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It took less than 90 minutes Friday for a jury to find a central Toledo woman who represented herself on murder charges guilty on all counts.
Melody Williams, 49, remained calm and showed no reaction as the verdicts were read in Lucas County Common Pleas court just after 2 p.m. She was found guilty of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated arson, and two counts of tampering with evidence in the July 4, 2011, death of L.C. Lyons, Jr., 59.
Sylvania Township firefighters found his naked body with a single bullet to the head in his bed when they responded to a fire at his Inland Drive home.
“I feel today that justice was finally done,” said Vanessa Randolph of Missouri, the victim’s younger sister. “After 12 months, we finally got justice for L.C. today.
“I remember things every day about him: his caring ways, the things that he tried to do for other people. He really was a good man. I won’t say he was a saint, but he had a good heart,” she continued. “... It’s been very hard for my mother. It’s been very hard since July 4, 2011. And today, I felt like we finally could put some closure to it once and for all.”
Lamont Brown, 47, of Atlanta, the victim’s brother, said the family was satisfied with the verdict.
“When something like this happens, it brings you closer to God,” he said. “And it just brought me closer to God, and it made me aware of and love the family members that I have left and love them more.”
Williams’ mother cried out when the verdicts were read. Family members refused to comment afterward.
Judge Ruth Ann Franks scheduled sentencing for 10:30 a.m. Monday. Ian English, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, said Williams faces 20 years to life without parole on the aggravated murder charge, 10 years each on the aggravated robbery and aggravated arson charges, three years on two gun specifications, and three years on each of the two tampering charges.
Shaun Enright, a recent appointee to Toledo City Council, was among the 12 jurors who reached the swift verdict. He said afterward that the group did not re-examine the physical evidence submitted in the case but sat down and talked. It didn’t take long, he said, for everyone to agree on her guilt.
“I think the state did a great job of showing her to be the only possible person who did it,” he said. “It was pretty clear.”
While Williams said repeatedly during closing arguments that prosecutors had “not an ounce of real evidence” against her, Mr. Enright said the lack of DNA and fingerprints didn’t play into the jury’s decision, in part because investigators testified they could not even find the victim’s fingerprints and DNA in his own house because of the fire Williams set after killing him.
Mr. Enright also said a key witness, Williams’ cousin, Justin Westley, was believable despite Williams’ claims to the contrary.
Westley testified that Williams came to his house early on the morning of the murder with a bag of jewelry, cocaine, and a gun she told him she wanted to get rid of. Westley said the two of them drove in Mr. Lyons’ car to the Inland Drive home, where Williams went inside and returned smelling of lighter fluid. He said they then drove to the CSX railroad yard, where she threw a .22-caliber handgun off the pier.
“No evidence,” Williams said during the trial. “Just his word.”
Mr. Enright said he found Westley to be a credible witness in part because he was read his Miranda rights before he took the stand — told that the statements he made could be used against him.
“That kind of sealed it all up for me,” he said.
Mr. English told the jury in his closing argument that Williams had plenty of motive: She needed money and Mr. Lyons had it.
“She saw him as a john. She saw him as a trick,” Mr. English said. “He had. She wanted. He gave little. She took a lot.”
Mr. English said a series of text messages and cell-phone calls left a trail directly to Williams.
A crucial piece of evidence — a diamond-studded lion’s-head necklace custom-made for Mr. Lyons — was pawned by Williams’ ex-husband in Detroit for $1,100 two days after the murder.
“This is better than a fingerprint,” Mr. English said, displaying the pendant before the jury. “It’s the greed. That’s the problem. That’s why she got caught.”
Staff writer Mike Sigov contributed to this report.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.