Man charged with burning cross in driveway
CHRIS OLWELL / News Herald Writer
PANAMA CITY — A recent cross burning at the home of a Panama City mixed-race couple does not signal the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan; it was the symptom of something understandable to anyone who’s ever been afraid of losing someone.
LB Williams, a 50-year-old black man, his wife of nearly seven years Donna Williams, who is white, and their bi-racial daughter found a cross burning in their driveway Nov. 4. Their grandchild was home too.
“When I saw that cross burning, I was scared to death,” Donna Williams said. “I was terrified…we all were.”
They called police and reported it. Her grandbaby still reports seeing fires outside the house, even when there are none. There’s a scar burned into the driveway in the shape of a cross, she said.
“It started out as a hate crime [investigation] based on the information that we had at the time,” said Sgt. Jeff Becker with the Panama City Police Department.
It was odd though; the investigator told Donna Williams that whoever left this symbol of hate and fear to burn in the driveway probably didn’t want to damage the lawn or burn down the house.
Two days later, Donna found a note taped to the front door and the side entrance of the house. She paraphrased:
“They were watching us, I assumed me and the kids, and that I better not leave that [N-word],” Donna Williams said. The note was signed “KKK.”
This was another odd development.
“When did the KKK start supporting black and white, interracial marriages?” she asked.
Police thought so too. On Monday, LB Williams admitted to setting the fire and posting the notes, according to the arrest affidavit charging him with two felonies: domestic violence stalking and exhibits that intimidate. He did it, he said, so she wouldn’t proceed with the divorce she filed for.
It started clicking for Donna Williams a few minutes after she found the notes. The handwriting wasn’t exactly the same, but it was close enough that she recognized it. It wasn’t a hate crime, but a love crime. But for days, her husband denied involvement in both incidents.
It’s hard to know what was going through LB Williams’ head, and he couldn’t be reached to answer the question. He was released from the Bay County Jail Tuesday with no bond. His daughter said he had left his cell phone at the house.
The cross and the notes were the desperate acts of a desperate man, Williams said. Police agreed. The fact that Williams was released from jail on two felonies without any bond might be a good indication of the danger he poses to the community (though he’s not allowed to go home, a standard condition of bond in domestic violence cases).
“He truly is a good man. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t do drugs and he works like a dog,” Donna Williams said. “We just can’t be together.”
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