be no more additional photographs
in these frames," she said. "Never again. In 15 years, 20 years,
Jan Williams will have these photographs and nothing more."
Althaus said a life sentence was not "lenient."
"Think about the hopelessness of it," he said.
"A 30-year-old woman sitting there for 40 or 50 years."
Takasugi said punishments are nuanced and can't
be determined based solely on the crime, but a person's life and
character outside the crime are factors as well.
Williams was a good, charitable person before
the murders with no history of violence or criminal behavior,
defense attorneys said.
"A life is measured by its valleys and its
hills," Takasugi said. "The prosecution is asking you to measure
it by its valleys, and they are deep. But there are hills and some
of them are magnificent."
Okun-Wiese criticized the defense's case that
focused on Williams' tough and potentially abusive upbringing.
"When did it become OK in our society to to
commit three heinous crimes, kill your children and your husband
and to blame it on your mom?" Okun-Wiese said. "This case screams
for the maximum punishment."
Defense attorney Tom Althaus, who made the
final statements Monday, said the defense wasn't trying to justify
"We are not trying to make any excuses," he
said. "We are not trying to blame anybody else. We are not blaming
her mom. Manling Williams is responsible for the crime and she
will suffer the consequences."
Althaus discussed one of the factors of
mitigation he felt the jury should consider, which was mercy for
If jury members felt sympathy for her, for her
life, family and who she is, they could consider that even in the
face of her crimes, he said.
"Pity is not a trade off," Althaus said, often
pausing between thoughts and briefly describing the death penalty
chamber in San Quentin. "It is something you give for free,
something that comes from your heart, that this woman has
something worth saving. That's your choice, ultimately. To give
her life or decide for her to go to that death chamber and have
her family look in those windows and see her die."
Manling Williams guilty on all counts; faces
By Daniel Tedford - Sgvtribune.com
November 4, 2010
POMONA - A jury on Thursday found Manling
Williams guilty on all counts, making the former Rowland Heights
resident eligible for the death penalty for killing her husband
Closing arguments were heard Wednesday in the
Williams case, where the 31-year-old was on trial for having
stabbed and slashed her husband, Neal, 92 times with a sword in
their Rowland Heights home on Aug. 7, 2007. She also smothered her
children Devon, 7, and Ian, 3, with a pillow that night.
The defense didn't argue against Williams'
guilt, but differed on the extent to which she is guilty.
Defense Attorney Tom Althaus said Williams
didn't premeditate the murder of her family and instead acted in a
fit of rage.
"I'm not trying to make excuses or condone
anything in this case," he said. "The District Attorney's claim,
of course, is this has to do with premeditation. You have to
decide if that is what is going on or if something else is going
The prosecution tried to show Williams' actions
leading up to the killings as calculated attempts to eventually
pin the children's murders on her husband.
Williams told friends as much as two months
prior to the slayings that she was having dreams where Neal
suffocated the children and then killed himself, according to
Prosecution rests its case in 2007 Rowland
Heights triple murder case
By Daniel Tedford - Sgvtribune.com
November 1, 2010
POMONA - The human digestive system was the
subject of contentious debate Monday in the 2007 Rowland Heights
triple murder trial of Manling Williams.
Williams admitted to killing her husband, Neal,
with a Samurai sword in their home on Aug. 7, 2007. She also
smothered her children Devon, 7, and Ian, 3, with a pillow that
night. She faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree
Williams' attorney acknowledged during opening
statements that the now 31-year-old woman killed her family, but
denied she planned the slayings.
The time of death has been a point of
contention in the trial. The prosecution contends that Williams
killed her family before going out with friends for dinner. Both
the prosecution and defense called expert witnesses Monday to
discuss the determination of time of death using a process called
It is the prosecution's belief the children
were killed before Williams went to TGIF restaurant with
co-workers from Marie Callender's - where Williams worked as a
waitress - and have argued that based on evidence the children
died within two hours of eating pineapple pizza.
