‘She fought to the end’ | The tragic murder of BeeBee Williams and the 30-year search for answers in North County
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - “She got hit in the head with a crockpot and it broke the crockpot. How hard you got to hit somebody in the head before you break the crockpot?”
Maurice “Duke” Harris can only shake his head when he thinks about his big sister Barbara, who everyone called BeeBee. Nearly 30 years ago, she was brutally murdered in her north St. Louis County home in a case that appeared to have plenty of evidence, only to turn ice cold as the days ticked by. Harris doesn’t have to look far to remember his sister. Her belongings still reside in his basement. A basement he can still barely enter without breaking into tears.
“To this day I have half of her belongings in my house,” Harris said. “I just can’t see myself parting with it. It’s keeping me from living in my house, in my basement in a normal way.”
Barbara Williams started working at the main post office after high school and stayed there until the day she was killed in March of 1993. She was 38 years old, with two teenage children who were not home on that fateful night. As police re-traced her final steps the night before, what struck them was everything was normal. What started out as a typically quiet night turned into terror without warning.
“She got off of work and she went to her mother’s house,” St. Louis County Cold Case Investigator Joe Burgoon said. “They had dinner together, and then she went home. She had a routine she would do when she got home. She would take a shower, put her hair up in rollers, she would iron her uniform shirt in the living room.”
And that is when the murderer walked through the front door.
The Iron. The crockpot. Strange murder weapons, but lethal when unleashed.
“When they came in, she was ironing her shirt,” Burgoon said. “She tried to struggle. She tried to get away. They chased her all through the house, down into the basement.”
Burgoon uses the word “they,” but it’s still unclear to police how many suspects they are looking for in Barbara’s death.
When dawn rolled around, and Barbara didn’t show up for work, her post office friends called her mother to check on her.
“My mom and aunt went to her house,” Harris said. “They unlocked the door. My mom was going through the house calling for BeeBee. No answer. Aunt Henrietta went to the basement to check out the basement. She saw BeeBee’s body at the bottom of the basement steps. She told my mom to go out, trying to keep her from going to the bottom of the basement. She told her ‘leave, go, don’t go down there.’ My mom just pushed her out the way, almost threw her out of the way to get to the bottom of the steps. She said, ‘what is she doing down there?’ Said ‘why is she so cold?’”
Harris paused, unable to confront the memories of 30 years ago.
“I’m sorry. It just came back to me ... "
Police described the scene of the crime as beyond brutal. Williams’ home in the 8700 block of Link Avenue was soaked in blood after she was beaten by the iron and crockpot, stabbed, and sexually assaulted. But the motive still remains a mystery today.
“She had some money she was going to deposit,” Burgoon said. “That was gone. Somebody took her car, which we found the next day a couple of miles away. We thought we had some evidence on DNA or fingerprints, but nothing panned out.”
Police turned to the neighborhood for leads. Surely somebody knew or heard something.
“There were never any problems in the neighborhood,” Burgoon said. “We did canvasses. We went several blocks in each direction for incidents there looking for anything similar. There wasn’t any. We talked to the FBI behavioral science unit, and they reviewed it.”
For family members, it was hard to believe a random stranger would commit such a horrific crime, completely out of the blue.
“I say somebody had a personal vendetta,” Harris said. “How can I say this? It had to be something personal. Her jewelry was still there. There was hardly any money missing. I can’t see a random person doing all of that.”
This leads to the obvious question.
“I don’t know if they think this was a family member or not,” Harris wonders.
Of course, family members and friends are where homicide detectives look first. Burgoon acknowledged that and stated what the family has long suspected about Barbara’s death.
“It was an over-kill,” he said.
Over-kill, as in somebody really wanted Barbara Williams dead. Not the type of scene a murderer leaves behind for a few dollars and a car ditched down the road.
We asked Burgoon if all family members have been cleared, and he paused.
“We have so far. But there are still things we are looking at. We would like to get polygraphs set up,” Burgoon said. “If they are not involved, we would like to clear them.”
For Harris, still trapped with memories of his sister in the basement of his own home, that horrific day will never go away.
“That day it happened, I thought about that day every day for years,” Harris said.
And as bad as those memories are, Harris smiles at one.
“Mr. Burgoon told me she fought like crazy. She wasn’t giving up” Harris said. “She fought to the end.”
Burgoon, with some 60 years of police work under his belt, says he will never close the case until it’s solved.
“It’s one of those things,” Burgoon said. “You just don’t know.”
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