Murder via Rescue

"Police: Man killed son, self... Williams and his wife, Cynthia Williams, bred Great Danes at their former home in Wilson County. Sheriff’s deputies raided the property last year and seized more than two dozen dogs, claiming animal cruelty and related violations. A judge threw out the search warrant and dismissed criminal charges against the couple, but their legal troubles continued in a series of lawsuits against two animal rescue groups involved in the raid."

Time and again, alleged "rescuers" have been allowed to use law enforcement or, worse, been allowed to act on their own to swoop up animals that belong to others and destroy the reputations and lives of those owners along the way. Increasingly, we are seeing reports of those who simply couldn't withstand the torture even after their cases were thrown out because those same "rescuers" are often able to continue the harassment endlessly. This is one such case and this situation deserves to be memorialized in case the original becomes unavailable as so often happens with local news articles.

This may be classified as a murder/suicide. To my thinking, both these people were killed by the alleged "rescuers" who thieved their dogs, refused to return them even after the charges were dropped, and continued to harass them with a lawsuit and, no doubt, on the internet and through other channels.

Joseph Williams, may you and your son, Bobby, find peace on the other side of the rainbow. No doubt some of your beloved dogs died at the hands of the "rescuers" and were there to meet you. Here's the rest of the story:

Police: Man killed son, self
Attorney: Raid, lawsuits put family in distress

The bills were mounting. The lawsuits wouldn’t stop. The family’s business was ruined. And 53-year-old Joseph Williams had faced an overwhelming sense of pressure in recent months to provide for his wife and children, his attorney said.

"Every time he felt like he was getting ahead, he felt like there was a hurdle he had to cross,” said Williams’s attorney, Will Farris of Farris & Farris in Wilson. "And it caught up with him.”

Police said Tuesday that Williams shot his 10-year-old son Bobby and himself before setting fire to a back bedroom of his Nashville duplex Monday afternoon. Autopsies showed that the man and boy died from gunshot wounds and severe burns, Nashville Police Chief Thomas Bashore said.

"The Nashville Police Department and all emergency responders offer their heartfelt condolences to the family of this tragic event,” Bashore said in a Tuesday evening statement.

Williams and his wife, Cynthia Williams, bred Great Danes at their former home in Wilson County. Sheriff’s deputies raided the property last year and seized more than two dozen dogs, claiming animal cruelty and related violations. A judge threw out the search warrant and dismissed criminal charges against the couple, but their legal troubles continued in a series of lawsuits against two animal rescue groups involved in the raid.


Williams died on the way to the hospital and Bobby Williams died at the University of North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill. Police said Williams set fire to the back bedroom of the 239 N. Lumber St. duplex shortly after 12:30 p.m. Monday.

The flames had fizzled out when Nashville firefighters arrived.

"You’ve got to hurry, ‘cause there’s a child in there,” a woman calling to report the fire told emergency dispatchers.

The Trinity Retirement Villas employee called 911 after seeing black smoke at the duplex across the street. She indicated she heard what sounded like shouting from the apartment.

"They’re hollering in there — what in the world?” the caller said. "Please hurry. Ooh, please, Lord, hurry.”

The State Bureau of Investigation’s arson unit helped Nashville police and Nash County sheriff’s deputies investigate the apparent murder-suicide, Bashore and SBI spokeswoman Noelle Talley said. Police and sheriff’s cars lined Lumber Street as detectives swarmed in and out of a duplex ringed with yellow crime scene tape late Monday.

Nashville police closed Lumber Street at its intersections with Pine Street and Lloyd Park Drive for several hours as authorities investigated the shooting and fire. The burned duplex is located near Forest Hill Cemetery in northern Nashville near U.S. 64.


Farris said Monday’s turn of events may have been set in motion by the financial and emotional pressure of past and current litigation involving the Williamses’ Great Dane breeding facility that was at one time on Evansdale Road outside Wilson. Farris said public scrutiny of the family, their business and how they took care of the dogs they loved put an enormous amount of stress on their lives.

"This is just the accumulation of everything that has happened to them over the last year and a half,” Farris said. "The financial, emotional and physical stress of the court battles that continue today has been overwhelming for every member in the family. The overwhelming negative pressures and harassments by several animal rights groups contributed to this tragic event.”


Wilson County sheriff’s deputies executed a search warrant nearly a year ago at the couple’s Evansdale Road home and seized 28 dogs. Both were charged with several counts each of misdemeanor cruelty to animals. Those charges were eventually dropped when a judge ruled the search warrant executed in the raid to be invalid.

But the family faced more legal troubles. The Great Dane Rescue Alliance filed a civil suit against the Williamses. The group wanted a judge to terminate the couple’s ownership rights of the dogs seized. After hearings, testimony and a preliminary injunction granted to the rescue group in November, the parties involved reached an agreement. The Williamses were able to reclaim one of the 28 dogs deputies had seized, a Doberman pinscher.

