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Woman speaks out after death of son, husband – ‘it was harassment’
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Woman speaks out after death of son, husband – ‘it was harassment’




Cyndi Williams never imagined she would face this kind of pain. The questions are mounting. The answers are elusive.

"I don’t know why,” she said sobbing. "I can’t put it together.”

Police say her husband, 54-year-old Joe Williams, shot their 10-year-old son, Bobby, and himself last week before setting fire to a back bedroom of a Nashville duplex where the family lived.

The loss left Cyndi shocked and horrified. But through the pain, she said she knows she has to be strong for her daughter. She puts her faith and trust in God. Bobby would have told her that, she said.

"I can’t even explain how much I miss my baby boy,” Cyndi said through tears. "I can’t tell you as to why he took him with him. (Joe) was one of the strongest people I knew ... for him to be defeated ... I don’t know. He loved us.”

Autopsies said father and son died from gunshot wounds and severe burns, according to Nashville Police. Joe Williams died on the way to the hospital while Bobby later died at the University of North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill. Williams set the fire to the 239 N. Lumber St. duplex shortly after 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 12, according to police. Nashville Police Chief Thomas Bashore said Friday that the State Bureau of Investigation is still investigating the fire, which could take several weeks.

"I never thought anything like this would happen,” Cyndi said. "My husband was a fighter, and for him to get to this point … to do that … I think he felt so hopeless.”

 

ANIMALS GROUPS, SEIZURE AND LAWSUITS

Wilson County sheriff’s deputies executed a search warrant nearly a year ago at the couple’s Evansdale Road home and seized 28 dogs. Both Cyndi and Joe Williams were charged with several counts each of misdemeanor cruelty to animals. Those charges were eventually dropped when a judge ruled the search warrant executed in the raid was invalid.

But the family faced more legal troubles. The Great Dane Rescue Alliance filed a civil suit against the Williamses. The group wanted a judge to terminate the couple’s ownership rights of the dogs seized. After hearings, testimony and a preliminary injunction granted to the rescue group in November, the parties involved reached an agreement.

The Williamses were able to reclaim one of the 28 dogs deputies had seized, a Doberman pinscher.

But the damage had already been done to the couple’s business, the family has said. The rescue groups had claimed the couple was running a puppy mill. The family’s attorney, Will Farris of Farris & Farris so strongly rejected that claim that he accused the dog rescue groups of slander in legal action he took on behalf of the couple.

While the Williamses received an undisclosed amount of money from the dog rescue group, Farris has said the settlement amount wasn’t insignificant.

The couple faces an additional lawsuit in Wake County. Two Raleigh attorneys sued the couple for nearly $3,000 and legal fees after a Great Dane puppy they bought from the Williamses in March 2012 was diagnosed with parvovirus. The attorneys contended that the puppy contracted parvo after they sold it to the couple. The case, which Farris is handling, is still active.

Farris said the deaths may have been set in motion by the financial and emotional pressure of litigation involving the Williamses’ breeding facility. Farris also said last week that the pressures and harassments by "several animal rights groups contributed” to the tragic event.

 

‘HE KEPT TRYING AND TRYING ...’

The family moved away from Wilson County to start their lives over. But the animal groups pursued them in other ways, Cyndi and her lawyer contend.

"The truth is Bobby was wrecked the worst over all of this,” Cyndi said. "My children weren’t able to sleep. It was harassment. My son would say, ‘I never want this to happen to another family.’”

The family struggled to make ends meet. Joe, who was on disability due to health problems, decided he needed to go back to work so that he could support his family. The disability checks were too small. At the time of his death, Joe was working on getting re-licensed for refrigerator repair.

"He kept trying and trying and trying to find a way to support us,” Cyndi said, adding that the family stuck together and vowed to make it through the tough time.

"We loved each other. We were a good family.”

Farris said no matter where they moved the groups would find the family.

"They would always know where they were,” he said. "I don’t believe it was any local group, but it leaned more to state and national groups.”

Farris said there were always numerous anonymous tips to both state and local agencies, all of which were unfounded.

