Curtis’ Law: Mother who lost 16-year-old son spurs Florida law to support families of crime victims

Law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis goes into effect Saturday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – From grieving mother to proud victor -- after more than two decades, Patricia Ward’s fight became a reality when she watched Gov. Ron DeSantis sign a bill named for her late son.

Curtis’ Law, which officially takes effect Saturday in Florida, gives victims’ families more rights during investigations, something Ward said she wished she had 26 years ago when her 16-year-old son, Curtis Williamson, was killed.

“I was just lost. I was like in a twilight zone. I felt this pain no one should ever, ever have to go through, trying to ask questions about their child,” Ward said. “From the time he was conceived, we just had a connection bond that keeps my fight going. That smile he carried with me carries me now.”

She won a victory after 20 years of fighting to have her son’s death changed from accidental to homicide.

Curtis Williamson was killed when he was just 16 years old (WJXT)

But she still didn’t want other families to endure what she had -- struggling in the dark.

That’s how Curtis’ Law came to be.

The law makes it a requirement for law enforcement agencies to provide investigative and contact information to family members of deceased minors. This includes information from the medical examiner, names and numbers for the detectives involved. Information these families need to help them move forward.

“Give me something to start the closure process. If I have nothing, I can’t even begin my closure process,” Ward explained.

RELATED: Family says new law would bring victims’ families closure | Healing vigil to be held Saturday for grieving families, loved ones lost to violence

Patricia Ward wore her son's graduation cap, which he never got to wear, at the signing of bill named for him earlier this year. (WJXT)

For Ward, another element of closure came the day DeSantis signed the bill, and Ward put on the graduation cap Curtis should have worn just months after his death.

For her, the moment was a symbolic graduation.

“That was my way of doing the walk for Curtis,” she said.

Curtis’ Law is currently in effect in California.

Ward said she’s working to take Curtis’ Law global. If you’d like to help in that mission, go to

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.