Williams guilty in death of Tyler woman
By Casey Knaupp - Tyler Morning
Clifton Lamar Williams faces life in prison or the death
penalty after he was convicted Monday for the capital
murder of an elderly Tyler woman.
Williams, 23, was found guilty after
about one and one-half hours of deliberation by a Smith
County jury for beating, strangling and stabbing to
death 93-year-old Cecelia Schneider on July 9, 2005,
before setting her body on fire and stealing her car and
The four-woman, eight-man jury will
begin hearing evidence Tuesday in the punishment trial
for Williams in 114th District Judge Cynthia Stevens
The jury's verdict found that
Williams was guilty of capital murder - committing
murder during the course of another felony offense. The
jury could have also convicted him of murder, aggravated
robbery, robbery, arson, aggravated assault, burglary of
a habitation, robbery, obstruction, retaliation or theft.
Jurors heard nearly four hours of
closing arguments Monday. Prosecutors said Williams
alone killed Ms. Schneider for drug money while defense
attorneys contended that Jamarist "Monterrall" Paxton
killed the victim, forced Williams to go along and cut
himself to leave his DNA evidence behind and to drive
the victim's car.
Smith County District Attorney Matt
Bingham said Williams entered Ms. Schneider's back door
"swinging," brutally beating her in the head before
retrieving a knife from her kitchen and stabbing her to
death. Bingham said Williams then set her body and her
bed on fire before stealing her purse, which contained
$40, and her car.
The defendant was in Ms. Schneider's
car minutes after her murder, and he drove to his
sister's house and insisted on changing his clothes,
Bingham said. Williams told his brother-in-law that he
cut his hand while fighting a man.
Bingham said he didn't have to prove
that Williams, who smoked crack cocaine, killed Ms.
Schneider for drug money. He said the victim lived "93
hardworking, law abiding years" before she was killed.
He asked the jurors to imagine the viciousness of the
attack on the woman who was 4-foot, 9-inches tall and
never had a chance to defend herself.
He said the overwhelming evidence of
the capital murder includes that Williams was familiar
with Callahan Street, which the victim lived on, he cut
himself on his right hand while stabbing her, left his
DNA and fingerprint in her car and that he led police to
where he discarded the purse and knife used in the
Bingham said Williams made up several
stories to witnesses and police before coming up with a
story about being forced by Paxton to go along while he
killed the victim.
"The defendant did this," Bingham
said. "He did it alone."
There was no DNA evidence matching
Paxton or Williams found in Ms. Schneider's house.
Bingham told the jurors not to give the defendant the
benefit for destroying evidence, adding that he burned
the victim's body and her bed for a reason. He asked the
jurors to convict him of capital murder.
Defense attorney Melvin Thompson,
said "Ms. Schneider's murderer is still walking the
streets of this community."
He asked the jury why Williams would
kill the victim for drug money if Williams' girlfriend
was at his apartment smoking crack the day of the murder.
He asked where the compatible,
credible evidence of murder was in the case. Thompson
said the jury could not speculate why there's no
evidence in the house - because it was burned up or
washed away - and convict Williams. He said the jury
can't convict him of capital murder because there was
evidence he was in the victim's car, that he was
familiar with Callahan Street or that he lied to police.
He said his client was not charged with stealing a car,
but capital murder.
He asked the jurors if they believed
Williams was at the house because of his statements to
police, then why wouldn't they believe that Paxton was
at the scene because of his statements. Thompson said
the statements by Williams were "ramblings of a man with
a troubled mind," - a man who was not on his medication
at the time he was interviewed.
Thompson said Paxton removed
suspicion from himself by "putting it on" Williams. He
said Paxton and people close to him all told police the
story of Williams telling them he had killed an elderly
man in North Tyler.
"I'm not going to call them a liar
but something isn't right about their testimony, is it?"
Thompson asked of Paxton and his girlfriend Stella
He said Paxton is in prison for eight
years for selling dope in a school zone. He said
Williams was being used as a "scapegoat" in the murder
for Paxton, who threatened Williams with a gun and left
no fingerprints or DNA because he was wearing motorcycle
"We strongly believe the person who
plunged the knife into the body of Ms. Schneider is not
in custody," Thompson said.
He told the jurors to ask the state
where its evidence was.
"The DNA doesn't exist," he said. "It
doesn't matter why it doesn't exist ... The bottom line
is there's no evidence and without evidence you can't
Thompson said Williams came up with
explanations for evidence that didn't exist because of
what police told him. He said the one thing Williams
didn't lie about and was consistent about was Paxton.
"We have a wonderful elderly lady who
died a violent death" with the DNA of two unknown males
under her fingernails, Thompson said.
Bingham said the DNA from two males
found in her fingernails doesn't match Williams, Paxton
or anyone else involved in the case. He said there was
blood in her nails but the men's' DNA shows that she
wasn't able to fight back.
A DNA analyst testified that a person
can transfer DNA to another by everyday contact and Ms.
Schneider's nails were only tested for men's DNA, not a
First Assistant DA April Sikes said
Williams was not threatened or placed under duress by
Paxton, as the defendant claimed. She said Williams
needed more money to buy crack and found an "easy target"
- an elderly woman who lived alone.
"Do not let him fool you ...," Mrs.
Sikes said. "That man is a cold-blooded killer; nothing
She called Williams an "unbelievable
"It's time to hold that killer
responsible for taking her life," she said.
Mrs. Sykes said the guilty verdict
would not be "real and true justice" but as close to
justice as they could get for Ms. Schneider's life.