The prosecution's argument was based on
testimony from Los Angeles County Coroner's Office officials and
sheriff's forensic scientist and biologist Lynne Denise Herold,
who testified Monday.
Ian and Devon had a small amount of food in
their stomachs at the time of their death and none in their small
intestine, Herold said.
"Death must have occurred after eating and soon
enough... before digestion" into the small intestine, she said.
Earlier testimony showed pizza was delivered to
the Williams home at 8:22 p.m.
The defense expert, Dr. Gregory Reiber,
differed from the prosecution's expert on a few conclusions.
Reiber testified the food found in both boys'
stomachs had evidence of being far along in the digestive process.
He also contradicted earlier coroner's
department officials' testimony that a small meal of food takes 30
minutes to two hours to digest.
Instead, Reiber testified that a small meal can
take several hours to digest and even longer considering various
Furthermore, he said gastric emptying cannot be
relied upon as a method for determining time of death.
"If you are talking about a single individual
in a single circumstance, it is not scientifically reliable,"
During cross examination of crime scene
investigator Flynn Lamas, defense attorney Haydeh Takasugi asked
about photos that showed hair samples collected for evidence from
Hair collected from the drain was negative for
blood, Lamas said.
Earlier testimony said Manling Williams
showered prior to going to TGIF.
Sgt. Donald Walls, one of the detectives who
investigated the case, was the final witness for the prosecution
Monday before resting their case.
Walls testified Manling Williams told him she
purchased a pack of Camel Lights cigarettes, gas and Red Bull at a
76 gas station the night of the killings.
Neal Williams' blood was found on the cigarette
pack and Manling Williams said in her video confession that the
blood was the evidence that forced her to confess.
During cross examination, defense attorney Tom
Althaus asked Walls if police went to the 76 station and inquired
about video or a receipt that would prove when Williams went to
the gas station.
Walls said police never inquired.
Man-ling Williams (27) was booked on
suspicion of stabbing her husband Neal Williams (27) and killing
their two sons
August 10, 2007
A woman who reported finding the bodies of her
husband and two boys in their home was arrested Thursday after
making "incriminating statements," authorities said.
Man-ling Williams, 27, of Rowland Heights was
booked into the Los Angeles County jail in Lynwood on suspicion of
killing her sons Ian, 3, and Devon, 7, and her husband Neal, 27.
"We placed the wife under arrest," said Sgt.
Sandy Nava, of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Homicide Bureau. "She did
make several incriminating statements."
Williams is being held without bail. She is
scheduled to be arraigned at Citrus Court in West Covina this
morning, officials said.
Neal Williams was apparently stabbed to death.
The cause of the children's deaths remained unknown Thursday.
Coroner's officials said Thursday they have yet
to conduct an autopsy of the three victims. Autopsies are
scheduled for today and Saturday, said Coroner's spokesman Capt.
The case against Williams appears to center on
conflicting accounts of her whereabouts just before the bodies
On Wednesday, neighbors said Man-ling Williams
initially told them she couldn't sleep early Wednesday morning and
decided to take a drive.
Williams' first statement to investigators,
according to neighbor Jessica Cerda, 19, was that she had gone to
a nearby liquor store for Red Bull and cigarettes and discovered
the bodies when she returned.
Sheriff's Homicide Sgt. Bill Marsh said
Man-ling Williams told them during an interview at the sheriff's
Walnut Station later Wednesday that she had gone grocery shopping
for breakfast, and returned about an hour later to find the
Cerda, who spoke to Man-ling Williams just
after she came home said the woman was clad in boxer shorts and a
"She didn't have her shoes on either," Cerda
said. "It didn't seem like something you would wear to the store."
At this point, the motive appears to simply be
a growing dissatisfaction with the husband on the part of
Man-ling, Marsh said. Why the children were killed, however,
remains a mystery.
"'Why the children?' is the question I've been
asked all day," Marsh said. "I wish I knew the answer."
