A Florida woman facing felony charges after her daughter was found dead in November pleaded not guilty during a court appearance on Wednesday morning.
According to First Coast News, Brianna Williams, who served as a Petty Officer 1st Class at NAS Jacksonville, entered a Duval County courtroom with her hands and ankles shackled, to face felony charges of child neglect and lying to law enforcement officers.
Williams, who was only in the courtroom for a few minutes pleaded not guilty but said nothing else.
Williams wore a red jumpsuit to the court hearing, which, according to the outlet, means that she is on watch at the Duval County Jail for possible self-harm.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, authorities found Williams’ daughter, 5-year-old Taylor Williams, deceased in Demopolis, Alabama, in mid-November. Her remains were located in a wooded area off of County Road 55 off Highway 28 in Marengo County. Brianna Williams, who lives in Jacksonville, Florida, is from the Demopolis area.
Williams previously told police she last saw Taylor in her bedroom at around midnight on November 6, in their Brentwood, Florida, home. She said that by morning, an exterior door had been opened and Taylor had disappeared.
Williams initially cooperated with investigators. Authorities said she stopped cooperating when they informed her that her story didn’t add up.
“We were talking to her about some inconsistencies in her statement and that’s when she chose to stop cooperating with us,” Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams previously said.
Williams lived in an apartment at SouthSide Villas in Jacksonville until early November, when she moved to a home off of Ivy Drive in Brentwood. She reported Taylor missing after moving to the new home, yet the last known sighting of Taylor was on May 21, 2019.
An arrest affidavit indicated a neighbor spotted Taylor wandering home alone several times in April, at the Southside Villas complex. The neighbor, who was home during the day and worked night shifts, said Taylor would wave to him from the sliding glass door in her apartment. She always had on the same pajamas each time, the neighbor told police.
The neighbor said Williams wouldn’t come until 8 or 9 p.m., carrying food that appeared to be for one person.
On April 17, the same neighbor spotted Taylor alone, again in the same pajamas, holding a doll while walking up and down the breezeway stairs at the apartment.
“Hey sweetie, what are you doing?” the neighbor said.
“Looking for my momma,” Taylor replied.
The neighbor said he walked Taylor back to her apartment and noticed it was filthy, with boxes stacked up and bags of trash inside.
When Williams learned that authorities had located Taylor’s remains, she reportedly tried to take her own life. She spent several days in a medically-induced coma. After recovering, authorities took her to the Duval County Jail, where she remains on a $1 million bond.
First Coast News spoke with crime analyst Mark Baughman, who indicated that authorities haven’t upgraded charges against Williams because they likely want the case airtight.
“This is a high profile case,” Baughman told the outlet. “There’s no need to hurry up and charge her until you get all the evidence in place. The evidence is critical to have in a capital case, typically if that’s what you’re going to charge her with if you’re going to charge her with some type of premeditation or murder.
“In some high profile cases, like Casey Anthony’s case, some would say they were too quick to charge her and thus she ended up being acquitted.”
Authorities are also still waiting on forensic results. So far, Taylor’s cause of death has not been released. Baughman said the delay could be because the little girl’s body had deteriorated significantly by the time she was found. It’s more difficult to determine the official cause of death once body is badly decomposed.
“There’s a lot of things that take time in a case like that and we want to make sure we get it right,” Williams said. “Sometimes you only get one bite of the apple in something like this and we have to make sure we have all of our ducks in a row.”
Williams’ pretrial hearing is scheduled for February 4. Check back for updates.
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[Feature Photo: Taylor Williams/Handout]