A Georgia man who held his 10-year-old autistic son under water until he died could now spend the rest of his life behind bars, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Jurors on Friday convicted 44-year-old Leon Williams of murder in connection with the drowning death of his child last year in their Decatur apartment.
Williams was reportedly angry with his son, Kentae, for misbehaving at school – so much so that a neighbor allegedly heard Williams tell Kentae before the incident that he was “going to die tonight.”
Defense attorney Daryl Queen argued the child’s death was accidental. While Williams admitted to holding the boy under water, Queen said Williams was only trying to punish him and not kill him.
Queen said Williams had adopted to the boy just months before the killing to fill a “void.” Kentae, who had long been in the state’s custody, had various mental and communication challenges.
Williams lied to investigators repeatedly and initially attempted to blame the boy for his own death, alleging that he was “self-harming.”
But Williams eventually acknowledged to police that he held Kentae under water and also had hit him with a belt.
When police asked Williams whether he burned the boy’s feet with hot water, he denied the accusation. Officers said they didn’t believe him.
Video of investigators interviewing Williams ends with him crying and saying, “I don’t want to go to jail.”
There were allegations that Kentae was being mistreated before he died, but the state’s child welfare agency failed to properly investigate. Three of the agency’s workers were subsequently fired after his death, the newspaper reports.
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 3. Williams could be imprisoned 47 years to life without parole.