"During litigation, they were reported to the Department of Revenue,” Farris said. "It was clear the reason was to harass them.”

The family was hanging on to what little they had left, Cyndi said.

"No one is making an excuse to what happened,” Farris said. "But at the same time, you have to point out the major contributing factors that led Joe to this path.”

He believes Joe "hit the limit.”

"They came a year ago,” Cyndi said. "They started and didn’t stop until they destroyed our whole family. We were attacked continually and continually. They just wouldn’t let up. They just wouldn’t let up.”

 

‘THAT’S THE KIND OF BOY HE WAS’

Cyndi said Bobby and her husband were inseparable.

"He would have done anything for his family,” she said about her husband. "He was a good man. He loved us.”

Two days prior to Bobby’s death, the 10-year-old visited his now working mother at the retirement home across the street from where they lived in Nashville. It took Cyndi a long time to find that job due to the criminal charges showing up on her background even though they were dropped. But she was thrilled when someone gave her a chance.

On that particular day, Cyndi was helping an elderly woman to her room. Bobby stepped in, too. He wanted to help. When the three finally arrived to the room, Bobby wanted to pray with the elderly woman. He hoped it would make her feel better.

"That’s the kind of boy he was,” Cyndi said. "He was the sweetest thing. He lived for God. He loved Jesus.”

Cyndi also said nothing made her husband smile more when he knew his children were happy. But Joe had been sad in recent months due to all the stress, she said.

"We were not happy,” Cyndi said about the family. "We were destroyed. They took everything we had.”

Cyndi said she has to move forward and forgive.

"I’m never going to be able to raise my baby girl the way Jesus would want me to if I hate them (animal groups) the way they hated me,” she said. "God is the final judge. We will all have to stand before him one day.”

Despite the pain of losing a child and a husband in the same day, Cyndi said she is trying to remain strong.

And to do that, she relies on faith. Because that’s what Bobby would have told her to do as he did so many times before when the family faced hardships.

"God is good,” she said. "He will get us through this.”

 

FIGHTING IN COURT

Cyndi and Joe Williams fought to get their dogs back after deputies seized them from their home during a search warrant last year.

On Aug. 27 Farris filed motions on their behalf, including a petition to return the dogs seized, a motion to suppress evidence seized based on their claim of an invalid search warrant and a motion for disclosure of veterinary records and independent assessment of the seized dogs. One of the dogs that was alleged to have been the basis for the search warrant was being treated by the Williamses’ veterinarian and wasn’t on the property at the time of the search, Farris said.

Deputies began investigating the couple after receiving complaints from customers who bought the purebred dogs, officials have said. The Great Danes had been sold online and to out-of-state buyers. Court documents filed by Farris claimed that deputies waited 34 days after they observed the alleged activity until they searched the home. In sworn affidavits, the couple said they allowed deputies to come to their home over a period of time to inspect their dog kennel and followed "every recommendation.”

The couple made more than $15,000 in improvements and changes to their kennel and property based upon the recommendations by deputies.

On Sept. 5, 2011, the Great Dane Alliance filed a lawsuit against the couple asking for a permanent injunction terminating the Williamses’ ownership rights and permanent injunction that would have prevented them from acquiring any more dogs. The group alleged that the dogs seized needed veterinary treatment.

The hearing lasted nearly two days, which included witness testimony. While a Wilson County district court judge ruled that 18 of the 28 dogs seized be returned to the owners on Sept. 11, 2012, that order was put on hold on the criminal side of the case due to a civil lawsuit filed against the couple by the Great Dane Rescue Alliance.

The group had filed a temporary restraining order against the couple getting their dogs back until a hearing could be set for a civil action in the case. Those dogs remained in the organization’s custody.

During that same court proceeding, Wilson County filed a petition for the couple to pay the veterinarian bills incurred after the dogs were seized. Nearly $7,600 in veterinarian bills and medical treatments were incurred, officials said at the time.

Roughly $14,220 in costs were also incurred, officials claimed, in foster home fees, which were estimated by Humane Society of the United States at $15 per day, per dog.

The county was denied that motion, after a judge cited that the sheriff’s office did not incur any costs.

