Autopsy inconclusive on 5-year-old Taylor Williams’ cause of death

Daughter of Jacksonville petty officer died at least month before remains were found in rural Alabama

VIDEO: The Alabama medical examiner was unable to determine either the cause or manner of death for 5-year-old Taylor Rose Williams, the Jacksonville girl whose remains were found in a wooded area of Marengo County.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Alabama medical examiner was unable to determine either the cause or manner of death for 5-year-old Taylor Rose Williams, the Jacksonville girl whose remains were found in a wooded area of Marengo County on Nov. 12, six days after her mother reported her missing and possibly kidnapped from their Brentwood home.

Taylor’s mother, Navy petty officer Brianna Williams, was later arrested on charges of aggravated child abuse, tampering with evidence, two counts of child neglect and lying to police in connection with the disappearance and death of her daughter.

Court records show Williams’ GPS was tracked to the rural area in Alabama 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.

The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences autopsy report, obtained by News4Jax on Tuesday, found no evidence of trauma or significant disease and no drugs were found in her system. Noting that the girl had likely been dead 31-184 days and noting that the remains were deteriorated and had been scavenged by animals, the state’s senior medical examiner said the cause and manner of Taylor’s death was undetermined.

The autopsy did note anomalies in Taylor’s skull and teeth that were “suspicious for neglect or severe illness, but there is no other evidence to support this hypothesis.” There were indications of childhood nutrition stress.

MORE: Past stories on the disappearance of Taylor Rose Williams

Court documents suggest that Brianna Williams tortured, maliciously punished or caged Taylor sometime between the last time the girl was seen alive in April and when Williams reported her daughter missing.

Last summer, the State Attorney’s Office provided Williams’ defense lawyer with more discovery material in the case, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement forensic report and 31 pages of supplemental reports from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

The report was expected to reveal whether or not bloodstains found at Williams’ Southside apartment were from Taylor. It’s unclear when that report might be made public.

According to evidence released in the case, investigators found possible bloodstains in six locations in the Southside apartment where Williams lived until days before reporting Taylor missing. A cadaver dog alerted on a stain found on a carpet near the front door and on her car, “which smelled of decomposition” and had been stripped bare and cleaned with chemicals, according to Williams’ arrest warrant said

Prosecutors have charged Williams with tampering with evidence because investigators believe she dumped Taylor’s remains in Alabama before saying the girl had disappeared. Williams is not accused of causing the death of the child. Given that the autopsy did not determine the cause or manner of death, she likely never will be.

Attorney Randy Reep, who is not affiliated with the case, said convicting Williams of the most serious charges she is facing may be difficult.

“With child abuse, you have to prove the evidence of the abuse and the autopsy doesn’t speak to that,” Reep said. “The medical examiner, frankly, probably didn’t have enough to determine if there was abuse suffered on the child, so that by itself probably isn’t going to be the most beneficial evidence for the state.”

Williams is being held on more than $1 million bond. Based on Florida sentencing guidelines, if Williams were to be convicted on all five charges, she could face decades in prison.

Williams pleaded not guilty to the updated charges and waived her right to a speedy trial. She is due back in court for a pretrial hearing on Jan. 5.

Like other cases, this one has bogged down due to the pandemic. Key witnesses have just been sent subpoenas for depositions.

About the Authors:

Veteran journalist and Emmy Award winning anchor