Jan Williams of Whittier, Neal's mother,
released a prepared statement Thursday. "Neal was a loving father,
brother and son," she said. "I was proud of him. He was friendly,
hard working and had a passion for the truth. His boys were the
lights of his life."
Mala Williams, Neal's sister, was included in
the prepared statement. She said "My brother was a profound
influence in my life. He was a strength and comfort in my times of
need and a joy in the good times. He was exceedingly bright, and
Late Thursday, nearly 100 friends, family, and
neighbors gathered across the street from the Williams home -
which was still barricaded with crime scene tape and guarded by
deputies - to mourn the victims.
Neighbors had set up a makeshift memorial to
the family. Flowers, candles and stuffed animals lined the
sidewalk, along with messages such as "Always thinking of you,"
and "R.I.P. Neal, Devon, Ian."
Mourners shared memories, prayed, and stood in
Many people also donated money to benefit the
family of the victims.
Neighbors in the 18200 block of Camino Bello in
Rowland Heights said they remained shocked by the crime. They
described Neal Williams as an attentive father who doted on Ian
"They were happy," said James Brown, a teenager
who found the bodies Wednesday. "They looked happy playing catch
or 'Star Wars' on the front lawn.
"He was a cool gentleman," Brown continued. "he
wouldn't mess with people. He just read books and played with the
Those who knew Man-ling described her
alternately as moody, troubled, foul-mouthed at times, quiet at
"She was really a mystery to most people," said
Laura Estrada, 27, of Hacienda Heights.
Estrada attended school with Man-ling Williams
from kindergarten through high school. Estrada and Williams
graduated Los Altos High School in 1998, Estrada said.
"I remember her as very emotionally unstable,"
Estrada said. "She was not content with who she was. I always felt
sorry for her."
Estrada said the two had been out of frequent
contact since high school, but saw each other two months ago at
Marie Callendar's in La Puente where Man-ling worked.
"She showed me a photo of her family and I was
happy for her because everything seemed to be working out well for
her," Estrada said. "For once she didn't seem grumpy and
The couple frequently engaged in loud arguments
that often ended with profanity-laced exchanges and slammed doors
that could be heard throughout the neighborhood, Cerda said.
Carole Bailey of Hacienda Heights, who said
she's known the couple for years and considers them family, had
fond memories of Man-ling as a loving wife and mother and cannot
believe she is responsible for the deaths of her husband and sons.
"She and Neal were very happy together," she
said at Thursday's vigil. "She (Man-ling) couldn't have done this.
She doesn't have a violent temper. She's not that kind of person."
Neighbor Jessica Hui said earlier in the day
that Man-ling spoke Mandarin Chinese, but seldom said more than
hello to neighbors.
"Most times I saw her standing in front of the
house smoking and smoking," Hui said. "She never said much."
Detectives continued bagging evidence at the
crime scene Thursday morning. From the sidewalk, the Williams home
looked cluttered. A trio of stuffed animals sat on a dusty glass
shelf just inside the front door.
Boxes and papers seemed to clutter the doorway.
Outside children's toys: a football, a plastic
baseball bat and a plastic pitching machine lay discarded. A faded
can of Sprite sat on a walkway leading to the front door.
Neighbors said they watched coroner's
investigators remove the boys' bodies through a bedroom window,
which overlooks Camino Bello. That took place just after the last
television crew had gone home about 11:30 p.m., Cerda said.
Neal Williams grew up in Whittier and attended
Whittier High School.
George Porter, who lives next door to Williams'
mother, just got back from Cancun and was shocked at the news.
"I'm sorry to hear that. It's terrible," he
He described Man-ling Williams as outgoing,
very bubbly and a people person, while Neal Williams was
"I never expected that from her. They looked
happy together. She looked happy," Porter said.
Porter said Man-ling Williams once tried to
sell him life insurance.
He hadn't seen Neal Williams in a month and a
half. But he added that in the past few months, the young man was
often in the neighborhood.
When Williams visited his mother, Porter said
he brought his wife and sons.