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Scent of decay led detectives to ugly truth, remains of Taylor Williams

Prosecutors release evidence in case against 5-year-old’s mother, Brianna Williams

Scent of decay led detectives to ugly truth, remains of Taylor Williams
Scent of decay led detectives to ugly truth, remains of Taylor Williams

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Brianna Williams returned to Jacksonville from Linden, Alabama -- where her 5-year-old daughter's remains were later found -- six hours before placing a Craigslist ad asking for help to move out of her apartment, according to evidence released Tuesday by the State Attorney's Office.

Investigators later searched that apartment after Williams reported her daughter, Taylor, missing from the Brentwood home she moved to. According to records, they found possible bloodstains in six locations, soiled children’s clothes, fecal matter, cans of soup with small openings in them -- and a scent of decay.

That same scent was noticeable in the trunk of Williams’ Honda Accord, records show. The trunk was empty but a rubber liner inside smelled of cleaning fluid. A cadaver dog picked up the scent of decomposition in the trunk and the driver’s compartment. According to records, dead maggots, fecal matter, soiled clothes and assorted sex toys were also recovered from the car.

According to court records, a search of Williams’ cellphone found she made three trips to and from Linden, Alabama, on Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 last year. She returned to Jacksonville at about 5:28 a.m. Nov. 3. Six hours later, she posted the Craigslist ad seeking help moving out of her Southside apartment.

The couple who helped, Tiffani Robinette and Chris Bonaventure, said they were in the apartment for an hour but they never saw a child at the apartment or new home. Williams told Bonaventure, who heard running water at the apartment, that her daughter was taking a bath.

Taylor reported missing

Three days after the move, Williams called police to report her daughter missing, saying she woke up and the back door was open and Taylor was gone.

A massive search for the 5-year-old extended from Brentwood to the Southside. Records show police recovered a handgun, shotgun, rifle and ammunition from the house in Brentwood where Williams moved.

Records show Williams had told her commanding officer she was taking Taylor to her parents’ house in Alabama the first week of November, but when police interviewed both parents, they said they did not see Brianna or Taylor during that time.

RELATED | Timeline: Key events in the search for missing Jacksonville girl | Warrant: May last time anyone other than Taylor’s mother saw girl alive

When detectives confronted Williams with the discrepancy in her story, she stopped cooperating with the investigation, records show.

Records show the day care at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, where Williams worked, and the Kinder Garden day care told the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office they hadn’t seen Taylor since April.

Taylor’s remains were found Nov. 12 in a wooded area of Marengo County, Alabama, where Williams’ GPS had been tracked, according to court records. In the rural area where Taylor’s remains were found, investigators also found pieces of plastic, fabric, three kinds of rope, blue gloves, a knife, cardboard, wire, papers and a Punch drink can.

Remains found in Alabama have been identified as those of Taylor Rose Williams (WJXT)

The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences also listed a shower curtain, a black plastic bag and a shirt in its laboratory evidence list.

Investigators suspect Taylor -- whose name is redacted from the evidence reports due to Marsy’s Law -- was dead before Williams moved to the Brentwood home from the apartment on the Southside. Among the evidence released Tuesday were search warrants for Williams’ iCloud account and a cellphone that said investigators hoped to pinpoint the last time Taylor was alive using photos, videos, text messages, messaging apps, call logs and emails.

Williams has not been charged with causing her daughter’s death. She is charged with two counts of child neglect and one count of lying to police in connection with Taylor's disappearance.

Alabama scene
Alabama scene

Williams appeared briefly in court on those charges Tuesday. Her pretrial hearing was moved to March 24.

Williams rushed to ER

The same day Taylor’s remains were found, Williams was hospitalized after what was described as a suicide attempt by overdose at NAS Jacksonville.

Video evidence released Tuesday shows Williams in her Navy uniform that day in a car with a uniformed man, who is not identified. The video is dated incorrectly as August 2014.

Evidence released in case against Brianna Williams
Evidence released in case against Brianna Williams

During a conversation with Williams, the man says to her, “I hate watching bad news and stuff like that on the news. Going back and forth with it with everything that’s going on. But you know now they’re saying you’re a person of interest.”

Williams nods and says mm-hmm.

As the man starts to ask her why that would be, Williams suddenly covers her mouth with her hand and starts to throw up. She opens the door and vomits out of the passenger seat several times.

The man gets her a bottle of water and then continues to press her about why she would be considered a person of interest in the case.

Williams doesn't respond, lays back against the seat and looks ill. The man realizes something is wrong and starts shaking her shoulder asking her if she's OK. Her eyes appear to roll back in her head and he opens the door and says he's taking her to the ER.

As he drives, he continues to shake her and call out her name.

At one point he grasps her wrist and says, “faint pulse.”

Then she begins to have an apparent seizure. The man pulls over in distress, comes around to the passenger side and someone else who runs up to the car tells him to go get help.

Others gather at the passenger door trying to check on her and get her to respond. Someone can be heard talking about a stretcher and Williams is then lifted out of the car by two men wearing scrubs.

Scent of decay led detectives to ugly truth, remains of Taylor Williams
Scent of decay led detectives to ugly truth, remains of Taylor Williams

Williams was arrested when she recovered, and she remains in the Duval County jail on $1.1 million bond.

More evidence coming

According to a nine-page summary of discovery in the case obtained by News4Jax, evidence that could appear in trial includes the 911 call where Williams claimed her daughter was kidnapped, Taylor’s autopsy report, thousands of photos, surveillance video, police body camera videos, her Amazon order history and information uncovered during search warrants at Williams’ apartment, her home in Brentwood and of her car, cellphones and computers.

The list shows investigators have thousands of pieces of evidence: nearly 4,000 crime scene photos and dozens of videos of Williams and her car on base at NAS Jacksonville and in Alabama, near the spot where authorities found Taylor’s body.

Prosecutors also have Uber and Lyft records, documenting Williams’ activity with the ride-sharing services. Additionally, they pulled her Navy records, including when she accessed the base, and surveillance from stores in Jacksonville, Georgia and Alabama.

About the Authors:

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.

16-year veteran journalist and Emmy Award winning anchor