 

CHARGES DROPPED

On Sept. 18 all criminal charges were dropped against the Williamses, who by then faced 23 counts each of misdemeanor animal cruelty charges. A Wilson County district court judge ruled the search warrant was invalid after the probable cause for the search warrant had grown stale due to deputies waiting 34 days after they observed the alleged activity on July 19 until they searched the home on Aug. 23.

In November, a judge granted the Great Dane Rescue Alliance group a preliminary injunction whereby they were allowed to keep the dogs seized until a civil trial occurred. But the judge required the rescue group to make regular on-site inspections and make weekly contact with current foster care providers of the dogs, according to court documents. The animal group had to create reports about those visits and calls, and provide those details to the Williamses.

As one case came to a close, another began.

In February of this year, the Williamses received a certified letter to their Evansdale Road home. The letter was from Raleigh attorneys William and Cathryn Little, who wanted a refund after a Great Dane puppy they bought was diagnosed with parvovirus a week after the sale.

"If we do not receive a cashier’s check or money order for $1,000 at our P.O. Box in Raleigh within 10 days of the date of this letter, we will proceed to file suit against you,” the letter read. "If we do not receive the $1,000 payment within 10 days and we are forced to file suit, we will seek to recover from you all of our actual out of pocket damages, which far exceed the enclosed hospital bill of $1,766.71, and will also seek to recover from you all of our legal expenses, including reasonable attorneys’ fees. We will also include a claim seeking (triple) damages against you based upon unfair and deceptive trade practices.”

The case, which Farris is handling, is still active.

The Humane Society of the United States and Great Dane Rescue Alliance paid a high financial price for their intervention in the Williams case, officials with those groups have said.

"They had substantial costs for the veterinary care of the animals, and they had substantial litigation costs as well,” said Great Dane Rescue Alliance’s attorney, Calley Gerber of the Raleigh-based Gerber Animal Law Center,

The Humane Society and Great Dane rescuers weren’t involved in the decision to serve a search warrant and seize the dogs, officials there have said.

"We’re not a law enforcement agency,” Kim Alboum, North Carolina state president of the Humane Society of the United States, previously said. "We’re brought in by law enforcement to assist them.”

She previously said she wishes the search warrant hadn’t been thrown out.

Each of the 28 dogs deputies seized from the Evansdale Road home needed veterinary treatment, rescue groups alleged in legal action.

 

PREVIOUS HISTORY

Animal Enforcement had ongoing problems with calls about the couple dating back to 2009, according to the search warrant application by deputies. Deputies have received numerous complaints from buyers, all of whom have given written statements to officials that the puppies purchased from the couple were sick, according to the search warrant application. In October 2009, deputies received a complaint against the couple on numerous violations, the document said. It also indicates that after Animal Enforcement worked with owners until January 2010, they surrendered 18 dogs, all of which needed medical attention.

In February 2011, the husband and wife called Wilson County Animal Enforcement and surrendered two more dogs, who needed medical attention as well, according to the same document.

On July 19, the couple called deputies again and surrendered six more dogs that needed medical attention, according to the search warrant application.

But a motion filed on behalf of the couple states that the couple "voluntarily relinquished three Great Danes and three mastiffs” due to downsizing their operation and the one mastiff was becoming aggressive toward the other dogs. That motion also contends that prior to July, the couple had continuous contact with a specific deputy regarding the status of their kennel, what kind of improvements needed to be made and voluntarily surrendered dogs when and if they felt they could no longer provide adequate care for them.

Farris has spoken out previously about the family and how the raid and legal challenges changed their lives.

"My folks are still mad,” Farris said earlier this year after the settlement was reached. "I’m sure the other side is, too. The Humane Society of North Carolina ditched this once they saw we were fighting. Once they realized we were putting up a fight, they left Great Dane Alliance holding the bag, this tiny little organization.”

"They can go in, take somebody’s animals, say they incurred all these bills and then just take off, and that’s what they do sometimes,” Farris said. "The breeding facility operated by the Williams family in 2012 had been approved both by the American Kennel Club and the local sheriff’s office prior to the illegal search of their property, which resulted in the illegal seizure of their animals in August of 2012.”

