Jessica Williams Interview

George Knapp's Street Talk
Led by Award-winning investigative reporter George Knapp, the Eyewitness News I-TEAM is the top television investigative unit in southern Nevada. Political expert Jon Ralston provides insight into local and state government, and former Mayor Jan Jones adds an insider's viewer of City Hall. I-TEAM photographer Eric Sorenson rounds out this first-class investigative unit.


Jessica Williams, 21, accused of running down six teenagers while she was under the influence of drugs, granted her first interview to the Channel 8 I-Team. During the conversation, she told us that she thinks about the victims every waking moment. George Knapp has the exclusive report.

Williams is so deeply depressed, so emotionally shaken by what's happened, that it was at times difficult to understand her. She clearly wants to say something to the families of the young people who were killed. Most of all, she wants them to know the deep sense of remorse she feels, although she realizes that many people will refuse to accept her words: "I wake up in the morning and pray I don't have to think about it every second."

She prays, she says, that she won't think about it every waking moment, but she does. Williams has come to grips with what she's done, but that doesn't make it any easier. In court, she's had difficulty controlling her emotions, and the same was true during our phone interview from the county jail. She told us about some celebrity cellmates she has.

"I'm in protective custody, not in the general population. I'm in my room 22 hours a day with other folks, Sandra Murphy and Margaret Rudin. We talk and play cards. We're roommates."

Williams told us some details about her background. She graduated from high school in 1997 while living with her mother in Southern California. She traveled in Europe, where her sisters live; went to college for a year in New York; and moved to Mesquite to work in a restaurant, because that's where her father lives. But in press accounts, she will forever be branded as a nude dancer.

She replies, "I think that's very limiting. I've only done it two months in my life. It's a small total of everything I've done in my life."

Williams says she doesn't read news accounts of her case or watch TV news because the coverage of her is so negative. She understands why the families of the victims would be in court, but says she was unaware that anti-DUI activists had also been there, campaigning for the maximum penalty, saying: "I didn't even know these people were there until you told me. I didn't get my glasses until yesterday. I can't even see, can barely see my family."

But her lawyer, John Watkins, sees the crusaders, and he reads their many comments on Internet chat lines. Watkins says, "The Internet line, 90 percent of it is, they want to literally execute Jessica, and a number say they will do it themselves."

Watkins acknowledges the six tragic deaths and the terrible impact on the families, and he admits his client had ingested drugs, including marijuana, in the hours before the incident on I-15, but does that mean she was impaired while driving?

Watkins continues: "She scored 15 of 15 at the hospital to show she was coherent. Alert. All things show she was not impaired. There's no question some drugs were used prior. The issue is, was it impairing."

The issues, he says, seem complicated, but are straightforward, adding that lawyers across the country will be watching this case. Williams is less concerned with the issues and is nearly consumed by grief.

"I wish I had the words to tell those families how sorry I am, and I just want everyone in their family to know how sorry I am," She said. "I wish they knew how terrible I feel for them."

The mother of one of the kids killed on I-15 has a response to Williams' interview. She also has plenty to say about a column that appeared in the Review-Journal last week.

Bridget Smith's son, Anthony, was one of six teens killed on I-15. After our exclusive interview with Jessica Williams, Smith's mother had this to say to the woman accused of causing the deadly crash: "Plead guilty, honey. Save us the hell you're putting us through."

Smith also had plenty to say to Review-Journal columnist Barbara Robinson. Robinson wrote in her article that the judge in the Williams case set an unfair bail of $5 million because Sandy Heverly and her group, Stop DUI, convinced the victims' family members to show up in court with pictures of their lost loved ones. Smith says seeking justice for her son, not Stop DUI, is the reason she shows up.

Robinson wrote that the parents should have compassion for Williams since their children had committed minor crimes. Smith says Robinson fails to mention that none of the children smoked marijuana, used ecstasy, then drove and killed six people.

Robinson's column didn't sit well with Sandy Heverly, either. Heverly says the victims' family needs to be in court so the court can see their pain and suffering.

Heverly explains: "They see the offender continuously. Why does the voice of the victims have to remain silent."

Heverly says her group will continue to show up with victims' families and pictures in tow anytime an accused DUI offender like Williams is in court.

Smith is urging victims and their friends to e-mail Robinson with their concerns. Robinson told us drunken driving is horrible, and she says she doesn't even drink. But she says there's no way bail in the Williams case should have been set so high.


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