JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Brianna Williams pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of her 5-year-old daughter Taylor Rose Williams on Thursday.
Williams had not been formally charged with murder in her daughter’s death prior to her court appearance Thursday morning.
She faced charges of aggravated child abuse, lying to police, and tampering with evidence in connection. Court documents filed by the State Attorney’s Office accused the mother of torturing, maliciously punishing, or caging her daughter between April and Nov. of 2019.
Williams, a Naval petty officer first class at the Tactical Operations Center at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, at the time of her arrest now faces up to life in state prison with a minimum sentence of more than 20 years, according to new court documents.
WATCH WILLIAMS’ FULL COURT APPEARANCE BELOW:
On Nov. 6, 2019, Williams called the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to report her daughter missing and the back door of her Brentwood home unlocked. A massive search effort and investigation followed, during which Williams became uncooperative. Police said Williams lied with police about several key timeline facts about her daughter’s disappearance.
Eight agencies took part in the initial search and investigation for the missing child, including FBI Jacksonville.
“As our community has shown over the past few days, there’s a lot of love for Taylor here. Even those who have never even met her — and we want you to know that we will do anything we can to bring her home,” said Rachel Rojas with the FBI at the time.
Investigators discovered that Williams — days prior to Taylor’s disappearance — traveled to a remote area of Alabama where she briefly stayed before immediately returning to Jacksonville. A search of Williams’ phone records found she made three separate trips to and from Alabama. October 31, November 1 and November 2.
During the initial investigation, a neighbor who lived near Taylor and Brianna Williams at a Southside apartment complex told detectives he saw the little girl alone and wandering the complex multiple times. In a warrant, he claimed he first noticed Taylor alone on April 17, 2019. He said he took the child back to her apartment and told her to lock the door. He described the inside of the apartment as cluttered with trash bags and boxes stacked on top of each other.
The same neighbor said he continued to see Taylor home alone at least every other day, explaining that Taylor would wave to him from her apartment. He said she was always wearing the same pajamas and holding the same doll. He said Williams’ car was never in the apartment parking lot during these times.
Taylor had also previously attended Kinder Garden, a daycare facility in Jacksonville. Detectives said records reveal the last time Taylor went to the facility was April 10, 2019. Both Taylor’s maternal and paternal grandparents said they haven’t seen Taylor in over a year.
The Demopolis Police Department in Alabama announced on Nov. 12, 2019, that human remains were found in the area where Williams traveled and stopped. Forensic analysis later confirmed the remains belonged to Taylor. Sources said the remains were found in trash bag(s).
Forensic analysis confirmed the remains belonged to Taylor. The medical examiner noted there were signs of neglect or severe illness but a definitive cause of death could not be determined. The five-year-old is believed to have died several weeks to several months prior to being found.
Williams was rushed to UF Health in serious condition from an apparent overdose on the same day the remains were found Police said she was found unresponsive at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
She was later arrested and booked into the Duval County Jail.
Williams’ sentencing is scheduled for May 11.
MORE COVERAGE FROM 2019:
- Taylor Williams: Search for missing person in Alabama area where girl’s mother previously lived
- Detectives looking at Craigslist ad for child care possibly made by Taylor Williams’ mother
- Sheriff on mom of missing Jacksonville girl: ‘We need for her to cooperate with us’
- Timeline of events in disappearance of Jacksonville girl Taylor Williams
- ‘The similarities are quite uncanny’: Cases of two missing 5-year-old girls connected by mystery
- Photos: Police looking for clues in Taylor’s disappearance at Jacksonville apartment complex
- Taylor Williams was left home alone ‘at least every other day,’ neighbor says
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