Shytour Williams to remain in prison for life for 1997 kidnapping, rape, murder of Karen King

Shytour Williams to remain in prison for life for 1997 kidnapping, rape, murder of Karen King

SAGINAW, MI — Standing side by side, the parents of Karen A. King told a judge how their lives were decimated when their daughter was heinously kidnapped, tortured, raped, and murdered on a January evening in 1997. Describing their enduring trauma and the life of the daughter they lost, they emphatically pleaded for the judge not free the teen — now man — who helped in the dastardly deed that sent shockwaves through Saginaw.

“We miss her so much,” Gregory King said. “We go through this all the time. It’s been a nightmare since ‘97.”

The Kings spoke during the Friday, March 25, resentencing hearing for Shytour T. Williams. Williams, now 40, has been imprisoned since he was 16 for his role in killing of Karen King on Jan. 3, 1997, which he carried out with his 25-year-old cousin August M. Williams. When the crime occurred, Shytour Williams was 15 years and 8 months old. King was a freshman at Michigan State University, home for the winter holidays.

The Williamses abducted King from the parking lot of Genesee Meat Market at 1115 W. Genesee Ave., forcing her into her own white Chevrolet Blazer.

Juries in 1997 found the Williamses guilty of felony murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree premeditated murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, carjacking, and felony firearm. In November 1997, then-Saginaw County Circuit Judge Leopold P. Borrello sentenced each Williams to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Williams’ resentencing is owed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 ruling in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life sentences for those 17 and younger is a form of cruel and unusual punishment and thus unconstitutional. In 2014, then-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder gave judges the discretion to sentence teen killers to life in prison or 25 to more than 60 years in prison to comply with the Supreme Court decision. Then, in a 6-3 decision in 2016, the nation’s highest court ruled its 2012 decision applied retroactively.

“This is really hard for us to get up here and speak,” Gregory King said to Saginaw County Circuit Judge Manvel Trice III. “My daughter has been buried since 1997. She doesn’t get to enjoy Christmas. She doesn’t have birthdays anymore, where he still gets to have birthdays. He’s still alive. He says he’s sorry. Well, sorry doesn’t cut it.”

Judge Trice agreed, resentencing Williams two natural life without the possibility of parole with credit for 8,472 days already served.

Before the judge imposed sentence, Gregory King described his daughter as a goal-oriented young lady who at 14 worked as a babysitter to buy her own bedroom furniture. At 15, she used her babysitting money to buy her own stereo.

Karen loved kids and planned to be a child psychologist, her father said. While attending MSU, she got a job to help pay for her tuition, he continued.

The night of her death, Karen King was home with family for Christmas. Her father was planning to make spaghetti for dinner before they attended a hockey game at Arthur Hill High School, Karen’s alma matter. Karen decided she’d rather have tacos, though, so she left her home to go to the nearby Genesee Meat Market to get supplies.

“As I’m still cooking and she’s walking out the door she says, ‘Dad, I’m going to get the taco shells now.’ Those were the last words I ever heard my daughter say,” Gregory King said. “That’s the last time I seen her alive, when she walked out our door. She was only supposed to be gone a few minutes and our whole lives had changed.”

Karen A. King

One of several pictures of Karen A. King, who was abducted and killed in January 1997, in the home of her sister in 1998.THE SAGINAW NEWS

Gregory King reiterated it was Shytour Williams who forced Karen into her vehicle and later held a flare gun on her to prevent her from fleeing, not August Williams.

“He could have let her go, not just once, but twice,” he said. “One thing I will always remember, the last words I remember him saying at the trial. He was asked, ‘Are you sorry you did this?’ and without hesitation he said, ‘I’m sorry I got caught.’ That was his message.”

Before closing, Gregory King said he and his wife spend every Jan. 3 at their daughter’s grave.

Linda King then pleaded with the judge not to free Shytour Williams, saying the defendant had told her daughter he’d free her, a promise he didn’t fulfill.

“I ask you, don’t let him go. Please don’t let him go,” she said, sobbing, before apologizing for her tears.

“No need to apologize,” Trice told her.

Sandy King, Karen’s sister, then spoke, describing Jan. 3, 1997, as the worst day of her life.

“Please don’t let today be the second,” she asked the judge. “I will live in fear and so will my family if you let Shytour out.”

She then turned her focus on the seated Williams.

“You sat and waited like animals looking for the weakest prey,” she said. “You didn’t steal a car; you stole my sister’s life, you stole my best friend. You set everything in motion. You’re the one who approached her and fought with her.

“You killed my sister and you deserve to stay where you are,” she continued. “I hope, judge, that you do not let this man out into our society again.”

Before turning to walk back to her seat, she declared, “I love you, Karen.”

