1967 murderer seeks release from mental hospital

ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — A man who murdered two Kent County girls in the late 1960s wants to be released from a state mental hospital, but people who were close to his victims say Theodore Williams should remain locked up.

Laura Gilbert will stand in for Sonya Santa Cruz’s mother Edith at a Wednesday hearing in Allegan County Circuit Court. Gilbert said her friend never recovered from the 1967 loss of her 7-year-old daughter.

Sonya Santa Cruz. (Courtesy photo circa 1967)
(Sonya Santa Cruz. Courtesy photo circa 1967.)

“She doesn’t trust people,” Gilbert said of Edith. “She’s afraid for herself, for her daughters, for her granddaughters. I mean, how do you get over it?”

Williams admitted to killing two girls. Charges in one of the deaths were dropped. Williams later pleaded guilty to Sonya’s murder.

Instead of  going to prison, he was sent to a state mental hospital as a criminal sexual psychopath under a law that is no longer in use. To get out, he must to prove he is no longer a threat to anyone.

Sonya’s mother Edith now lives in California, but she wrote a petition saying Williams should not be released.

“She begs the court to keep him incarcerated in some way just to keep people safe from him, and that’s all she’s asking,” Gilbert explained.

And if he is released from the mental hospital, Gilbert said, Edit thinks he should serve time in prison.

“(She) lives in a constant fear that more of her family will die or even a stranger will die at the hands of Theodore Williams,” Gilbert said. “The only thing that’s going to bring her a sense of peace is seeing him punished in some way for this crime, to make sure he is not out in society doing this again.”

Gilbert said Edith is fighting to keep Williams inside, even though she is also fighting serious illness.

“She’s worked really hard to stay well enough,” Gilbert said. “She’s hoping to outlive Theodore Williams so that she can continue to fight his freedom. And it’s not just his freedom, but his freedom to harm others.”

He has asked to be released before and has been denied.

“Every time, it’s not just emotional. It turns into a physical thing,” Gilbert said. “(Edith) just suffers so much.”

Wednesday, Williams’ lawyer will ask a judge in Allegan County to set a trial so Williams can try to prove he’s no longer a danger.

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