And the couple’s reputation was damaged, he said.

He said Cyndi Williams really loves animals. She and her husband originally went into the business as rescuers, he said, and later became breeders.

Farris said he believes that some groups’ goal was to put them out of business.

The children, including Bobby, were traumatized by the sheriff’s office raid and had been in counseling as a result of the public and personal "scrutiny” on the family’s lives, Farris said.

In an April interview with The Wilson Times, Farris said Bobby was especially affected by the sheriff’s office raid on the family’s home last year.

"Their kids had to go to counseling, because there were two deputies standing outside one of their kids’ doors with their hands on their guns when they did the search,” Farris previously said. "One of the kids was traumatized by that. He locked himself in the room and would not come to the door and would not come out of there because he didn’t know who the heck was out there even though they were yelling, ‘Sheriff!’ He did not trust that.”

 

olivia@wilsontimes.com | 265-7879
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View Comments:Show/Hide(33 comments)
I agree with law suit hype said...

The problem with guns is that you don't have to look into a child's face or anyone's face before pulling the trigger from 50 feet away. And people are so nuts in this country about gun ownership that the thought of taking this man's gun away from him would be tantamount to getting shot.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 9:57 AM
Agree with lawsuit hype said...

Since he felt his son was his property and had the right to shoot and burn his son resulting in murder, I can't help but feel that he felt that way about his dogs and they too suffered at his hands. How can anyone look into a child's face who is your own blood and murder them? Why did he not murder the rest of his family? To change the direction of your future you must let things go and start fresh. A fresh start does not include lawsuits and keeping that which is a source of pain. Just tired of people giving him excuses for his actions. There were warning signs that his family, attorney and friends saw but ignored.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 10:34 PM
Charlie K. said...

Folks this is not about guns. So, please don't change the subject. It's about human-rights vs veganism and animal rights (ARs).
I OWN two cattle dogs, Judy and Happy. I've trained, worked, loved and cared for them--and probably would use a gun to protect them from ARs vigilante raiders trying to take them. However, I pray that I would never surrender to any ARs vigilante group or admit defeat by turning a gun on myself and son. My dogs and my friends are important to me.
All of this happened to these good people because of ARs zealots and their puppy-mill agenda in NC. I keep hearing HSUS the Williamses are among NC's most horrible because they were still in business and selling dogs over the internet. SO WHAT. If people want to buy a nice purebred sport, working or companion dog over the internet--that is their right and business. It's between the seller and the buyer and none of HSUS's business.
A coon dog breeder in the mid-west has a$5,000,000.00 lawsuit pending against HSUS, a local rescue group, the county sheriff and County Commission because his coon dogs were taken illegally.
I hope Mrs. Williams will read this.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 9:45 PM
to @ with that being" said...

Yea, and countrywide people are being struck by lightening, but they're the ones wandering around in thunderstorms. So, unless you live in Detroit or Chicago, and even there unless you live in certain areas and are members of a gang, your odds of not being shot are still pretty good. The odds of a member of your own family suffering a self inflicted wound are much much higher. Like I said unsmart.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 6:30 PM
with that being said...

Country wide thousands of people are getting killed everyday, statistical likelihood pretty good huh? Even if guns are banned criminals will still be out there. People are still going to die. At least the victim will have a chance if they are armed.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 6:09 PM
Why? said...

When the people around him started to notice he was going crazy, why did they let him keep the gun?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 5:03 PM Let me tell you what the real issue is said...

Again, all this fantasy. "What if SOMEONE fires on you." "What if my family is attacked". Everyone's dying so you can protect yourself from an event that has a statistical likelihood of being struck by lightening. These are the un-smart which is too bad since they own the guns.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 3:47 PM to @ If there were no guns" said...

What? You speak from vast experience. "Bloodier and messier and a lot less effective." As though you have any idea what it would be like- never mind have it be your son- as he pleads for his life. You speak nonsense. You gun people are hysterical which is why no one takes you seriously.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 3:38 PM OHMYGOSH said...