Before the Kings spoke, Michigan State Assistant Appellate Defender Sofia Nelson asked Trice to sentence Williams to a 25 to 60 years.

“This is undoubtedly a case in which the emotions run high,” Nelson said. “I certainly understand why and I understand the Kings’ position in this case due to their immense loss. My empathy goes out to the family.”

She went on to say there is every reason to be mad at 15-year-old Shytour Williams, though there is no reason to be fearful of the man he is today.

Trice then allowed Williams the chance to speak.

“First, I want to thank God for this opportunity to be accountable and accepted and apologize for what occurred,” Williams said, standing in his prison-issue blue jumpsuit and shackles. “I first want to speak to Karen in spirt. I’m sorry for everything, Karen. I understand now I took so many things from you, things like growing up, finding love, having kids, and life moments in general. When I think about you, my heart begins to be filled with tears of sorrow. This level of compassion and empathy, I couldn’t see when I was younger. Knowing all this now has me living with thoughts I wish I could have stopped it.”

Williams then addressed Karen’s parents.

“Mrs. King, I took the coward’s way out and didn’t do the right thing,” he said. “I ended up stealing a piece of your soul, you happiness, and your family tree. Mrs. King, I’m extremely sorry for the pain I caused you personally and for the nightmare you’ve been living with for the past 20-plus years.”

To King’s father, he said he could only imagine the depth of his pain and loss, not having any children himself.

Shytour T. Williams testifies in his 1997 murder trial

Shytour T. Williams, 16, testifies in his August 1997 trial on charges that he and older cousin August M. Williams kidnapped, raped, and killed 18-year-old Karen A. King.THE SAGINAW NEWS

“I ask God to watch over you and your family and to help restore that peace I took from you,” he said. “I’m deeply sorry, Mr. King, for your loss.”

Williams also apologized to the Saginaw community in general for the wreckage his actions wrought.

“My actions in ‘97 added to the fears, uncertainties, as well as the trends in criminal behavior within our neighborhoods and for that I’m sorry, for not being my best, especially at building a better Saginaw,” he said.

Speaking to Trice, Williams said the immature child he was in 1997 has been replaced by a God-driven man, one who was asking for mercy and a second chance.

Saginaw County Assistant Prosecutor Melissa J. Hoover agreed with Shytour Williams in one respect, that being that his and his cousins’ crimes “shook this entire community to its core.” She said the King family has had to endure “pure horror and unimaginable pain… a nightmare turned reality.”

She asked the court to disregard previous testimony from August Williams, in which he put the blame for Karen’s kidnapping, rape, and murder squarely on himself.

“August Williams is a monster and he would not know the truth if it hit him over the head,” she said. “Shytour made a number of conscious decisions that day. As a result of those decisions, whether he be immature or not, a young woman lost her life.”

In a monologue spanning more than an hour, Trice outlined the reasons for the sentence he was imposing. He said that while Shytour Williams showed improvement in prison, that other factors did not support a lesser sentence.

The judge said Williams did not come from an abusive household, saying he had two stable parents with long-term jobs who showed him love and instilled in him good morals and a good work ethic. He had not been neglected, but instead had been supported by his family.

Trice also found Williams did not act in a spur-of-the-moment matter during the crime. Though he may have been immature or impetuous, he appreciated what he was doing, Trice said.

The judge also said he did not find August Williams’ testimony credible, describing it as a ploy to help his younger cousin. In the end, it was Shytour Williams who set the crimes in motion by taking the initial action by approaching Karen, the judge said.

“This was a horrific, roughly two-hour experience for this young lady,” Trice said. “She was kidnapped, robbed, raped, physically, mentally, and sexually assaulted in unimaginable ways and then murdered. To say that this crime was heinous is an understatement.”

Shytour Williams is currently incarcerated at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer.

Case history

In early 1997, Michigan State University freshman Karen King was home in Saginaw for Christmas break. On Jan. 3, she went to the Genesee Meat Market at 1115 W. Genesee Ave. to buy taco ingredients for a family meal, the store being just a few blocks from her parents’ house.

When King didn’t return home, friends and family searched city streets throughout the night. Early the next morning, King’s battered body was found near an East Side scrapyard. Police found a flathead screwdriver near King’s body and a paring knife’s blade inside her white Chevrolet Blazer, located near where her body was discarded.

Police also found a cap gun and several of King’s belongings in a sewer catch basin about 30 yards from her vehicle.

Investigators later determined King had been kidnapped from the market and forced into her Blazer by the Williamses. The elder Williams had been at a payphone in the business’s parking lot when King pulled up, prosecutors alleged.

The Williamses took a captive King to New Amadore Apartments in Saginaw, where they showed her off to their friends and gave away her credit cards and other possessions, saying, “She won’t be needing them.” For about 15 minutes, Shytour Williams held a flare gun on King while they were alone in her Blazer, keeping her from fleeing.

