Luke Williams was a cold-blooded killer.
Now, more than 15 years after being convicted of murdering his wife and their 12-year-old adopted son, Mr. Williams has been put to death by lethal injection in Columbia, S.C. After exhausting appeals in his case, Mr. Williams' final punishment came last Friday.
I became familiar with the 56-year-old Mr. Williams back in June 1991 when the Evans man became the prime suspect in his family's senseless killings. At the time, I worked as news editor of The Columbia County News-Times, back when Phil Blanchard and his family owned the newspaper.
The bodies of Mr. Williams' wife, Linda, and their son, Shaun, had been found in the family's van in a wooded area of Sumter National Forest in Edgefield County, S.C. Their bodies had been doused in gasoline and their van set afire. The front-end of the van was found against a small tree. It had been staged to look as though Mrs. Williams, a paraprofessional with the Columbia County School System, had wrecked with the van subsequently catching fire.
Evidence at the scene revealed something much different. And it didn't take former Edgefield County Sheriff Billy Parker, or his lead Investigator Don Bullock, long to determine that for themselves. Having been longtime friends with Sheriff Parker, I too, went to the scene. The sheriff allowed me to take close-up photographs of the van and to ask him and the investigator a series of questions about who could have committed such a crime.
The case also was being worked in Georgia by the Columbia County Sheriff's Department - the late Investigator Gary Palmer and former Investigator Capt. John Cook spearheading the probe. A host of other investigators from that agency also worked the case and were puzzled as to what happened.
Working together with South Carolina lawmen, they were determined to find the person responsible. Countless hours of investigation went into the case. Finally, they were able to gather enough evidence to secure murder warrants for Mr. Williams' arrest.
During the hours of interrogation by authorities, Mr. Williams never once broke down, nor did he ever confess to the killings.
His non-emotional state was always a dead give-away to me. So was the fact that he never granted me an interview about his family. Prior to his arrest, I attempted a half a dozen times to get him to talk about what had happened and who could have done this to his family.
During his trial, it was discovered that he had killed his family simply out of greed. He was hoping to collect on a hefty insurance policy. If he was not pleased with his marriage, he should have just left his family. Luke Williams didn't have to kill them.