The Williamses are my friends. I feel helpless, devastated and heartbroken. I'm thankful Mrs. Williams is talking about and sharing her grief. I pray it will bring some healing. I ask that we all give this family some space and let the talk and put their feelings on the table. Remember the inhumane harassment, abuse and torment of this family has been going on for over a year. People were abusing our "Rule-of-Law" in stalking attempts to destroy this family and advance a vegan / animal rights (ARs) agenda in NC. I suspect, they felt as if nobody was listening or cared.
It's not hard to push someone over-the-edge when you willfully rob them of their good name, livelihood, honorable vocation and American way of life.
The current lawsuit and the, on-and-on lawsuits of the past are documentation that Joe was still being harassed and tormented up to the very last moment of his last breath before death.
There is an old saying, "What goes around will come around". I sure hope so.
the v

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 2:31 PM Lawsuit Hype said...

So the children went to counseling, seems to me the entire family should have been in counseling. If the family was so traumatized that Mr. Williams had to take his own life and that of an innocent child, someone should have seen the signs that he needed psychological help before this happened. In the article above, they stated per Cyndi, “ Joe had been sad in recent months due to all the stress, . "We were not happy,” Cyndi said about the family. "We were destroyed. They took everything we had.” Psychological help is available for people that have no financial means.
Ban guns? What if a criminal or mentally insane person fires on you? Perhaps you can strike up a conversation and debate whether you're going to live or die. I'll have a better chance of surviving, I'll do my best to shoot back!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 1:25 PM If there was no guns said...

If there was no guns then he would have used a knife. These are generally messier and bloodier than guns and a lot less effective. I think they should use sleeping pills. BUt those anti-gun advocates will then work to block them.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 1:09 PM Ooomph! said...

Ask the widow how she feels about "guns" now as a survivor of gun violence. You want to bet she never enters a home that keeps weapons again.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 12:29 PM Too many weapons said...

He had mental issues and access to a highly lethal weapon. Another headline in this paper said Woman stabbed boyfriend. He lived. Much more difficult to kill with a knife. I bet any money that w/o access to that weapon his boy would be alive today. Weapons kill. And I wouldn't be calling the highly lethal thing you own the same name that we call what we give to children as toys. Blurs the lines.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 12:08 PM cant help what others do said...

I cannot help what others do with their guns. I keep mine so my children can't get to them, only me and my wife. The only time anyone hears about a gun is when a life is taken. What about the thousands of time guns are used where there is no violence and are used responsibly. This man could have picked up a knife and committed the same acts as he did with the gun. So the real issue in this exact article is the man committed suicide and took his helpless child with him. He had some type of mental issues.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 11:03 AM Let me tell you what the real issue is said...

The real issue is that a man who reached a breaking point could also reach for a weapon in this society. Something which might not have occurred if he had no access. A day later, even an hour later, reason might have come back, but for that second he had a weapon. There was no later. No second chance. That is the real issue. And law enforcement and military don't call them guns. They are always called weapons, for good reason, because that's all they are. Cars are not called weapons, for that oh so clever previous retort. And I hope, Mr No Fantasy, that you and your children always enjoy complete safety in the shadow of your weapon. It only takes a second.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 10:14 AM @yeah, yeah, yeah said...

It is no fantasy. I will do whatever I have to do to protect my family from harm. And I feel sorry for the children that fall to a devastation like that. But there again it is not the gun, only people who don't take the responsibility to put firearms out of reach of children or locked away in a safe position.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 9:41 AM Jella Ree said...

I think people are missing the real issue here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 12:00 AM Yeah, yeah, yeah said...

Ever wonder how many thousands of children die by gun just so you can have your "guns protect my family" fantasy? Way too many.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 11:20 PM @ To Ban Guns said...

Let's make prescription medicine, cars, knives, rope, alcohol, any buildings more than one story, electricity, oh and lets not forget drugs...Illegal. All of these things can be used to kill people or yourself. If guns were used as intended for defense, hunting, or sport people would not be in such an uproar over banning guns. The people kill others with guns and everything I named above. Guns do not randomly shoot at people all by themselves... a person is the one who takes a life. Drugs are illegal but people still sell and use as if the law was never in effect. Now, when the person who is using drugs or some other type of criminal act breaks into your home what are you (or the ones of us that have guns for our protection)going to do to protect you family's life.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 9:42 PM Realist said...

