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Escaped Tennessee fugitive facing child sex abuse charges caught in Pinellas

Pinellas deputies captured Sean Williams, 52, in Largo on Tuesday.
 
Sean Christopher Williams, 52, is pictured after Pinellas deputies arrested him in Largo on Tuesday, Nov. 21 Williams was a fugitive who'd been on the run for more than a month after escaping a transport van while being moved from a detention facility in Kentucky to the federal courthouse in Greeneville, Tenn. He was in federal custody for three counts of production of child sexual abuse material and one count of distribution of cocaine, and also faces several state charges in Tennessee.
Sean Christopher Williams, 52, is pictured after Pinellas deputies arrested him in Largo on Tuesday, Nov. 21 Williams was a fugitive who'd been on the run for more than a month after escaping a transport van while being moved from a detention facility in Kentucky to the federal courthouse in Greeneville, Tenn. He was in federal custody for three counts of production of child sexual abuse material and one count of distribution of cocaine, and also faces several state charges in Tennessee. [ Tennessee Bureau of Investigation ]
Published Nov. 22, 2023|Updated Nov. 22, 2023

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office deputies on Tuesday arrested a man who’d been on the run for more than a month after he escaped federal custody in Tennessee, where he faced a number of charges including child sexual abuse.

Sean Christopher Williams, 52, was taken into custody Tuesday night in Largo. He escaped a transport van while he was being moved from a detention facility in Kentucky to a federal courthouse in Greenville, Tennessee, in October. Williams was in custody for three counts of production of child sexual abuse material and one count of distribution of cocaine, according to federal agents. He also is facing several state charges in Tennessee.

According to agents, Williams was last seen several blocks from the courthouse in Greenville, when he had asked a resident to borrow a phone. A warrant for his arrest was issued on Oct. 18.

Sean Williams, 52, is pictured in an FBI wanted poster. Pinellas deputies arrested Williams in Largo on Tuesday.
Sean Williams, 52, is pictured in an FBI wanted poster. Pinellas deputies arrested Williams in Largo on Tuesday. [ FBI ]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Friday that Williams had been spotted in the western North Carolina mountain town of Sylva.

Then, on Tuesday afternoon, the FBI Tampa office posted on social media seeking the public’s help to locate Williams. According to the post, Williams was last seen in Pinellas County.

In a post to social media Tuesday night, the FBI Knoxville office confirmed Williams’ arrest and said he was “apprehended without incident after being tracked down by a K-9 Officer and his partner.”

At about 9 p.m., Pinellas deputies responded to a 7-Eleven store at 11505 Walsingham Road in Largo for a suspicious person call, according to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office said Williams was taken into custody but did not provide further details on the arrest.

Sean Williams, 52, is pictured in a Pinellas County booking photo after Pinellas deputies arrested him in Largo on Tuesday night.
Sean Williams, 52, is pictured in a Pinellas County booking photo after Pinellas deputies arrested him in Largo on Tuesday night. [ Pinellas County Sheriff's Office ]

The sheriff’s office referred questions from the Tampa Bay Times to the FBI. A spokesperson for the FBI’s Tampa office referred the Times to the FBI’s Knoxville office. A spokesperson for that office said no additional details were available beyond what the office has released.

In September, a federal grand jury in Greeneville indicted Williams on three counts related to “producing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Tennessee. If convicted on those charges, Williams would face a mandatory 15 years in prison and up to 30 years in prison on each indictment count.

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Williams is facing other charges beyond those listed in the indictment. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, he was wanted on two counts of rape of a child, 16 counts of aggravated sex exploitation of a minor and three counts of aggravated sexual battery on a person younger than 13.

In addition to the indictment, Williams is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting more than 50 unconscious women, according to reporting from The Tennessean.

The city of Johnson City, Tennessee — where the alleged crimes took place — is facing two lawsuits. One comes from a former federal prosecutor who alleges police ignored her calls to investigate and arrest Williams. The other lawsuit was filed by nearly a dozen Jane Does who say police failed to investigate complaints from Williams’ victims and dissuaded them from pursuing charges, according to the Tennessean.

The city hired an outside auditing firm that found Johnson City officers failed to adequately investigate sexual assault cases, collect evidence, interview suspects and make arrests due, in part, to “misconceptions and stereotypes about women and victims of sexual assault,” the Tennessean reported.

Williams remained in the Pinellas County jail Wednesday morning and was being held for the United States Marshals Service, jail records show.