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SNORTH WOOD TRAGEDY The Michigan Daily - Wednesday September 24, 1997 -
Murder alarms students, sparks parental ears
By Katie Plona
and Heather Wiggin
Daily Staff Reporters
For those who called Tamara Williams a
friend, an employee or a student, and even for
those who didn't know her, the LSA senior's
death early yesterday morning can only be
described as shocking.
"To have overcome so much and struggled
so hard, it's a shame," said Dwight Fontenot,
assistant director of advising for the
Comprehensive Studies Program, a program
in which Williams participated since her first
year at the University.
Fontenot said Williams' death was not only
unfortunate, but shocking, especially since
she was able to balance academic pursuits
while raising her young daughter.
Staff members in the CSP office held a
gathering at 4 p.m. yesterday to disseminate
information and to begin the grieving process
together, Fontenot said.
Meanwhile, as the news of Williams' death
spread through the national media yesterday,
some students received phone calls from their
parents who wanted reassurance of their chil-
"My father called me this afternoon and lie
was really concerned about my safety" said
LSA senior Nancy Roth. "I think a parent is
going to be concerned if something happens."
Like many other parents whose children
attend the University, Roth's father was curi-
ous about yesterday's incident and the overall
campus reaction, Roth said.
LSA senior Lauren Kantor also received a
phone call yesterday morning from her con-
cerned mother, who lives in New York.
Kantor's mother notified her about the deaths.
"I think people need to be more cautious
now, but security was there," Kantor said.
And students continued to mourn through-
out the afternoon and evening as news made
its way across campus.
Nissa Landman, one of Williams' co-work-
ers at the LSA Media Services Office, said
Williams' death is sad because the young
woman was on the verge of pursuing future
"She was very excited about graduating
soon," said Landman, an LSA Media Services
receptionist. "She was young. Nobody's ready
for that kind of loss."
While she did not know Williams well,
Landman said the two discussed topics such
as Williams' resume and other professional
Some students expressed deep shock that
such a violent act was committed at the
University, a setting perceived as very peace-
ful and safe. As a resident of Bursley resi-
dence hall, Engineering senior McAllister
Daniel said he was taken aback after finding
out that the incident occurred so close to
familiar University surroundings.
"You think of this town as one of the safest
towns," Daniel said. "Maybe this town isn't as
safe asI thought it was."
LSA sophomore Ayesha Hardison said the
killing has not made her concerned about her
personal safety. "If it was a random thing. It
might increase fear," Hardison said. "It makes
you think about domestic violence."
Law School student Carly Pummell said
she was unaware of the deaths until talking to
a friend. "I just have never heard of anything
like that happening here while I'm here,"
Pummell said. "It's just one of those things
you don't expect."
Some students pointed out that while tragic
incidents occur on campuses nationwide, they
were unaware that sometimes they involve
incidents of domestic violence.
"This is the first time I feel like reality ha's
set in (at the University)," said LSA sopho-
more Juhee Kim. "It seems more common
that someone would die of an overdose or rape
Most students said the death of Kevin
Nelson, Williams' assailant and boyfriend
who died when a Department of Public Safety
officer shot him twice, did not concern them.
The 26-year-old Nelson was not affiliated
with the University.
"Obviously, I'm shocked," said recent LSA
graduate student Brian Clune. "(The offender)
deserved to be shot. That kind of abuse dqe-
n't deserve to be tolerated."
To many students, the fact that Williams
died at the hands of an abusive boyfriend is
"It doesn't seem like something that waiuld
happen here, that someone would be in that
type of abusive relationship," Kim said:
A neighbor cries after learning of the death of Tamara
abuse, offer a
Daily Staff Reporter
LSA senior Tamara Williams' tragic death at the
1#ands of her boyfriend is not an uncommon end to
4omestic abuse cases.
Deaths resulting from domestic violence occur
nationwide, said a University sexual assault expert.
Sarah Heuser, interim director of the University's
Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center,
said many victims may die after aggravated domestic
"The possibility of lethality always exists with
domestic abuse;' Heuser said. "It's not uncommon to
get to this point."
