LARGO — A jury spent more than seven hours Thursday deliberating in the murder case of Ronald Earl Williams, who was recorded on his wife's cell phone while stabbing her to death.
The jury had not reached a verdict by late Thursday night. Their hang-up likely was not over whether Williams killed his wife, but whether he was guilty of first- or second-degree murder.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Williams could face the death penalty. A second-degree murder conviction would bring a maximum sentence of life in prison.
During the 2007 killing, Williams' cell phone somehow called his wife's cell phone, which went to voice mail and provided a chilling recording of the crime. Williams can be heard saying he is going to kill his wife, Mariama, followed by her horrific screams and pleading.
Assistant Public Defender Kandice Friesen admitted Williams killed her, but said it was done "in the heat of passion" after she acknowledged cheating on him, meaning it was not premeditated, first-degree murder.
"He lost it. He snapped," she said.
Assistant State Attorney Walter Manning urged jurors to "listen to how calm that voice was when he said 'listen up, listen up, I'm fixing to kill your black a-- tonight.' That's premeditation."
Jurors asked questions that focused on the differences between first- and second-degree murder.
The cell phone not only recorded Mariama Williams screaming and pleading for her life, but also, Manning said, the voice of the Williams' 2-year-old daughter saying "please, Daddy, please stop it." Williams had put her in a back room in their St. Petersburg house before the killing.
Manning also pointed out that Mariama Williams suffered 27 stab wounds, 17 of which would have been fatal alone. Ronald Williams left the knife buried to the hilt in her chest.