HONOLULU — A former Hawaii-based solider accused of killing his 5-year-old daughter started to cry from the witness stand and reached for tissues when his defense attorney asked him if he was ready to talk about what happened.
But Naeem Williams didn’t yet say much about what led to the girl’s beating death in 2005. He started testifying Tuesday in his capital murder trial. He’s being tried in federal court, which allows for him to face the death penalty even though Hawaii doesn’t have capital punishment.
Williams said he sought custody of his daughter Talia out of a sense of obligation after his grandmother grew too ill to continue caring for her in South Carolina. He said that before he got custody of Talia, he had never fed a child or spent any significant time alone with a child.
His mother “made it sound like it was my responsibility to take care of Talia,” he said.
When asked if he was prepared for the responsibility of raising a child, he responded, “at the time, I thought I was ready.”
Prosecutors say Talia suffered months of abuse at the hands of her father and stepmother during the seven months the child lived with them. But they say that it was Williams who dealt a fatal blow so hard that it left knuckle impressions on the child’s chest.
Williams said that when Talia came to live with him and his wife, Delilah Williams, in Hawaii, the couple’s relationship was growing rocky. He said the couple fought about issues including money, his drinking and his infidelity.
His testimony is expected to resume Wednesday.
The prosecution’s final witness, the medical examiner who conducted Talia’s autopsy, completed her testimony last week. Dr. Kanthi De Alwis said Talia had a multitude of fresh and healing injuries including a dislocated shoulder and fractured ribs.