MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (TCD) — A jury convicted a 25-year-old father last week on charges related to the 2017 deaths of his 18-year-old ex-girlfriend and their 8-month-old son.
According to a news release from the State Attorney’s Office for the 12th Judicial Circuit, Larry Williams and his girlfriend were in the process of breaking up partially due to Williams’ “connection” with his ex-girlfriend, Diamond Shelman, and their 8-month-old son, Jeremiah. Williams also shared an infant with his current girlfriend and the two lived together.
On Aug. 22, 2017, in a series of text messages, Williams reportedly assured his girlfriend she would “not have to hear about Diamond or the other baby again.” He reportedly told her to “make sure her tazor [sic]” was “charged real good.” His girlfriend reportedly asked why, and he responded, “sick of a b–ch trying me now it’s on.”
He also allegedly told her to “look for that gas can to [sic].”
Based on the text exchange, the Attorney’s Office said the girlfriend couldn’t have interpreted the messages or predicted Williams’ actions.
Several days later, in the early hours of Aug. 27, 2017, Williams, armed with a gas can, went to Shelman’s home and fatally stabbed her, according to the Attorney’s Office. He then poured gasoline around the apartment and on Shelman before igniting a fire that spread throughout the home. As a result, their 8-month-old son died from smoke inhalation.
During an interview, Williams reportedly told officials a “demon” killed the victims and set the fire. However, one of Williams’ fellow Manatee County Jail inmates testified in trial and said Williams confessed to him that he killed the victims. According to the Attorney’s Office, the witness also testified that Williams asked him if he thought police would “buy the demon excuse.”
The defense planned to use the insanity defense and even hired two doctors who confirmed Williams was mentally unsound. However, when the doctors were presented with text messages and statements made to the jail witness, they retracted their assessment and could no longer testify to the defendant’s insanity.
Following the four-day trial last week, a Manatee County jury convicted Williams on two counts of first-degree murder and first-degree arson. Williams was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the first-degree murder charges and will be sentenced at a later date for the arson charge.
In a statement, Assistant State Attorney Suzanne O’Donnell, the lead prosecutor in the case, said, “Diamond was 18 years old and had her whole life ahead of her. Jeremiah’s life had not yet even begun. These crimes are about as tragic and senseless as they come.”
O’Donnell continued, “This case was extremely difficult for everyone involved from the first responding firefighters, to the Manatee County Sheriff’s homicide detectives, to the fire investigators. But everyone stayed the course to see that justice was done. I, and the State Attorney’s Office, and especially the victim’s family with be eternally grateful. And we are grateful to the jury that endured hearing the facts of this case yet stayed focused to ensure that justice was done.”
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