The signs of domestic abuse, Heuser said, include
intimidation from the abuser and alienation from
family and friends. Many abusers also stalk their vic-
tims at the workplace, she said.
Ii rMichigan a woman is killed every five days as
a result of domestic violence, Heuser said. "In our
society, this is unfortunately common," she said.
FBI statistics state that in 30 percent of all homi-
cides committed against females, the woman's
boyfriend or husband is the murderer.
SAPAC's counseling and advocacy program
eceived 17 reports of dating and domestic violence
*orn June 1996 to June 1997, while its crisis line
received an additional 11 reports during that period.
The domestic violence rate at the University,
Heuser said, follows a nationwide trend.
"On our campus, the rate is consistent with other
campuses that have similar prevention programs,"
Heuser said college and university students are
just as likely to be involved in domestic violence as
non-students. "The risk is equal to other groups,"
ue sesr said.
Teseverity of domestic violence progresses over
Are you in an abusive
Frightened at times by your partner's behavior?
Afraid to disagr e with your partner?
Constantly apologizing for your partner's behav-
ior, especially when you have been treated badly?
Have you been:
Hit, kicked, shoved, thrown down, choked,
grabbed or had things thrown at you?
Forced to have sex or perform any sexual acts
against your will?
Call the SAPAC Crisis line at 9363333.
time, Heuser said.
"This is a pattern that develops over time," Heuser
said. "As time goes on, the abuse gets more fre-
Vanessa Coleman Burns, co-chair of the
Presidential Task force for Violence Against Women,
said that Williams' tragedy violates Ann Arbor's
sense of community.
"The' silence of the women and the community
does not speak of the violence," Burns said. "This is
the result of hopelessness, jealousy and the fear ofthe
empowerment of women in society."
Burns spoke on the issue of violence against
women at yesterday's press conference.
"Keep telling until someone listens if you are con-
trolled or forced into any behavior that you are not
comfortable with," Burns said.
Heuser said the victim's race does not affect
abuse patterns. "Domestic violence is not discrim-
inating. The same statistics go for every race," she
- Daily Staff Reporter Stephanie Hepburn
contributed to this report.
Leo Heatley, director of the Department of Public Service, speaks to reporters this morning at DPS headquarters. At shortly after 12:15 a.m.
Tuesday, a DPS officer fatally shot Kevin Nelson, the boyfriend of LSA senior Tamara Williams outside a family housing unit on North Campus. "
Nelson inCident markfirst tim-eDPS
officer fired weapon while
Letter lamented Nelson's abuse
To: Honorable Judge Timothy Connors
Hello Judge Connors my name is Tamara
Williams. I am the party that pressed charges
against Kevin Nelson who is to be sentenced on
November 2, 1995. I know that the decision on his
**entencing is in your hands but I wanted to express
my concern whether or not you're aware assault
charges have been brought against Kevin many
times before. I also wanted you to know that June
30, 1995 was not the first time that Kevin Nelson
had been abusive toward me. He has hit me many
times before and once he even hit my infant
daughter in his attempt to strike me. My main con-
cern is that every time Kevin Nelson has been in
trouble he has only received a tap on the wrist. He
always uses the accuse (sic) about his head injury
vhich seems to always get him sympathy.
However that head injury didn't keep Kevin
Nelson from knowing right from wrong. I ask that
you take into consideration the fact that Mr.
Nelson has been in trouble for assault before and
that he has been abusive toward me more than
once. I also ask that you not be soft when sentenc-
ing Mr. Nelson because he has got away with so
much by using numerous accuses (sic). I feel that
it's about time for him to say the consequences of
his actions because if not he's going to continue to
o what he likes because he knows he can get
away with it. I hope that you take into considera-
tion the things that I have mentioned in this letter
when you sentence Mr. Nelson. Again I ask that
you please don't be soft when sentencing Kevin
Nelson because he's been tapped on the wrists one
too many times. One would think after going to
court once before for assault that he would learn
this lesson but obviously he didn't. All I ask is that
Kevin Nelson be punished for the abuse he put me
and my daughter through. Thank you.
