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Danny Williams

Danny Williams

Danny Williams

Police rule suicide when a man is found with a gun on his lap and a bullet in his head, but some experts conclude it’s murder.

It’s a situation every parent dreads. Larry and Lois Williams hadn’t heard from their son, Danny, in nearly two days. So Larry decided to drive over to Danny’s house to see what he could find. After he let himself in with his own key:

“I kept calling Danny’s name, saying, ‘Danny! This is your dad, this is me coming in!’ Because he did have a gun in the house for protection, and I didn’t want to be in a situation where he was asleep and shot his own dad.”

As he entered the den, it was clear to Larry that Danny was dead:

“He was sitting on the couch in an upright position with a bullet in his head and a gun in his lap. So the comment that I made as I went through the door was, ‘Oooh, Dan, don’t let this be what it looks like.”

Twenty-three year-old Danny Williams was Larry and Lois’s youngest son. He managed distribution for the family’s multi-million-dollar apparel manufacturing company.

Larry Williams called the Galesburg Police. Chief John Schlaf described the police’s appraisal of the scene:

“The position of the body, the type of wound, the absence of any specific evidence of foul play indicated to us that the gunshot wound could have been self-inflicted and caused us to classify the case as a suicide.”

Investigators claimed death was a suicide

Investigators claimed death was a suicide

Larry Williams hired private detective, Mike Turnquist, to investigate. Soon, he had something to report; the police said Danny died very early Saturday morning. But a neighbor named Darlene Sayrs told Turnquist that she had seen Danny alive a full eight hours after the time of death:

“I shouldn’t admit it, but I watch everybody’s business. It was Saturday morning that I saw Danny get in the car with this woman. So naturally, being nosy as I am, I looked her over real good. She had dark hair; she would’ve been between 25 and 30.”

The police dismissed the account, saying Mrs. Sayrs had her days mixed up. It was already established that Danny had been picked up by his mother on Friday, the day before he died. But Darlene did not change her account:

“No. It was not Friday, it was Saturday. And the lady in the blue car was too young to have been his mother.”

Other witnesses noticed activity at Danny’s house on Sunday, 24 hours after he died.  According to Chief Schlaf, at least one person reported seeing a young man with curly brown hair, approximately five feet, four inches tall. But Schlaf thinks the witness got something wrong:

“Eyewitness testimony can easily be mistaken, it’s as simple as that. They may have seen some activity there, but it’s a distinct possibility that the days may have been confused as to when they had seen that movement.”

Danny’s father claims that some of the physical evidence turned up by police argued against suicide. The bullet that supposedly killed Danny exited through his head and lodged in the wall. When the police removed the bullet, there was only one small spot, which appeared to be blood, on the paneling. Private investigator Michael Turnquist finds this suspicious:

“With the head being that close to the wall, you most certainly would expect to find larger, massive amounts of blood splatter, either at or near the back of the couch, and most certainly on the back wall.”

A gun was found in Danny’s lap

A gun was found in Danny’s lap

By now, Larry Williams was convinced his son had been murdered. He brought in independent forensic scientist, Mark Boese:

“I had this feeling that I was gonna go out, see the house, see a typical messy scene, and tell Larry that, ‘I think your son committed suicide.’ But we get to the house, and there’s a lack of evidence to support the suicide.”

Mark Boese used a laser luminescence scanner to look for blood evidence invisible to the naked eye. He found significant samples in several places, even on the television set:

“If Danny had just shot himself sitting there, you definitely would not have a pattern at all behind the TV set, and there’s nothing to indicate Danny got up after shooting himself and walked around. So someone else obviously dropped the blood droplets everywhere else that we found.”

Blood analysis later revealed the presence of two different bloods types in the house.�
Danny’s blood was type B.  Mark Boese found type B and type O blood in the den, where Danny’s body was. Boese also found type O in the bathroom, as well as inside the pocket of Danny’s jeans. Forensic serologist Cecilia Guzman says it’s not physically possible for both blood types to be Danny’s:

“It’s an impossibility. This evidence suggests to me that two people in the room were bleeding. Two separate individuals.”

The official police position was that the alleged type O blood samples were compromised by the crime scene clean-up crew. Samples of the blood were submitted to the Illinois State Crime Lab for testing. However, according to Cecilia Guzman, the lab claimed that the samples could not be definitively typed:

“I could guarantee you; send that evidence to five different independent laboratories that have no idea what this case is about, that this was a murder or a suicide or anything, and they will come back with type B blood and type O blood.”

Chief John Schlaf was confident in his lab’s results:

“We feel just strongly about the results of the Illinois State Crime Lab, that there was no evidence of a type O blood in that home.”

According to Larry Williams, Mark Boese’s investigation appeared to turn up one new piece of evidence that undercut the police theory and supported his theory that the blood of two different people was in Danny’s house:

“Mark was processing the room. He opened the couch up and a shell casing fell out.  Later tests showed that this shell did come from Danny’s gun, and it had been recently fired, so there were two shells found on the couch that came from Danny’s gun.”

Private Investigator Mark Boese:

“Danny’s gun was laying on his lap, his hand was laying on top of the gun, just as if he shot it and then set it back down. It’s a little inconsistent with a suicide.”

Next, Boese tried to match the bullet path to Danny’s position on the couch. According to Boese:

“The body would have gone forward.  The body wouldn’t have moved back into the position it was in, and the gun probably would not have been in his lap. It probably would be on the floor or the coffee table.”

Mark Boese now believes that Danny was probably not shot in his house. Here’s how it might have happened: there was a fight somewhere else that left Danny and another person bleeding. That person took Danny’s keys out of his pocket, leaving behind a trace of type O blood, and drove Danny’s body back to his house. There, the crime scene was arranged to make Danny’s death look like suicide. But Chief Schlaf is not convinced:

“We can advance theories all day long, everyone can. But the factual data that we’ve gathered, we feel comfortable with.”

Larry Williams was certain that the evidence points to foul play:

“The investigators, crime labs, and what have you, that I’ve had working on this from the beginning, as soon as they went into the house and saw the evidence that was in there then, and is still in there now, were convinced, as I was, that it was cold-blooded murder.”

Was Danny Williams murdered or did he kill himself? The official coroner’s report lists Williams’ cause of death as “Uncertain.”