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Semmie Williams competent to stand trial in killing of Palm Beach Gardens teenager Ryan Rogers, judge says

Williams faces 1st-degree murder charge in stabbing death of boy
Semmie Williams Jr., suspect in death of Ryan Rogers, Dec. 1, 2021 mugshot
Posted at 2:12 PM, Jun 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-08 17:36:25-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.  — A Palm Beach County judge ruled that a homeless drifter accused of killing a Palm Beach Gardens teenager last year is competent to stand trial.

Judge Charles E. Burton issued an eight-page ruling Tuesday that Semmie Williams Jr. can be tried in the death of Ryan Rogers, a 14-year-old William T. Dwyer Community High School freshman.

"It is evident to the Court that the Defendant has a strategic disagreement with his attorneys about how to present the case to the jury," Burton said in the ruling. "That, in and of itself, does not make him incompetent to proceed."

Read the full ruling below:

The judge did acknowledge that Williams suffers from a "long-standing mental illness."

"However, the Defendant is medication compliant and his symptoms have improved dramatically since the day of his arrest according to the doctors," the judge said.

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

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.

The ruling comes after a four-hour hearing on May 27 where the court heard from three doctors who had interviewed Williams over the last few months.

Burton had previously announced in April that two doctors had found that Williams was competent to stand trial in Rogers' death.

Rogers 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 was later arrested in Miami-Dade County on Dec. 1.

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

A status hearing in the case is scheduled for June 21 in West Palm Beach.

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