By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]

Testimony continues in penalty phase of Con-ui trial

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SCRANTON — Lauren Williams nervously talked about her big brother and how her soon-to-be born son will never know what a great uncle he would have had.

Williams, 10 years younger than her brother, Eric Williams, was testifying Tuesday during the penalty phase for Jessie Con-ui, the man who brutally murdered the 34-year-old Nanticoke native on Feb. 25, 2013, at the U.S. Penitentiary Canaan in Wayne County.

Lauren Williams was the last witness heard from Tuesday as the penalty phase continued before U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo. More prosecution witnesses are expected to be called Wednesday, beginning at 9:30 a.m., before the defense takes over in its attempt to sway the jury to spare Con-ui’s life.

Earlier this month, the same jury found Con-ui guilty of stabbing Williams more than 200 times with a pair of shanks while the 34-year-old Nanticoke native was on duty. With Con-ui’s guilt decided, the same jury is now charged with determining his sentence — life in prison without the possibility of parole or death by execution. The jury must be unanimous in its decision on the death penalty, or Con-ui will receive life without the possibility of parole.

During the trial, jurors were shown an 11-minute video of Con-ui’s ambush-style attack on the unsuspecting guard, and still photos of the crime scene shown to the jury Monday graphically showed the blood that resulted from the attack.

On Tuesday, the jury saw several autopsy photos of Williams that graphically showed the extent of the beating — cuts, puncture wounds, abrasions and blood.

According to the prosecution case, Williams was stabbed 203 times, kicked 11 times, and stomped in the head, neck and face six times, prosecutors said. Con-ui can also be seen on the video lifting Williams’ limp body up and slamming it off the concrete floor.

Dr. Gary Ross, forensic pathologist at Forensic Associates of NEPA in Clark Summit, performed the autopsy on Williams, and he gave a detailed account of the extent of Williams’ injuries.

Ross performed the autopsy on Williams on Feb. 26, 2013, and as he spoke, emotion filled the courtroom. As Ross told of the extent of Williams’ injuries inflicted by an outraged Con-ui, photos of his battered head were shown on monitors throughout the courtroom.

Angered by a search of his cell that resulted in some contraband being seized, Con-ui kicked Williams down a flight of metal stairs in the cell block, then attacked him, stabbing him 203 times, stomping his head and body repeatedly.

“It was that repeated blunt-force stomping that caused his death,” Ross said. “Over and over he was kicked, stomped and stabbed.”

One stab wound punctured Williams’ left eyeball, another went through his right hand, another through his left ear. While Ross described the injuries and the condition of Williams’ body, Con-ui never flinched, siting stoically as Williams’ friends and co-workers fought back tears.

Friends and family

Several other witnesses called Tuesday depicted the kind of person Williams was in life — his love of fishing, hunting, soccer, football and his beloved Seattle Seahawks. His sister, Lauren, said Eric — one of three Williams brothers — was her protector. She said when she had a problem with a boyfriend over a break-up, Eric paid a visit to the boy to assure he left Lauren alone.

Since Eric’s death, Lauren said she is not as motivated as she used to be. She said she sometimes battles depression and she lacks the same drive that she once had. She said holidays are different since Eric’s death.

“We didn’t even put up a Christmas tree for a while,” she said.

When she got the call that Eric had been murdered, Lauren said she returned home to find an eerie quiet in her house.

“Except for my dad crying upstairs,” she said. “Nothing we could do could console him. I had never seen my dad cry before, and now he was crying all the time.”

Lauren’s baby is due Aug. 10, she said. His name will be Oliver Eric Williams.

“Eric will be his guardian angel now,” she said.

Todd Hrivnak, a lifelong friend of Williams, grew up two blocks from the Williams house. He and Williams had been friends since kindergarten.

“You couldn’t have a more loyal friend,” Hrivnak said. “Eric was always there when you needed him.”

Like when Hrivnak’s daughter was born. Despite having two older brothers, Hrivnak asked Williams to be the baby’s godfather.

“We were like brothers,” he said. “I gave the eulogy at Eric’s funeral. I wore this suit — it’s the only suit I own. I carry that eulogy with me every day.”

Ashley Swales, Williams’ first cousin, said she misses Williams every day.

“He knew how to light up a room,” she said. “He always knew when to tell a joke. He was like my brother. Life will never be the same without Eric. It’s just not the same now.”


By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.