Judge denies bond request for Tatum man accused of murder

The judge denied the motion due to Williams’ criminal history.
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 1:28 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A Smith County judge has refused to lower bond for a Tatum man accused of murder.

Jesse Lee Williams, 40, was arrested in April in connection with the murder of Paula Belonga; an affidavit said that suspicious internet searches led to his capture.

On Friday, Williams appeared for a hearing, where the defense presented a motion to lower his bond from $750,000 to $300,000. Williams claimed his family does not have enough to pay, so he requested a PR bond and a monitor.

Judge Austin Jackson denied the motion due to Williams’ criminal history, stating the current bond is reasonable.

“There are also multiple failed IDs, including at least one failure to identify when it appears he had a warrant out, which causes of course the court concern, and based on this totality of the circumstances, I’m going to find the current bond as reasonable and necessary,” Jackson said.

In the original case, Paula Belonga’s car was found in Rusk County on Apr. 9 after she was reported missing. Williams was reportedly the last person seen with the car. Just three days later, he was arrested after an investigation found that Williams appeared to be impersonating Belonga via text and wrote a $1,445 check to himself in Belonga’s name.

His phone was later seized and investigators found internet search results that included “Will hitting a person on the head with a gun kill them?” and “How long does it take for a body to decompose to bones?”

In Williams’ last hearing in October, he claimed he was unsatisfied with his legal representation, saying his court-appointed lawyer, Kurt Noell, was supposedly racist.

But, at Friday’s hearing, it was apparent he has decided to keep his current counsel and is now willing to begin discovery.

“I have never seen a case with a good outcome where the defendant didn’t cooperate with his lawyers. And so, that doesn’t guarantee any particular outcome, but it does mean that whatever comes, you’ll feel better about the outcome if you work with your lawyers,” said Jackson.

Williams’ next hearing has been set for Jan. 19, with trial to begin Mar. 4.

Jesse Lee Williams, 40, was arrested in April in connection with the murder of Paula Belonga.