UPDATE: Community shaken by murder-suicide

Hussan Williams

Shockwaves reverberated throughout Patterson this week after a well-known Apricot Fiesta volunteer and his son were found dead in rural Lathrop on Friday, June 3, the apparent victims of a murder-suicide, according to sheriff’s officials.

Anthony Lee Williams Sr., 51, and his son, Hussan Williams, 10, both died from gunshot wounds in a car on a levee near Interstate 5 and Manthey Road, San Joaquin County Sheriff’s officials confirmed. It appeared the father had shot his son before killing himself, they said.

Williams had been active with the Patterson Apricot Fiesta board and a youth track and field club in the past, while Hussan was a well-known student at Northmead Elementary School.

“We were all in terrible shock,” Apricot Fiesta Secretary Marilyn Hoobler said this week, noting that event board members learned about the incident during the first day of this year’s fiesta.

A security guard discovered Williams in a parked car during a routine check of area farmland at about 8 a.m. Unable to get a response from the man, he called the sheriff’s office.

When deputies arrived, they found Williams in the front seat dead from an apparent gunshot wound, sheriff’s spokesman Les Garcia said. Further investigation revealed a child in the back seat, also dead, apparently from a gunshot wound.

The levee is in the middle of an orchard adjacent to Dell’Osso Farms, near J.B. Farms Fruit Stand off South Manthey Road.

“We’re trying to piece together what occurred and understand what occurred,” Garcia said last week.

Investigators also aim to determine what led up to the incident, Garcia said. At this point, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department is releasing few details, though Garcia said Williams and his wife were going through a divorce.

Neither Hussan’s mother, Mildred Williams, nor her brother, Keith Douglas, wished to comment this week on Tony Williams’ actions.

“He has a family, too,” Douglas said. “We don’t want to cause any more pain.”

Rather than assigning blame, Mildred Williams noted that similar crimes happen every day.

“What we would like to see is the community support one another,” she said. “We’re in a small community, where people are not always talking to one another, but they’re not always OK.”

The mother had contacted police twice the evening of Thursday, June 2, notifying them that her husband had picked up her son from a friend’s house and had called to say he and the boy were going to live their own life, said Deputy Raj Singh of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. He told her to leave them alone and not to try to get in touch with them, Singh said.

Though Mildred Williams reported the incident as a possible kidnapping, both parents had custodial rights, as they were still married and no court order was in place, Singh said.

“Really, our hands were tied because of the law,” Singh said.

Most of the Williamses’ neighbors in the Heartland Ranch neighborhood said their home was generally quiet, though some noticed police investigators there after Mildred Williams called them June 2.

However, neighbor Melissa Santana, who lives across the street, recalled a day a couple of months ago when Anthony Williams kicked Hussan, threw him in the garage and then drove after him when his son ran off.

Hussan took shelter in her family’s home, she said, and then Anthony Williams tried to get into a fight with her stepfather for meddling in the incident.

“That was not cool, what he did,” Santana said. “I mean, why are you kicking your own son?”

Hussan was popular among neighbors. Santana said he was nice, while next-door neighbor Areli Carrillo described him as a “sweet little boy” who would come over to play with her kids.

Anthony Williams was also well known in Patterson, and those who knew him were shocked when they received news of the alleged murder-suicide Friday.

Jeff Essex, president of the Apricot Fiesta board, said he had seen him in the grocery store just a few days earlier. Williams used to host a run affiliated with the fiesta, in addition to running the nonprofit Tony Williams Track Club. After the run stopped a few years ago, he remained involved with the fiesta up through last year, when he helped out with selling soft drinks, Essex said. Though Essex had received a few phone calls from him in recent months, he said, the longtime volunteer had not attended any of the recent fiesta board meetings.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the family,” Essex said.

Those who wish to offer financial support to the Williams family can do so through a donation fund that has been set up at Citibank. Contributions may be directed to account 270941214.

• Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187 or jonathan@pattersonirrigator.com.

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