Saturday, January 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Witnesses describe how Bucs' Mike Williams was stabbed

TAMPA — Just minutes earlier, Clermon Vaughn had shaken the hand of Bucs receiver Mike Williams, who smiled and thanked him and his cousin for cleaning the carpets in Williams' Avila home on Sunday afternoon.

"Next thing I know," Vaughn said, Williams and his younger brother, Eric Baylor, were arguing loudly in the foyer, then physically fighting. Then he thought Baylor had punched Williams, until he saw the small knife — "a paring knife, maybe three-four inches from the handle, like you'd cut an apple with," he would recall — fall out of Baylor's hand and onto the floor.

"It went in him pretty good, I believe, from the amount of blood that was shooting everywhere," said Vaughn, who said Williams yelled to him to "call the ambulance and call the police."

Williams, 26, was rushed outside the home, and a friend who had been hanging out at the house took off his belt to apply a makeshift tourniquet to Williams' left leg. The knife had punctured him in the thigh, just above the knee. Vaughn ran to his truck for a first-aid kit and towels to apply pressure.

"We pressed down hard on it until the ambulance got there," said Vaughn, 39, who had never encountered such an emergency in 14 years of cleaning carpets.

• • •

William Carter, also 39 and cleaning the carpets with Vaughn, guesses it was 10, at most 15 minutes from when Williams arrived home, smiling, and when things got violent with his brother. Others in the house, at least a half-dozen, had been watching college basketball downstairs — it would have been during the second half of the University of Kentucky's upset of Wichita State University.

"They were arguing. Mike was mad, and they got into it," said Carter, who said Baylor had damaged a Bentley automobile that belonged to Williams, the back window knocked out. "Mike wasn't the aggressor, but I guess he was a little upset about that and he told him to get out."

Vaughn said the argument had escalated quickly. "He didn't come in the house upset," he said. "The mood wasn't that something was about to happen."

"There was hollering," he said. "For a long time, they were talking back and forth to each other. Next thing I know, I see the man's hand come out and stab him in the leg."

Police arrived quickly, and asked everyone from the house to go across the street, treating the house as a crime scene. Baylor, 23, was with the carpet cleaners when they went across the street. "He went walking down the street and left," Vaughn said. Baylor turned himself into police 29 hours later on a warrant and is facing a felony charge of aggravated battery/domestic violence.

Vaughn said in the moments after the stabbing and before police arrived, Baylor was on the phone, looking nervous, panicked and remorseful.

"Just pacing back and forth, like he didn't want to do what he did," Vaughn said. "The look in his face was a panic (like): I can't believe I just did this to my brother."

• • •

The noise from the argument in the foyer, then the sudden panic around Williams was frightening enough that Lana Sutmaier, a 61-year-old maid cleaning in the back of Williams' home, didn't want to go any closer.

"All I heard was a lot of yelling, screaming at each other," Sutmaier said. "I thought 'Whoa. Something's going on, but I'm not going out there to check.' They were screaming and swearing, a lot of swearing, yelling real loud. I could hear it over the carpet cleaners."

Sutmaier remained in the back of the house until police found her as they swept the house. She was still frustrated two days later and unsure why Williams would allow such a commotion into his gated community.

"I wonder why he's letting these people come into Avila. He has to allow them to come through the gate," she said. "I think he's just not expecting them to cause trouble. I don't think he's thinking about that. He's assuming people will be respectful."

Williams had told police that the stabbing was "accidental," but Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office investigators confirmed Tuesday that their findings — from interviewing witnesses and taking evidence from the home — were that the two were "in a physical altercation" and that Baylor "obtained a knife and intentionally stabbed" his brother.

Baylor was released on $1,000 bail Tuesday evening from Orient Road Jail. He was ordered not to have contact with Williams, nor with the witnesses to the stabbing.

Those witnesses — friends, carpet cleaners, the maid and a limo driver who had pulled up moments earlier — were held by police for as much as five hours, sitting outside on the lawn while each was interviewed. For much of that time, witnesses didn't know if Williams was okay.

"The sheriff started asking if he had any family in the area," Sutmaier said. "Oh, my god, when they started asking for family, you get nervous, not knowing how serious the injury really was."

Carter said he and Vaughn were never compensated and lost other scheduled jobs while they were detained. "It was kind of surprising, for this to happen when you're cleaning carpets," he said.

Times staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report.

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