Oh well. Life goes on.

Monday, August 19, 2013 at 8:31 PM Bit Chiz said...

This story makes no sense.

Monday, August 19, 2013 at 7:18 PM @ To Ban Guns said...

Talk about a serious IQ drop. Guns do nothing but kill. They are manufactured to do the maximum amount of injury. That's it. That's what they do. Cars are not manufactured to take lives. Knives are not manufactured to take lives. Rocks are not here to take lives. All three can be used to take a life. So why do we need an instrument specifically made to take lives? And do the most damage to the most vulnerable among us.

Monday, August 19, 2013 at 4:25 PM bigkev1604 said...

This nothing but BULLYING by adults. I hope everyone involved is happy now. May you sleep well with your hard work to take someone down like that. SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!

Monday, August 19, 2013 at 3:24 PM To Ban Guns said...

I agree with you and I think we should ban cars too because people get in them and do stupid things like run down11 people on the boardwalk in Ventura Beach California. Let's make the government provide all transportation so it is safe.

Monday, August 19, 2013 at 2:55 PM Ban Guns II said...

It is such a fantasy to have an Us and Them mentality about mental breakdowns. Personal despair from physical, emotional, or financial upheaval can impede judgement, making one temporarily out of his/her mind. It can happen to anyone. Which is why gun ownership is so dangerous and stupid. We needed guns in 1776. There was no national defense and no supermarkets. It is the height of ignorance to have them still, now- for killing one another,

Monday, August 19, 2013 at 2:49 PM @ Just sayin' said...

The answer is, because Will Farris is in their ear, trying to use the paper to build his case. I would say they're getting played, but I imagine they are willing participants, if it sells papers/ads.

Monday, August 19, 2013 at 2:02 PM To ban guns ... said...

I think my IQ dropped due to reading your comment.

Monday, August 19, 2013 at 1:46 PM Crimes of Passion said...

All people can commit crimes. There are crimes of opportunity, neccesity, passion and ignorance. I could take any person and place them under extraordinary stress for a long enough time and increase the likelihood of a psychological break. Maybe at that psychological break they will make irrational decisions. I believe the idea "newspapers keep printing justification" is a false statment. A bad situation for all. And I don't get what is all the stink about Great Danes and "rescueing animals" however. Was it all worth the lawsuits, the stress the deaths and arson... Humane Society and plaintiffs? Regardless if they did not intend to cause the murder, they were a component of this man's stress level. If they knew it, I would have cut him a break back then. Be careful with the animal rights zealots, they have become increasingly more aggressive threw time.

Monday, August 19, 2013 at 1:02 PM Creveling said...

Guns don't kill people, PEOPLE kill people. So despite if guns are "banned" a person who wants to kill, will find a way, whether it be with a gun or not.
My heart goes out to his wife during this confusing time for her. GodBless.

Monday, August 19, 2013 at 12:56 PM sad said...

Don't judge another until you have walked in their shoes. People cannot predict what they will do when faced with difficult situations!!! So sad for the one's left behind!!

Monday, August 19, 2013 at 11:43 AM Really said...

People never want take responsibiity for actions....always gotta blame somebody else. This man is responsible for his OWN actions....no one else.

Monday, August 19, 2013 at 11:22 AM Ban guns said...

Their children were traumatized by deputies with one hand on a gun? Imagine that poor boy's terror when his temporarily deranged father came after him with one. BAN GUNS. THIS CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE.

Monday, August 19, 2013 at 7:25 AM Just sayin' said...

A person who shoots his own son is mentally ill. A person who commits suicide is mentally ill. A person who commits arson is mentally ill. People deal with impossible situations all the time and don't kill their children, commit suicide, or burn their houses down. Why does the newspaper keep printing justifications for mentally disturbed behaviors?

Monday, August 19, 2013 at 1:12 AM
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