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Man who raped woman & set her on fire commits suicide in prison

A man convicted of beating, raping and attempting to kill a woman who he set on fire in 1995 was found dead in his prison cell Monday, apparently from suicide, officials said.

Cody Ryan Williams, 41, was convicted after a six-day jury trial of attacking and trying to murder a 25-year-old Tucson woman. He was 18 at the time of his trial, and was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

Williams had already had numerous run-ins with the law despite his young age, and his brother was then serving time in prison for rape. His father brutally murdered his mother when Cody Williams was just two years old.

Williams was convicted of attempted first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping, sexual assault, aggravated assault, arson, and theft by control charges, with the jury taking an hour and 45 minutes to review the seven charges.

"The victim said Williams surprised her in the the night, jumping out of her closet and punching her in the face, demanding gold," a 1995 Tucson Citizen report on the trial said:

She said she gave the intruder $400 but he refused to leave. After tying her up, he tried to force her into her car outside, but instead took her back inside and raped her.

She said she faked unconsciousness, but Williams poured alcohol across her body and bed and then lit her on fire.

The woman's hair was set alight in the attack at her home in Midvale Park, which took pace around 2 a.m., Jan. 25, 1995. Broken glass was scattered on her bed, and she was tied up and forced to lie face-down in it.

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After setting the victim's house on fire, Williams stole the woman's car, abandoning it south of Three Points. He was identified because his fingerprints were found in the vehicle. The victim spent two days in the hospital, and her home and all of her and her mother's belongings were destroyed in the fire.

Monday, Williams was found "alone and unresponsive in his cell" by Arizona Department of Corrections staffers, authorities said. Staff "immediately initiated first aid" and took Williams to a medical facility. He was pronounced dead by Florence Fire personnel and doctors, ADOC said in a news release Tuesday.

The cause of Williams death and any injuries he may have had were not released.

Williams was being held at the Eyman Complex of the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence.

Williams' prison record shows a lengthy list of disciplinary infractions, including repeated major violations for assault with a weapon, fighting, disobeying orders, disorderly conduct, and smuggling contraband, as well as possessing a weapon, drug possession and others.

His record before prison shows years of juvenile trouble with law enforcement, including being committed four times to the Catalina Mountain School.

"Williams had a long juvenile history of crime and came from a crime-plagued family," the Citizen reported in 1995:

At age 11, he got into his first trouble with the law. He was convicted in Juvenile Court of theft under $100 and placed on probation.

Then came arrests for burglary, sexual abuse, marijuana possession and forgery.

He admitted to the sexual abuse charge in return for the dropping of another, unspecified investigation.

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His own mother was murdered by his father, Scott Williams, who is serving a life sentence for stabbing Penny Williams seven times in the throat and head.

Twenty-three years after his younger son was sentenced, Scott Williams, a former welder, remains in prison, in a high security ward of the Arizona State Prison Complex in Phoenix. He was convicted of first-degree murder in his wife's death. He is serving two other life sentences: for stabbing an inmate in 1993 and for a jail riot in 1980.

In 1978, the elder Williams, then 24 years old, beat his ex-wife, 23, with brass knuckles, then stabbed her seven times, leaving her "sprawled across the front seat of a car to bleed to death," another Citizen story said.

"In a final act of viciousness, the woman's killer plunged a thin, steel knife into her temple, leaving her to bleed to death. 'The Bitch' was scrawled in the dust on her car door." 

He was convicted in part because he bragged about killing Penny to his girlfriend. "But he later told a jury that he had made up the story about the slaying to sexually arouse his girlfriend, and that the two would act out the murder as part of their sexual foreplay."

"Although Scott Williams was sent to prison when his sons were very young, they grew up in his shadow, idolizing him and dreaming of someday being just like him," Citizen reporters wrote in 1995.

The two boys frequently visited their father — a member of the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood prison gang — behind bars, the Citizen reported.

"'In a weird way, I think both boys wanted to be with their father at any cost, even if that meant ending up in prison themselves,' said a lawyer who worked with the family," the Citizen reported.

Cody Williams' brother, Dusty Rhodes Williams — who reportedly witnessed his mother's murder — has been sentenced to state prison three times.

The first was for beating and raping a Glendale convenience store clerk in 1992, for which he served six years after being convicted of sexual assault and kidnapping.

"Those involved in Dusty Williams’ case say they are terrified by the rage that boils inside this young man. They believe that when he is unleashed on society in four years, he will strike again. Next time, they fear, he won’t leave witnesses," the Citizen reported.

Dusty, 17 at the time, was living with a foster family in Glendale. He took LSD at a party, which he left after midnight to "get laid."

Half an hour later, he walked into a convenience store and exposed himself to a lone female clerk, who was stocking the soft-drink cooler.

The 21-year-old woman started to back away, but Williams punched her between the eyes, and used both fists to pummel her face until she started to lose consciousness, according to the records. The woman begged him to stop, but he continued to beat her to the ground. He then sexually assaulted the woman with his fist, the records state.

The attack ended when a customer walked in and the victim screamed for help.

A source told the Citizen at the time that the survivor of Dusty Williams' rape looked like his dead mother.

Dusty Williams has been convicted several times on narcotics charges, as well as assault. He served four years, 2004-2008, in state prison, and was sentenced again to eight years on a drug charge in 2014. His prison disciplinary record shows repeated drug infractions and disobeying orders violations, as well as possession of a weapon.