- The Washtenaw County 15th District Court
received the above letter from Tamara Williams
on Oct. 23, 1995. Kevin Nelson was sentenced for
charges of domestic violence against Williams on
Nov 2, 1995.
By Janet Adamy
Daily Staff Reporter
Yesterday's double homicide marks the
first time a Department of Public Safety
official has fired a gun while on duty.
DPS officers began carrying weapons in
1990 after the University Board of Regents
voted to deputize the department, giving
DPS officers the authority to make arrests
and carry weapons.
"There is a serious liability to the University if
it cannot demonstrate that it has adequate securi-
ty forces," said School of Music Dean Paul
Boylan, who chaired the 1989 Task Force on
Campus Safety and Security. It was this task
force that unanimously concluded that the
University should deputize DPS.
The task force also was concerned that the
Ann Arbor Police Department could not pro-
vide sufficient protection in all areas of the
campus on its own:
"In our discussions with the AAPD, they
were not able to identify any police officer
security in more dangerous parts of the cam-
pus," Boylan said.
The report cited statistics from an Institute
of Social Research study that reported that
two-thirds of survey respondents considered
the campus generally less safe than their res-
idential and hometown neighborhoods.
But, at the time, University students over-
whelmingly opposed the deputization.
Seventy percent of students who voted in the
1990 Michigan Student Assembly elections
voted against deputizing the University's
Then-MSA President Jennifer Kohns said
she opposed the deputization because it
stepped beyond the powers granted to the
regents in their bylaws.
"It allowed the regents bylaws to become
laws that governed the University communi-
ty," Kohns said in an interview yesterday.
Kohns also said she had feared the campus
would be policed by "trigger-happy" officers.
"The fear (was) that the University (was)
going to hire people who couldn't make it
onto a better police force," Kohns said.
DPS spokesperson Elizabeth Hall said the
30 officers who carry weapons go through
"very, very extensive training."
Officers are police academy graduates
with 582 hours of additional training, Hall
said. They go through 14 weeks of field
training and receive 80 hours of additional
training each year. They also go through a
six-week orientation during which they
receive domestic violence training.
The officer involved in yesterday's shoot-
ing has been put on administrative leave,
according to standard DPS policy.
And the other officers are "sticking
together" to comfort one another, seid
Yeshimbra Gray, who joined the campus
police force about three weeks ago.
"Everyone is being real supportive of one
another," Gray said.
Boylan said the task force looked to 1$he
University's peer institutions when decictng
to deputize the force. With the exception of
the University of Iowa, all Big Ten schools'
safety departments have armed officers,
though not all of them are deputized..
Ohio State University Police Chief Ron
Michalec, whose department has been armed
since the turn of the century, said shooting
incidents are uncommon.
"No (OSUPD) officer has ever fired on a
display, nor have they ever hit or shot it a
suspect," Michalec said, adding that OSLI'D
officers draw their firearms once a montlton
Capt. Tony Kleibecker of the Michigan
State University Police Department said it
has been nearly 20 years since an MSUD
officer has fired a weapon while on duty.,
Lt. Larry Johnson, who works at 4he
University of Wisconsin Police and Security
Department, said his department has been
fortunate enough not to have had to fi a
weapon during the past 30 years.
I T TIVENFIR,
Events unsettle quiet neighborhood
By Jodi S. Cohen
Daily Managing News Editor
The laughter of small children that usually is so abundant in the
Northwood apartment complex on North Campus was replaced yes-
terday with tears, shock and grief.
Friends and neighbors of Tamara Sonya Williams, a 20-year-old
LSA senior, wondered how the life of such an "excellent friend" and
a "caring and giving" person could end in such horrific tragedy.
"We are a very close community. I feel safe up here. The kids all
play together," said Chris Baumann, 27, who lives just a few doors
away from Williams. "This is just a tragic, freak event."
A s mediaswarmeda round the red. wnnden anartment hildings.
"We are a very close communit .
I feel safe up here. The kids all
play together. f
- Chris 'Baumarp
While the tragedy struck the Northwood community the har&st,
University students. faculty and staff around the entire camnus were
3;K !! S