Williams arraigned in Essex shootings

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(Host) The man charged with fatally shooting two women in Chittenden County this week is being evaluated at the Vermont State Hospital. Judge Edward Cashman has ordered Christopher Williams held without bail.

VPR’s John Dillon was at the courthouse for the arraignment.

(Dillon) Williams is charged with two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder after a shooting spree that took place in an elementary school and a residential neighborhood in Essex.

According to court documents, Williams said he shot himself twice in the head as police came to arrest him. He was shackled to a wheelchair in a brief court appearance, but he bore no visible wounds and seemed unharmed.

The suspect’s alleged suicidal tendencies were the focus of a brief hearing before Judge Edward Cashman. A mental health screener, Joan Tracy, said Williams told her that he wanted to drown himself in a toilet after his arrest.

(Tracy) “He wanted to demonstrate to his girlfriend that he cared about her and that he wanted his girlfriend to know that he was dying because of her.”

(Dillon) It was the break-up with his girlfriend, Andrea Lambesis, that police say triggered the shooting spree. Court documents say Williams obtained a 45-caliber Ruger from a friend, drove to his girlfriend’s mother’s house, shot her and then drove to Essex Elementary School where his ex-girlfriend worked. No students were at the school. But Williams allegedly shot through a door, killing teacher Mary Alicia Shanks. Another teacher was also wounded.

Joan Tracy, the mental health counselor, said Williams told her had no recollection of the murders.

(Tracy) “He has recall up to a certain point. He has recall up to a point where he went to a house. Beyond that, his recall is poor.”

(Dillon) But the prosecutor says Williams remembered the events Thursday night, when he confessed to police. Margaret Vincent is the acting state’s attorney for Chittenden County.

(Vincent) “The defendant gave a statement to Lt. O’ Leary at the hospital which included, from the state’s perspective, a lot of information regarding what occurred [on Thursday].”
(Reporter) “Would you characterize that as a confession?”
(Vincent) “Yes.”

(Dillon) Williams is also charged with trying to kill his friend, Chad Johansen. Police say Johansen gave Williams the weapon that was used in the murders. According to the police affidavit, Williams said he “got in a tussle” because the friend didn’t want Williams to shoot himself on his new carpet.

Johansen also said Williams had been smoking crack. The court records show that Williams has a lengthy criminal history, including for drug offenses and domestic violence.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Burlington.

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