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Homeless drifter accused of killing Palm Beach Gardens teenager in court for competency hearing

Semmie Williams Jr. faces first-degree murder charge in stabbing death of Ryan Rogers
Semmie Williams Jr. competency hearing, May 27, 2022
Posted at 1:23 PM, May 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-27 18:18:11-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A homeless drifter accused of killing a Palm Beach Gardens teenager last year was in court Friday for a four-hour competency hearing to determine if he is able to stand trial for the crime.

Palm Beach County Judge Charles E. Burton previously announced in April that two doctors had found that Semmie Williams Jr. was competent to stand trial in the death of Ryan Rogers, a 14-year-old William T. Dwyer Community High School freshman.

Williams, 39, faces a charge of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of the teen.

Rogers was an avid soccer enthusiast who was found dead Nov. 16 near the Central Boulevard sidewalk at the Interstate 95 overpass, less than 24 hours after his mother reported him missing, police said.

Williams' attorney — public defender Scott Pribble — told the judge Friday that Williams does not want to be found incompetent and go back to a hospital after previously spending time in a Georgia hospital.

"Mr. Williams does not believe that he is incompetent to proceed," Pribble said. "He does not want us to argue he's incompetent nor to try to convince the court to adjudicate him incompetent."

The court heard Friday from three doctors who have interviewed Williams over the last few months.

Williams appeared calm and composed as doctors discussed his mental health, including Dr. Gretchen Moy — his licensed clinical psychologist — who his defense team hired to evaluate the accused killer.

She outlined how she met with Williams on eight separate days for about a total of seven hours, diagnosing him with schizophrenia.

"It is my opinion that Mr. Williams was incompetent to proceed," Moy said. "I recommended that he be forensically hospitalized to try to restore his competency."

During her time on the stand, she outlined that the accused killer has multiple delusions and hallucinations, which specifically affect his appreciation of the specific allegations of the case.

Dr. Gretchen Moy testifies in the Semmie Williams Jr. competency hearing, May 27, 2022
Dr. Gretchen Moy testifies in the Semmie Williams Jr. competency hearing held on May 27, 2022.

"Mr. Williams has a belief system that involves large groups of people, which he indicated consists of the KKK, the neighborhood Free Masons, gangbangers among some other groups that have tormented and harassed him over the past 10 or more years," Moy said. "He said they do that by things like drawing lines on his face using electromagnetic weapons to harm him by sexually assaulting him."

She said medication that Williams has been taking since being jailed has helped him to organize his thought processes and reduce his hallucinations. However, his delusional beliefs continue.

"(Williams) discussed an incident that happened a few years ago where was attacked by two demons — one was invisible — that were trying to sexually assault him," Moy said. "He said he astroprojected himself and his spirit was fighting them."

Moy believes his delusions specifically affect his appreciation of the specific allegations related to the case.

She said he is expecting his lawyers, against their recommendation, to present a defense that is rooted in his delusional beliefs as opposed to the evidence in the case.

"I know he is a very seriously mentally ill man," Moy said.

Dr. Stephen Rich Alexander testifies in a competency hearing for Semmie Williams Jr. May 27, 2022
Dr. Stephen Rich Alexander testifies in a competency hearing for Semmie Williams Jr. on May 27, 2022.

Two other doctors, who were appointed by the court, also examined Williams.

Dr. Stephen Rich Alexander, a licensed psychologist in West Palm Beach, who was court-appointed, then took the stand to outline his interviews with Williams.

Alexander has previously ruled that Williams is competent to stand trial.

"[Williams] answered all the questions in a spontaneous manner, did not appear to have any intellectual difficulties following what I was saying, did not appear to have any gross types of confusion and his verbal fluency was probably above average for the average defendant incarcerated in jail," Alexander said.

Alexander described Williams as being "alert, oriented and attentive" during his interactions with the suspect and said his thought process was relatively clear.

Ryan Rogers picture at Palm Beach Gardens police news conference, Dec. 2, 2021
A picture of Ryan Rogers serves as a backdrop at a Palm Beach Gardens Police Department news conference, Dec. 2, 2021, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

"During the course of the examination, (Williams) was also able to indicate that he understands the basis for the first-degree murder charge," Alexander said. "He knows that there was a victim named Ryan stabbed to death. He was able to tell me how he became associated with the crime, ultimately charged with it."

"He's estranged from his family — as I described —because he has incorporated his family into this delusional belief system," Dr. Adam White said.

Despite acknowledging Williams' paranoid delusions, both court-appointed doctors told Burton that the defendant is competent to stand trial.

After hearing from the mental health professionals, Burton still has to rule on the suspect's competency and its impact on the case.

A decision on whether Williams is competent to stand trial and proceed is expected to be made within the next few weeks.

Prosecutors said in January they will seek the death penalty if Williams is convicted.

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