Federal agents yesterday shot and seriously wounded an escaped murderer, Ronald Turney Williams, 38 years old, in the lobby of a Manhattan hotel.
Mr. Williams, who was on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 10 most wanted list, was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he was reported in stable condition.
A special agent, Richard T. Bretzing, said Mr. Williams had been shot when he drew a gun on F.B.I. agents who had confronted him in the lobby of the George Washington Hotel, Lexington Avenue and 23d Street.
Mr. Williams had escaped on Nov. 7, 1979, in a mass breakout from the West Virginia State Penitentiary, where he was serving a life sentence for murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and arson. He and others commandeered a passing vehicle and fatally shot the driver, an off-duty West Virginia state trooper.
Ronald Turney Williams
A jury convicted Ronald Turney Williams on February 10, 1984, of first degree murder and armed burglary in the first degree for breaking into a home, burglarizing it, and shooting and killing someone who saw him, John Bunchek. Williams was sentenced to death on the murder conviction and to an aggravated term of fourteen years for the burglary conviction.
John Bunchek, an elderly Scottsdale resident, was shot and killed on March 12, 1981. A white male who had been seen wandering around the neighborhood just before the shooting knocked on the Bunchek's door and asked Sylvia Bunchek whether her next-door neighbors were home. Mrs. Bunchek told him that they were not. Mrs. Bunchek saw the stranger walk toward the neighbors' (the Tancoses') house. She expressed concern to her husband when he arrived a few minutes later. He went to investigate. When he failed to return, Mrs. Bunchek went to the Tancos house where she found her husband lying face down in a pool of blood, having been shot in the chest. John Bunchek ultimately died from the wound.
In addition to Mrs. Bunchek, five other witnesses saw the stranger in the neighborhood that day. Brenda Wood and William Koranda had talked with him face-to-face; Alan and Elizabeth Tautkus saw him for about five seconds as they drove by in their car. Wood and the Tautkuses provided the police with a description from which a composite sketch was prepared. This sketch was televised and published in local newspapers on March 13.
It was seen by one of Williams's roommates, Lynn Walsh. Williams rented a house that was about three minutes from the Tuatkus home with Walsh, James McClaskey and Cheryl Le Duc. Walsh told McClaskey and Le Duc that the drawing looked like "Randy." "Randolph Cooper" and "Randy Despain" were names that Williams testified he used while he was in Arizona. The roommates looked at the drawing and made the composite face look thinner and more bearded. McClaskey then called Silent Witness and reported their suspicions that Williams was the suspect.
Meanwhile, without telling anyone, Williams "threw his stuff in the trunk of the car" and took off from Scottsdale the day of the murder. He was arrested after a shoot-out with FBI agents in New York City on June 8, 1981.
An Arizona grand jury indicted Williams and, following an extradition hearing, Williams was arraigned on April 3, 1983. Counsel was appointed for him, but Williams elected to represent himself at the guilt phase with the assistance of advisory counsel.
The evidence at trial showed that none of the items taken from the Tancos residence during the burglary was found in Williams's possession. However, the Mauser.380 semiautomatic pistol that Williams used in the New York shoot-out was the same gun that fired the bullet which killed Bunchek. Williams had bought this gun in Mechanicsville, Virginia, in 1980. Also, a footprint on the door of the Tancos house matched the tread marks of a type of athletic shoe that Williams had owned when he was in Scottsdale. In addition, Mrs. Tautkus identified Williams as the person she saw on March 12, although Wood and Koranda both testified that Williams was not the man they had seen in the neighborhood.
After Williams was shot and apprehended in New York, a nurse asked the FBI agent accompanying Williams to the hospital what Williams had done. The agent indicated that "he killed a bunch of people down south." When Williams mumbled "no, no, no," and the agent said "What about the old man in Scottsdale," Williams replied either "If[I] hadn't been framed in the first place, it never would have happened," or "None of this would have happened if I hadn't been framed in the first place." Williams's reference to being framed was to a prior murder conviction in West Virginia.
Williams subsequently also admitted to burglarizing the home of Marjorie Larson in Virginia in December 1980. Like the door to the Tancos residence, the Larson front door was opened by bodily force. Both were daytime burglaries during which small items were stolen. As Williams was leaving the Larson house, he saw Larson standing in a neighbor's driveway and shot at (but did not hit) her. The gun used to fire at Larson was the same gun that was used in the Bunchek murder and that Williams used in the shoot-out with the FBI. Williams left Virginia after the Larson burglary although he was engaged to be married at the time.
Williams testified on his own behalf. His defense was that McClaskey and McClaskey's friend, "Bobby," had borrowed his gun and committed the crime. However, LeDuc and Walsh testified that McClaskey looked and dressed differently from the man seen in the neighborhood that day. Neither knew of any friend of McClaskey whose name was "Bobby."
Williams also testified that he left Scottsdale to avoid being investigated for escaping from jail in 1979, committing the burglary in Virginia, and having no identification. Williams admitted that he lied under oath (at the extradition hearing) about aliases he had used, people he knew, and his presence in Arizona at the time Bunchek was killed.
The jury returned a guilty verdict on the first degree murder and burglary counts on February 10, 1984.