Sentencing hearing begins Thursday for woman who killed 5-year-old daughter, Taylor Williams

Brianna Williams pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder in death of daughter, faces decades in prison

Taylor Williams (Photo provided to WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville mother who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of her 5-year-old daughter will soon learn her fate.

How 5-year-old Taylor Williams died has never been 100% determined. But prosecutors will explain to the court Thursday why they feel her mother, Brianna Williams, should get the maximum sentence allowed. The 30-year-old former Navy Petty Officer First Class faces from 20 years to life in prison.

In 2019, Williams called 911 saying she had awakened to find her back door open, and her daughter missing. What happened next was one of the largest-scale searches in Jacksonville’s history. Days later, the child’s remains were found buried in a wooded area of Marengo County in rural Alabama.

A Jacksonville mother who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of her 5-year-old daughter will soon learn her fate.

After her daughter’s body was found, Williams was hospitalized for what was described as a suicide attempt. She had also stopped cooperating with investigators.

In what’s expected to be a two-day sentencing hearing, prosecutors are sure to highlight what appeared to be a child’s tragic life.

Court documents showed Williams “tortured, maliciously punished, or caged” her daughter. Taylor had not been seen by anyone for months, had been pulled from day care, and Williams failed to find adequate child care for her daughter and left her alone in the apartment. In Williams’ original arrest report, the family’s neighbor reported seeing Taylor alone outside their Southside apartment. When he asked her what she was doing, she responded, “Looking for my momma.”

Furthermore, prosecutors also said the girl’s remains revealed signs of possible malnourishment, trauma and disease.

Evidence released as part of discovery suggested investigators found possible bloodstains in six places in the family’s apartment. This included the inside of a closet. Investigators said they found soiled children’s clothing, fecal matter, and a soup can with small openings.

Investigators also said they detected the scent of decay inside the apartment, similar to what they said was noticeable in the trunk of Williams’ Honda Accord. Inside the vehicle, court documents say, investigators also found maggots, fecal matter and soiled clothes.

Williams’ activity on the web provided even more evidence for investigators.

“A download of Brianna Williams’ computer was conducted where searches were discovered for malnutrition and refeeding syndrome,” the Assistant State Attorney said during a hearing in March.

Records show Williams posted a Craigslist ad asking for help moving out of her Southside apartment hours after she returned from Alabama.

The defense will call character witnesses to speak on Williams’ behalf. There’s a chance she could spend the rest of her life behind bars.

In previous hearings, Taylor’s father appeared via Zoom but opted not to speak. The two-day sentencing hearing is slated to begin at 10 a.m. Thursday.

About the Author:

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