Police in Florida have arrested a man they described as a “homeless drifter” in the stabbing death of a 14-year-old boy whose body was found near an interstate overpass.
Semmie Lee Williams, 39, was arrested Wednesday in Miami and charged with first degree murder in the death of Ryan Rogers.
“He appears to be a homeless drifter spending most of his time in the streets of Miami,” Palm Beach Gardens Chief of Police Clinton Shannon said of Williams at a press conference Thursday.
Ryan, a high school freshman, went missing on Nov. 15, having been last seen leaving his home in Palm Beach Gardens to go for a bike ride, local ABC affiliate WPBF reported. Residents had gathered to search for him, the Palm Beach Post reported.
His body was found the next day near Interstate 95.
Shannon said Williams stabbed Rogers to death in what appears to have been a random encounter.
“The incident itself appears to be a completely random act,” Shannon said. “We do not have a motive in this case and I would best describe it as an innocent child victim having a chance encounter with a very violent criminal.”
Williams has a criminal record dating back to 2004, Shannon said. Within the past 10 years, Williams had been arrested in Georgia, California, and Florida on charges including battery against a person older than 60 and aggravated assault with strangulation. In 2005, a protective order was issued against him for domestic violence, and in 2004 he was charged with theft and for carrying a concealed electric weapon.
Shannon said that it appears that Williams acted alone, and that law enforcement could not determine whether Williams has any ties to the Palm Beach Gardens area; it’s around 80 miles north of Miami, where Williams was arrested.
“It appears to be an absolute chance encounter between a child on a bicycle and an animal who probably should not have been out on the streets,” Shannon said.
Shannon did not respond to a question about reports that Rogers’ mother had written on Facebook post that her son died in a bicycle accident.
Ryan “lost control of his bike, flipping the bike… and him,” Cindy Rogers wrote after Ryan’s body was found, according to local CBS affiliate WPEC reported on Nov. 17. “Although we are still waiting details from the medical office, the injuries appeared to be severe enough to end his life.”
Shannon also didn’t answer a question about the role that social media, specifically YouTube, may have played in tracking Williams down.
The Miami Herald reported Thursday that “[i]nvestigators were able to track Williams to Miami-Dade County thanks to his YouTube page, a little-viewed collection of bizarre videos. The videos also placed him in the area of Palm Beach Gardens around the time of the murder.”
The Herald report said that the videos show Williams in various locations in south Florida, with titles such as “gang stalking” and “evil stalkers standing in the middle of the road.”
“They have chips planted all over my body right and they reading my mind through my ears and they be tearing up my shoes,” a voice in one of Williams’ video says, according to the Herald. “For the past 10 years, every city I go to, the police they hit me with electric weapons to give me cancer.”
The Herald also reported that Williams DNA had been found at the scene of Ryan’s death.
Shannon said that residents need to be vigilant, even in statistically safe places like Palm Beach Gardens.
“Palm Beach Gardens continues to be a very safe city with a very low crime rate,” Shannon said. “This just emphasizes that an incident of this nature could absolutely happen anywhere. People need to always be vigilant and aware of their surroundings wherever they are.”
[Images via Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Palm Beach Gardens Police]
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