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Mental health court to evaluate if Semmie Williams Jr. fit to stand trial

Homeless drifter accused of killing Palm Beach Gardens teen Ryan Rogers
Semmie Williams Jr. competency hearing in front of Judge Kirk Volker, Feb. 28, 2022
Posted at 5:26 PM, Feb 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-28 17:56:25-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The defense team was dealt a defeat Monday in the case of Semmie Williams Jr., the homeless drifter accused of stabbing a Palm Beach Gardens teenager to death.

Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Kirk Volker ruled to temporarily transfer the case to the mental health court, where Williams, 39, can be evaluated by two experts. It will be up to those experts to determine if Williams will be competent enough to stand trial.

State Attorney Dave Aronberg's office is seeking the death penalty for Williams, who stands accused of killing Ryan Rogers while the teen was on a bicycle ride along Central Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on Nov. 1.

Ryan Rogers and Semmie Williams Jr., photos divided by crime scene
Police say Semmie Williams Jr., 39, stabbed Ryan Rogers to death in Palm Beach Gardens.

Police said they found a bloodstained-bandana in the suspect's possession. DNA on headphones found at the scene of the crime matched Williams, police said previously.

Aronberg's office recently chose not to prosecute Williams stemming from his scuffle with a sheriff's deputy while he was being booked on the murder charge.

The deputy also claimed that Williams then raised his voice and said, "Yeah, I killed that mother (expletive) and I'll kill you too. Are you the mother (expletive) judge?"

Semmie Williams Jr. cut on head after scuffle with deputies
This photograph shows a cut to Semmie Williams Jr.'s head after a scuffle with deputies at the main Palm Beach County jail.

Monday's decision to send Williams' case to the mental health court comes after his public defender filed a motion to keep the proceedings to determine Williams' competency in the same court, which will preside over the capital trial, as first reported by Contact 5.

The motion claimed Williams "appears unable to testify relevantly" or "meaningfully participate" in "defending a case in which the state is seeking the death penalty."

The court filing also mentioned Williams' history of mental illness and its role in a previous criminal case, saying he suffered from schizophrenia.

Williams is being housed in the mental health unit of the Palm Beach County jail.

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