Later, the cousins blindfolded King, raped her, stabbed her with a screwdriver and strangled her, prosecutors said.

In a recorded interview with police, Shytour Williams said he had driven King’s Blazer while his cousin rode with King in the backseat. He said they stopped the vehicle and he saw his cousin choke King to death.

August Williams, by contrast, told police he had driven King’s Blazer and that Shytour Williams had raped and killed her.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Kanu Virani testified in Shytour Williams’ trial that King suffered multiple stab wounds to her face, throat, chest, and abdomen, and had an abrasion around her neck consistent with being choked. Virani said one assailant may have stabbed King while the other strangled her from behind.

A civilian witness in the trial testified he saw the Williamses abduct King in the market’s parking lot but did not call 911 as he thought it was a “lovers’ quarrel.”

Shytour Williams testified in his own behalf that his older cousin would not let him leave during the prolonged victimization of King. He said he had asked August Williams at least twice to let him out of King’s Blazer, but the older man had refused.

The teen testified that as he was driving the Blazer, King kicked him in his head as August Williams strangled her. He went on to say he stopped the vehicle at his cousin’s request and left him and King alone in the Blazer for a few minutes.

“Why didn’t you stop him, grab him, hit him?” then-Saginaw County Prosecutor Michael D. Thomas asked him.

“(To) be honest, I couldn’t tell you,” Williams replied.

Juries found both guilty of felony murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree premeditated murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, carjacking, and felony firearm. Shytour Williams was convicted in August 1997, at which point he was 16, while his older cousin was found guilty two months later.

In November 1997, Saginaw County Circuit Judge Leopold P. Borrello sentenced the cousins to life without parole.

“This is one of the most heinous crimes that I’ve had the displeasure to sit through in my 10 years on the bench,” Borrello said at the sentencing. “It’s hard to imagine the terror that you (August Williams) and your cousin Shytour put Miss King through in the last two hours of her life. … The Williamses should never be allowed to walk among free citizens again.”

August Williams is currently incarcerated at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater.

Prior testimony

The resentencing hearing began Oct. 28. That day and the next saw numerous witnesses testify, including Shytour Williams himself.

“I wish every day that I could give her my life because she didn’t deserve it,” Williams said from the witness stand. “I put her through hell.”

Williams said he grew up in an abusive two-parent household, was subject to racial slurs from other kids in his neighborhood, began drinking when he was 8 or 9, and joined a gang with which he would deal drugs when he was a preteen. When August Williams was paroled from prison in the mid-1990s, Shytour Williams viewed him as an older brother.

On Jan. 3, 1997, the Williams cousins discussed doing something to illegal to get money, Shytour Williams testified. They ended up going to the Genesee Meat Market at 1115 W. Genesee Ave., where they encountered King, who arrived in a Chevrolet Blazer.

Shytour Williams said he demanded King’s keys from her, after which his cousin pushed her in the Blazer. All three drove away, stopping at the house of a friend of August Williams while Shytour Williams guarded King in the Blazer with a flare gun.

Shytour Williams then continued driving the Blazer as August Williams sexually assaulted King in the backseat.

“As I’m driving, I hear screaming, saying, ‘No, stop,’” Shytour Williams said, adding King kicked him in the back of his head as she struggled. “When I looked back there, she wasn’t moving or nothing like that.”

Williams drove the Blazer to an East Side junkyard. As August Williams began pulling King’s body from the vehicle, Shytour Williams noticed King was nude from the waist down, he said.

“In my mind, I’m thinking she’s not moving or saying anything,” he testified. “I’m thinking she’s for sure dead. Nausea, my stomach turning in knots. I get out, things running through my head. I ended up stopping and throwing up.”

Shytour Williams denied killing or raping King but admitted to carjacking and terrorizing her.

“It was a horrible thing. I hate that it happened. I wish every day that I could give her my life because she didn’t deserve it. She didn’t deserve the fate me and my codefendant gave her. I, I’m…man. I just, man. Under the circumstances, I’m sorry she even had to endure what me and him did. I took so much from her. Not a day hasn’t went by that I don’t think about her.”

August Williams testified from prison on Oct. 28 that he had manipulated an impressionable Shytour Williams, plying him with alcohol and marijuana. He said he made a spur-of-the-moment decision to rape and murder King and that his younger cousin did not participate in those offenses.

“He didn’t have no idea she was gonna be kidnapped or murdered,” he said. “It happened on the spur of the moment. I just made that judgment call to drag her in.”

August Williams said he alone raped and killed King, strangling her with a seatbelt. He said Shytour Williams thought King would eventually be released.

August Williams also testified he lied when he previously told police it was his younger cousin who raped and killed King.

Read more:

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