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Telling the jury she may get her “butt whooped” procedurally, a murder suspect who is defending herself in Lucas County Common Pleas Court said she still was intent on proving her innocence.
“I’m not an attorney. I’m not going to pretend to be one,” Melody Williams said during opening statements Monday afternoon. “I won’t be grandstanding or using fancy words. But what I am is innocent.”
Ms. Williams, 49, is charged with aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated arson, and two counts of tampering with evidence stemming from the July 4, 2011 shooting death of L.C. Lyons, Jr., whose body was found inside his burning home.
Jennifer Donovan, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, told the jury in her opening statement that firefighters arriving at Mr. Lyons’ home at 5128 Inland Dr. in Sylvania Township found him naked, lying in his bed in a pool of blood. He had been shot once in the head, and an autopsy would show that he was shot to death before the fire was set, she said.
Ms. Donovan laid out a string of evidence that she said ties Ms. Williams to the crimes.
Mr. Lyons’ car was found near her 14th Street home two days later. Green-tipped Diamond matches found at the fire scene also were located in the car and at Ms. Williams’ home. A custom-made lion’s head pendant that belonged to the victim was in her possession and later pawned in Detroit by her ex-husband.
“The state would indicate to you that Melody Williams was one of L.C.’s girlfriends,” Ms. Donovan said. “The evidence will show beyond a reasonable doubt that Melody Williams is the one that ended L.C.’s life.”
Ms. Donovan said a cousin of Ms. Williams will testify that she arrived at his house about 5 a.m. the day of the murder “nervous” and “panicking” with a bag of jewelry that included the lion’s head pendant, a 9-ounce bag of cocaine, and a gun she said she needed to get rid of.
He will testify, she said, that they went to the victim’s Inland Drive home where Ms. Williams went inside, came out 15 minutes later smelling of lighter fluid, and drove off in a hurry.
Ms. Donovan said her cousin also will testify that Ms. Williams then got rid of the gun in a location he suggested.
While it is highly unusual for defendants to represent themselves in a serious criminal case, Ms. Williams chose to fire her court-appointed attorney in December and represent herself.
Dressed in a black dress, charcoal gray blazer, and high-heeled shoes, she asked only a few questions during the jury selection process, which consumed the morning and lasted until 2:40 p.m. She introduced herself during opening statements as a mother and grandmother, a former Jeep worker, and community organizer who worked on the campaign to save the South Toledo YMCA.
“I probably will get my butt whooped throughout this whole entire trial procedurally, but I’m confident in my innocence,” she told the jury.
Ms. Williams said she believes she was set up and plans to prove others had “more motive and more access” than she had to commit the crimes.
The trial is to resume at 8:30 a.m. with jurors scheduled to visit the scene of the murder and other locations pertinent to the case.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.