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Rapist, murder suspect dies of AIDS

Published Oct. 7, 2005

A convicted rapist suspected of killing 32 Dade County women during the 1980s has died of AIDS while waiting to stand trial for the only one of the slayings police got enough hard evidence to charge him with.

Charles Henry Williams, 38, died at 7 a.m. Friday at Jackson Memorial Hospital's jail ward. He had been hospitalized since Aug. 27.

In April 1989, police arrested Williams on two unrelated rape charges and possession of drug paraphernalia. In 1990, he was convicted of one count of rape and was serving a 40-year sentence at the time of his death.

Williams' death came just 10 days before he was to have been tried for the 1984 rape and murder of 19-year-old Patricia Johnson, whose partly clothed body was found in a vacant lot near Williams' mother's home in Miami's Overtown neighborhood.

Using DNA matching on crime-scene evidence that had been misplaced for three years, police finally charged Williams in 1992 with Johnson's death.

The evidence was misplaced when pathologists reclassified all the cases of partly-clothed women found dead with their legs apart. Authorities wouldn't pursue the Johnson case or others Williams was suspected of without the evidence, even though witnesses had seen him with six of the victims shortly before they disappeared.

Also, four of the women were killed near the Williams family home in Overtown; a fifth was a neighbor. Four others died in a north Dade County prostitution zone where Williams used to hang out. Two other women were slain in the Brownsville neighborhood, where Williams was known to go, police say.

Police thought Williams raped and choked all 32 of the women, who ranged in age from 14 to 36, between 1980 and 1989.

Assistant State Attorney Susan Dannelly, who was to have prosecuted Williams in Johnson's murder beginning Oct. 3, called his untimely death an "absence of justice."

"I think in a way he cheated everybody. The families of the victims will never really know for sure," Dannelly said. "He would have gone to the electric chair _ that I am sure of."