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Michael Wayne WILLIAMS





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery - Rape - Arson
Number of victims: 6
Date of murders: 1992 - 1993
Date of birth: 1968
Victims profile: Four men / Morris Keller Jr., 45, and Mary Elizabeth Keller, 35
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Prince George County/Cumberland County, Virginia, USA
Status: Sentenced to death in 1994

Supreme Court of the United States


Michael Wayne Williams, Petitioner v. John Taylor, Warden


Michael Wayne Williams was sentenced to die for the slaying of a Cumberland County, Virginia couple who were robbed and shot to death and whose house was set on fire on Feb. 27, 1993. 

After the slaying of Morris Keller Jr. and Mary Elizabeth Keller, Williams and an accomplice fled to Fredericksburg in the Kellers' stolen Jeep. The accomplice, Jeffrey Alan Cruse, who was 25 at the time, testified against Williams and received a life sentence. 

Williams was tried in January 1994. In addition to the Keller murders, the jury also heard evidence that Williams had killed 4 men in Prince George County in December 1992. 

Williams, now 31, was convicted of capital murder in the Kellers' deaths, along with burglary, rape, arson, 2 counts of robbery and 2 counts of abduction. He was sentenced to death for the slayings and is scheduled to die by injection at 9 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center. 

He later pleaded guilty to 1 count of capital murder and 3 counts of 1st-degree murder for the Prince George slayings and was sentenced to life in prison for each slaying. 

Cruse and Williams planned to rob customers in a market in Cumberland County between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. with Williams' .357 caliber revolver but the store was closed when they arrived. 

They decided to rob the nearby home of the Kellers. Morris Keller, 45, operated Gibralter Wood Co.; Mary Elizabeth Keller, 35, worked for an insurance company. 

Cruse knocked on the door and the 2 men entered the Kellers' home.  Williams, who was holding the gun, ordered the Kellers to take off all their clothes and he stayed in the kitchen with them as Cruse searched the house for valuables. 

Cruse found a .38 caliber handgun. The Kellers were tied up and placed in closets. After some of the Kellers' property was assembled in the living room, first Williams and then Cruse raped Mrs. Keller. Williams told the Kellers they were all going "to take a walk." 

Hearing that they planned to burn the house, Mrs. Keller took her marriage certificate with her as they were marched to a thicket in a wooded area near the house. Williams shot Mr. Keller and Cruse shot Mrs. Keller.  "After Mrs. Keller fell, Mr. Keller stood up and Williams shot him again... As Cruse started to walk away, Williams said, 'Wait... (w)hat if they ain't dead?' and he shot each of the Kellers 'a couple more times apiece' with the .38 caliber handgun." 

The 2 gunmen then loaded stolen property into the Kellers' Jeep, set fire to the house and then drove to Fredericksburg where they sold some of the property. They threw the remaining property and the .357 caliber handgun into the Rappahannock River and then set fire to the Jeep. 

Both men testified at Williams' trial. Each admitted to firing one shot but blamed the rest of the 7 shots on the other. The U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay less than an hour before Williams was scheduled for execution. 

In a final appeal, attorneys for Williams argued that Williams' constitutional rights were violated when the prosecutor used the fact that he had heard other witnesses' testimony to impeach his testimony. 

However, the appeal was granted based on a second issue raised by the appeal -- that Williams was denied a federal evidence hearing on claims the state suppressed facts and denied discovery requests and investigative resources during state court proceedings. 

Barbara Hartung, one of Williams' attorneys, said the high court agreed to review a portion of a 1996 federal law that restricts a U.S. district court's ability to conduct evidentiary hearings.  "It will affect a lot of people,'' she said. 

David Botkins, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark Earley, said several relatives of Williams' victims had gone to Jarratt to witness the execution. "It's unfortunate at this particular juncture that the victims' family members have to relive the horror of the last few years,'' Botkins said.

He said the state would argue vigorously to uphold the death sentence.  Williams did not seek clemency from Gov. Jim Gilmore. Ms. Hartung declined to say why.  



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