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"I've never seen a father have that much influence on his children," said a lawyer who worked with the family. "His tentacles reached far," the Citizen reported:

Court records and dozens of interviews reveal that abuse and neglect were a part of the Williams family from the time the boys were born.

Jan Whitson, a detective in the Glendale Police Department's sex crimes unit who investigated the rape case against Dusty Williams, said the boys were never nurtured.

"There's documentation that at a very early age, the boys would be crying from hunger, and their mother would toss them a bag of potato chips and leave them on the floor, crying," Whitson said.

She characterized the boys as unbonded and with no social skills.

Others say the children acted outrageously.

One woman who baby sat them before Penny Williams was killed characterized the family as "very bizarre."

"Their father was wacko," said the 31-year-old woman, who asked for anonymity because of fear of retaliation. "There was always just a weird feeling about the family."

"I think the children had a really bad life. They never had any clothes, the home was always filthy, and there was never any food in the house. They didn't even have beds. The boys would sit there and literally bash their heads against the walls and the floor. It was weird."

The former baby sitter said she couldn't control the toddlers.

"They acted like apes," she said. "They didn't play like normal babies. And Dusty must have been 3, but he couldn't say a word.

The woman remembers an incident that sent a chill through the East Side neighborhood.

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Scott Williams came home with a dozen or so live ducks, and let them roam in his back yard.

Neighbors complained about the noise, and Williams was told to remove the ducks. So he decapitated them and mounted their heads on the chain-link fence in front of his house, terrifying children who had to walk by on their way to school, the woman said.

The baby sitter wasn't surprised when Scott Williams was charged with the murder, and isn't surprised at what the sons have been accused of.

A Tucson counselor told the Citizen that it was damaging for the two boys to have been raised, after their father was sentenced, by their paternal grandmother, who was 66 in 1995. Their grandfather died several years before Cody's arrest. They lived in a trailer on a dirt road on the Southwest Side.

"Dusty is a real scary kid,' he said. "And I really got to like Cody, but he was a very disturbed child, a real outcast. I was not surprised when he was arrested. I knew deep down, something terrible was going to happen. I just kept praying and hoping he wouldn't hurt somebody. I just don't think these two can ever be rehabilitated"

Both boys had a great deal of anger, much of it at women, he said. And they reportedly have a deep hatred of minorities. Dusty has a swastika tattooed on his ankle. Cody has "White Pride" tattooed on his arm.

The counselor remembers once when Cody, at 13, was furious at his grandmother. He had a bowel movement and smeared feces on the bathroom walls of her home, the counselor said.

"We create monsters without meaning to," the counselor said. "These kids don’t just fall out of the sky."

The woman who survived the attack and rape by Cody Williams said, before his trial, that she was not angry with him.

"This was something so horrible, so unimaginable, and I realize I could have died," she said in a statement provided to the newspaper. "God was with me while he was attacking me. He could have easily killed me. I feel the mere fact that I didn’t die is a gift from God. God has given me a great peace from within my soul and that is why I am not angry at Cody Williams.’

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3 comments on this story

Aug 22, 2018, 10:43 pm
-0 +1

You’re welcome. And, I made a mistake…raped and ALMOST killed, not raped and killed. Sorry

Aug 22, 2018, 8:00 pm
-0 +2

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and memories, Bret.

Aug 22, 2018, 9:49 am
-0 +3

Thank you for this story, Dylan.

The dirt road that he lived on referred to is South Sparrow Ave. I know this because I lived next door to the Williams family from ‘87-94.

Cody Williams was addicted to committing crime. I always described him saying if feeding the homeless were a crime, he’d instinctively reach for a soup ladle. He was always in stealing from someone of vandalizing something, always committing some kind of crime. More than once he burglarized my home.

Concerning his victim, that poor woman who he raped and killed…I have a couple of thoughts about that.

The first thought, Cody shows us that the Juvenile Justice system needs a complete overhaul. Cody’s criminal history showed us in big red letters that his severely victimizing someone one day was inevitable. The warning signs were not only there, they were LOUD! But, because the juvie system is so broken, sufficient punishment was never provided to Cody for his transgressions in the past. He was taught from an early age that he could do whatever he wanted to whoever he wanted and he would either get a pass, or a slap on the wrist. Odds are great that he took that same mentality into Midvale Park that fateful night.

My second thought is that the death penalty doesn’t go far enough. I went to Cody’s trial. I know what happened. Cody waited for his victim in her closet. When she came home, he emerged and smashed her head in with a jewelry box. He put her face down on the bed, which was strewn with glass from the window he broke to gain entry. He proceeded to rape her. When he was done, he doused her and the surrounding area with rubbing alcohol. He set her on fire, and her house with her still in it. He stole her car and left.

She survived not because Cody showed any restraint, but only because of an incredible stroke of good luck. However, she was left permanently disfigured.

Why do I say the death penalty doesn’t go far enough? Well, in Cody’s case, if we take the exact same details of the crime but change only the fact that his victim miraculously survived, his case would have put him way over the top for the death penalty. His actions were death penalty worthy, and that’s what the focus should be on in cases like Cody’s…not whether or not the victim survived.

At Cody’s trial, like the cited story says, he showed absolutely zero emotion, not just when the verdict was read, but through the whole thing. When his interrogation was played at his trial…that was it. He didn’t confess, but his story was so horribly bad that it was abundantly clear not only that he was lying, but that he put absolute zero thought into any sort of cover story before his interrogation. I am surprised that the jury needed the hour and 45 minutes that they did to come up with a verdict. They should have been back in about 5 minutes.

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