Williams family appeals to attorney general

The family of a Kingsland man who was stabbed to death in 2016 is asking the Georgia attorney general to have an impartial agency review the investigation into his death and indict the man who allegedly killed him and wounded another man.

Taylor Justin Williams, 26, was stabbed multiple times during a fight with another man on Aug. 14, 2016. Prosecutors sought an indictment against Troy Grundorf — who came to help the man Williams was fighting with — for one count of felony involuntary manslaughter, one count of misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter and one count of tampering with evidence in 2017. The grand jury only indicted for tampering with evidence. Grundorf pleaded guilty in October and was sentenced to 12 months of probation and to pay a fine and fees.

Williams’ mother, Nichole Williams, has long advocated for charges to brought in her son’s case and hired a private investigator who sent his findings to the attorney general and the district attorney’s office. A petition with about 2,800 signatures was also sent to the DA’s office and a response requested by June 30. Hearing nothing, Williams sent the report and petition to the attorney general’s office.

“We’re coming up on the second angel-versary of my son and justice is overdue!” Nichole Williams wrote in an email to the Tribune & Georgian earlier this month.

The investigator, Terry Johnson of Alpha Omega Investigative Group in Arizona, detailed his law enforcement background in his letter to the attorney general about the case. Johnson said he had worked as a state trooper and detective for 35 years, conducted more than 1,000 criminal investigations and worked death investigations for more than 25 years.

In the Williams case, Johnson said he reviewed evidence, body camera footage from several officers, autopsy report and photos, witness statements and audio recordings, crime scene photographs and police reports.

“With this review, I identified several issues and concerns, which leads a reasonable person to believe there was and still is perceived prejudice by law enforcement and the district attorney’s office toward the deceased victim,” Johnson wrote. “Based on the discovered issues and concerns, I feel it is necessary to send this correspondence to your office and request an independent review and reopening of this homicide investigation.”

What happened?

According to Johnson’s report, Williams had had a brief physical altercation with Grundorf — who was with another man, a woman and Williams’ ex-girlfriend — earlier in the evening at bar and had hit him in the face.

Hours later, Williams drove by his ex-girlfriend’s house with a friend and used his key to the ex-girlfriend’s car to set off the alarm. The ex-girlfriend and the man and woman from earlier came out of the house. Williams drove back by the house and the man allegedly “exhibited a fighting posture” by taking off his shirt and glasses, standing by the road and making gestures to try to bait Williams, Johnson concluded.

Williams stopped, ran toward the man and they began wrestling and fighting. The man told police that he yelled for Grundorf, who was inside, to come help him. Grundorf came out carrying a large kitchen knife and allegedly stabbed Williams 11 times in the back and side when he was on top of the other man with his back to the house.

Seeing Grundorf’s actions, Williams’ friend came to help him, putting Grundorf in a rear chokehold to pull him off Williams. Grundorf allegedly stabbed the friend 11 times too.

“The number of stab wounds appears to be excessive for self-defense or defense of a third person,” Johnson wrote.

After being stabbed, the friend yelled at Williams to leave and they headed to Williams’ truck. Williams, whose blood alcohol was 0.109, collapsed in the grass on the side of the road. The friend drove away in Williams’ truck and flagged down a police officer who was conducting a traffic stop nearby.

The man and woman began first aid on Williams while Grundorf — who was unaccounted for several minutes — went inside and “reportedly cut himself with the same knife,” then threw the knife over a fence into a neighboring yard, according to Johnson’s report. The second man told officers on the scene that he believed Grundorf had cut himself to make the incident appear to be self-defense but he didn’t say anything about fearing for his life.

“During his initial interview, (the second man) described Mr. Grundorf’s actions as being eerie, out of it and it scared him when Mr. Grundorf talked,” according to the report.

The second man said in an interview five days later that he felt Grundorf had saved his life and that he had talked with Grundorf about the incident.

“With a five-day lapse between the first interview and the second interview, (the second man) making the statement that Mr. Grundorf is smart, along with discussing the incident with Mr. Grundorf, could or did they collaborate to get their story straight?” Johnson asked. 

Grundorf also didn’t say in his interview that he feared Williams was killing the second man or that either one was threatening the other’s life. When officers told Grundorf he had been identified as the person with the knife, “he began to make assertions that he was drinking, he may have blacked out and that he does not remember what happened. He also mentioned that he did not kill anyone though on the recording the investigators had not yet advised Mr. Grundorf that the deceased victim was deceased,” according to Johnson.

Johnson notes that several officers on the scene made comments about an incident the year before when Williams, who suffered from PTSD, intended to commit suicide by cop.

“Did the police assume that with this history, he was automatically the aggressor in this incident? Police officers mentioned this information on body camera footage at the crime scene,” Johnson wrote. 

Johnson also details that Grundorf said he saw blood on the second man when he came out of the house but the two women said they didn’t see blood on either man. The second man said he hadn’t been injured, though there was blood on his forearm. The blood wasn’t tested to determine the blood type and possibly exclude it as his blood.

“There’s only one guy I saw on the ground and everyone was covered in blood,” Grundorf said in his interview according to the report. “I was trying to pull him off, uh, like I think hit the guy. I don’t know. I may have, I might have sta— hit him or something, then the other guy came up and started choking me.”

Johnson said he had found sufficient evidence in the case file to charge Grundorf with felony murder and voluntary manslaughter for Williams’ death and aggravated assault for injuring his friend because police didn’t establish that Grundorf believed force was necessary to defend himself or the second man and neither one told investigators that they were afraid for their lives.

“If an individual was in fear for his/her life, you would expect an spontaneously (sic) utterance about the fear for their life. During the more than 32 minutes of police body camera footage, not once did (the second man) utter a phrase that he was in fear for his life during the incident,” Johnson wrote. “… Additionally, during an interview, Mr. Grundorf described the incident as a wrestling match and did not perceive the victim or (the second man) as threatening the life of the other.”

Johnson also claims an assistant district attorney told an attorney for the Williams family that he didn’t know if there was sufficient evidence against Grundorf and that a grand jury might not indict because of stand your ground laws. Nichole Williams told Johnson that she believed her son’s ex-girlfriend knew before the grand jury convened that Grundorf wouldn’t be charged with murder.

“If this is true, it is very concerning how the evidence, witness statements and suspect statements were presented,” Johnson told the attorney general. “… The comments gives (sic) the appearance of a perceived prejudice toward the deceased victim by the district attorney’s office.

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