Tatum man connected to murder by internet searches complains about defense
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A Tatum man accused in the murder of a Tyler woman is set for trial in March, but in his Thursday hearing, he said he was unsatisfied with his legal representation.
Jesse Williams was arrested in April in connection with the murder of Paula Belonga; an affidavit said that suspicious internet searches led to his capture. In court Thursday afternoon, Williams’ lawyer Kurt Noell said that his client is not cooperating in the case.
“I think he’s written a letter (saying) that I’m supposed to be racist. And it’s my understanding that his dad is trying to talk to another lawyer,” Noell said.
He added, “If I’m going to be the lawyer, then he is going to have to start cooperating and doing what needs to be done.”
Presiding Judge Austin Jackson affirmed that Williams is free to seek new counsel, but reminded him that his deadline is quickly approaching.
“You have the right to hire anybody you want, but you need to get that done because your case is now set for trial on March 4,” Jackson said. “So, if you’re going to hire a lawyer, you need to get that done in the very near future so they have time to prepare.”
Attorney Beverly Melontree attempted to convince Williams to work with his defense one last time before making any decisions.
“Can we have one more chance for you to cooperate with us?” Melontree asked.
Williams replied, “I don’t want to cooperate with you,” before appearing to agree to try one last time to work with the defense.
In the original case, Belonga’s car was found in Rusk County on April 9 after she was reported missing. Williams was reportedly the last person seen with the car. After an investigation finding that Williams appeared to be impersonating Belonga via text and a $1,445 check written to Williams in Belonga’s name, the man was arrested on April 12.
A search of Williams’ phone allegedly revealed a disturbing internet search history:
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Investigators searched the areas noted in Williams’ internet history, but as of Oct. 19, the only reported findings were a necklace and a small bone near a roadside.
Williams is set for additional hearings in December and February before his trial by jury on March 4.
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