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Man arrested in murder of ex-wife as she slept at Gibsonton home

TAMPA — Locked doors didn't keep him away, records show. Neither did break-ups nor injunctions.

Deputies announced Wednesday they had captured Egan Atkins, wanted in the murder of his ex-wife in Gibsonton. They say he climbed through a ground-floor window early Monday and stabbed Nicole Williams with a kitchen knife as she slept.

It wasn't the first time he had been accused of attacking an ex.

In 1999, a Sheriff's Office report shows, he sneaked into an estranged wife's apartment. He waited in the shower — for how long, it's unclear. But when Annette Eberhart walked in the room, he sprang.

He took her to the ground and in the struggle, pulled out an earring and one of her braids, the report shows.

Prosecutors charged Atkins with battery but dropped it the next month. Eberhart declined to comment Wednesday, and the State Attorney's Office couldn't elaborate because the file has been destroyed.

On Wednesday, a judge denied bail for Atkins, 34, who after being on the run for about 38 hours was arrested Tuesday evening at a home in the 2000 block of Anthony Street in the East Lake-Orient area.

He faces a charge of first-degree murder.

Deputies say they aren't charging the occupants of the little blue duplex where they found Atkins because they weren't aiding him.

One of Atkins' former girlfriends — the mother of one of his 10 children — lives there with her mother, Effie Crawley, 73.

Crawley said Atkins became homeless after Williams kicked him out, and he had nowhere else to go. She said Atkins seemed disoriented and confused after the stabbing and had planned to turn himself in before deputies arrived on a tip.

"He's a good person," she said Wednesday. "He tries to support his children. He just has an anger problem and gets jealous with the women he trusted."

Atkins' mother, Patricia Atkins, says she feels like she's living in a dream. She calls her son "sweet" and said he was always the victim of women's violence, not the perpetrator.

She believes he was framed.

"I just can't put it together," she said in a phone interview. "I don't think my child did this."

Williams' family declined comment.

Court records show that Williams filed for divorce two months ago, after about seven years of marriage. The file is sparse and standard. Williams simply checked a box stating the marriage was "irretrievably broken."

But other court documents paint a picture of broken relationships and violence allegations that have followed Atkins for most of his 18 years in the United States.

He came to Florida from Jamaica when he was 16 years old, his mother said. She was already living in Tampa with her eldest son and wanted Egan to join them.

He met his first girlfriend that year, a woman named Jennifer Gadson, his mother said. But that relationship also ended in accusations of violence.

In 1996, a judge granted Gadson a protective order against Atkins. When he stopped by to see his child the next month despite the injunction, Gadson called police.

She told the officer that Atkins had tried to break into her apartment a couple of times since the injunction was served, a police report states. She said she had been scared to stay there because of him.

Atkins pleaded guilty to violating a domestic violence injunction and was sentenced to six months in jail, state records show.

Over the next decade, Atkins battled criminal charges including auto theft, battery, stalking, armed burglary and violation of domestic violence injunctions.

He never went to prison, though. Through plea deals and dropped charges, he always avoided significant jail time.

Times news researcher John Martin and staff writers Marissa Lang and Danny Valentine contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or jvandervelde@sptimes.com.

Man arrested in murder of ex-wife as she slept at Gibsonton home 07/06/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 10:39pm]
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