But the damage had already been done to the couple’s business, Farris has said. The rescue groups had claimed the couple was running a puppy mill. Farris so strongly rejected that claim, he accused the dog rescue groups of slander in legal action he took on behalf of the couple.

While the Williamses received an undisclosed amount of money from the dog rescue group, Farris has said the settlement amount wasn’t insignificant.

The couple faced an additional lawsuit in Wake County. Raleigh attorneys William and Cathryn Little sued the couple for nearly $3,000 and legal fees after a Great Dane puppy they bought from the Williamses in March 2012 was diagnosed with parvovirus a week after the sale. The Williamses contended that the puppy contracted parvo after they sold it to the couple. The case, which Farris is handling, is still active.

"They believed there were groups that were still out to get them and targeting them as a result of past litigation,” Farris said. "When the sheriff’s department executed a search warrant (in August 2012), it started a complete unraveling of their family and their lives.”


The family moved away from Wilson County to start their lives over, Farris said.

"They ended up coming back to Nashville to stay with family because of financial constraints,” he said.

Williams’s wife, Cindy, was running errands on Monday when she got a call from her sister-in-law who told her the smoke detector at the Lumber Street duplex was going off, Farris said.

"When she (Cindy) got back, she was trying to get into the house but couldn’t get in,” Farris said. "That’s been the hardest part for her.”

Farris said the women couldn’t get in the front door and headed to the back door. They were trying to save Joseph Williams and his son from the fire, Farris said.

Farris said Cindy Williams is devastated over the loss of her husband and child.

"She’s a really strong woman, but she is torn out of the frame as any mother or wife would be,” he said.

Farris said Joe Williams never said anything cross.

"He was always a gentle man,” Farris said. "Everyone who knew Joe knew he was a good man of strong faith. They are devastated by the loss of him and Bobby. Bobby was a strong boy who really loved his family and contributed greatly to his family structure.”

Williams, who was on disability due to health problems, thought it would be better to stop the disability payments so he could provide more financial support to his wife and children, who were struggling to make ends meet, Farris said.

"His checks were small,” Farris said. "But he was trying his hardest to get re-licensed for refrigerator repair so he could support his family.”

Farris added that Williams had an "extreme concern” over his family and children.


The children, including Bobby, were traumatized by the sheriff’s office raid and had been in counseling as a result of the public and personal "scrutiny” on the family’s lives, Farris said.

In an April interview with The Wilson Times, Farris said Bobby was especially affected by the sheriff’s office raid on the family’s home last year.

"Their kids had to go to counseling, because there were two deputies standing outside one of their kids’ doors with their hands on their guns when they did the search,” Farris previously said. "One of the kids was traumatized by that. He locked himself in the room and would not come to the door and would not come out of there because he didn’t know who the heck was out there even though they were yelling, ‘Sheriff!’ He did not trust that.”


Williams stopped by Farris’s downtown Wilson office this past Thursday just to say hello.

"He talked about coaching football, supporting his family,” Farris said. "He checked on me and my family.”

Williams also gave Farris a card and hat from a recent military mission to Guam his older son had been on. Farris said the tragedy has taken a toll on his office staff as well.

"Everyone here was familiar with the family,” he said.

Farris said he became close with the Williamses over the past year. He even has a picture of Bobby smiling with his dogs hanging up in his office.

"When you go through the amount of litigation we’ve gone through, it becomes hard not to form a friendship,” Farris said. "I definitely consider them to be a part of the family at our office.”


Farris has spoken out previously about the family and how the raid and legal challenges changed their lives.

"My folks are still mad,” Farris previously said after the settlement was reached. "I’m sure the other side is, too. The Humane Society of North Carolina ditched this once they saw we were fighting. Once they realized we were putting up a fight, they left Great Dane Alliance holding the bag, this tiny little organization.”

"They can go in, take somebody’s animals, say they incurred all these bills and then just take off, and that’s what they do sometimes,” Farris said. "The breeding facility operated by the Williams family in 2012 had been approved both by the American Kennel Club and the local sheriff’s office prior to the illegal search of their property, which resulted in the illegal seizure of their animals in August of 2012.”

And the couple’s reputation was damaged, he said.

He said Cindy Williams really loves animals. She and her husband originally went into the business as rescuers, he said, and later became breeders.

Joe and Cindy Williams both stated in affidavits that they had previously allowed deputies to come to their home over a period of time and inspect their dog kennel and "followed every recommendation” deputies had given them.

The couple previously made more than $15,000 in improvements and changes to their kennel and property based upon those recommendations, according to a previous motion.

"When they first voluntarily gave up animals, a lot of the animals were rescue,” Farris said.

Farris said he believes that some groups’ goal was to put them out of business.


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