Williford's ex-girlfriend could be reluctant witness

Jason Williford (Image courtesy Wake County Sheriff's Office)
May 8, 2012 8:02:49 PM PDT
A key witness in a high profile murder trial is begging to be kept out of it but the district attorney said he needs her on the stand.

Jason Williford is charged with raping and killing state school board member Kathy Taft. His trial could start any day now. However, one witness said she's also a victim and fears for her health if she is forced to testify.

Williford's former girlfriend, who ABC11 is not identifying, said she is emotionally unstable and said even being in the same room with a man she claims abused her could send her over the edge.

"What little healing there was has been undone," said the woman.

When Williford's trial starts, prosecutors are expected to portray him as sexual deviant who picked Taft at random then raped and murdered her. The crime shocked everyone who heard about it, but not Williford's ex-girlfriend.

"I wasn't shocked at all," she said. "I mean, this was something he was entirely capable of. He's a very violent individual."

However, the former girlfriend didn't realize Williford's arrest might mean she would once again have to confront her fears and him.

"I didn't think I would ever be needed," she said. "It doesn't serve any purpose. They know he did it."  

Prosecutors have linked Williford's DNA to the crime scene, but it's no surprise they would want to bolster their case with testimony like this.

"Everything that he had done to her," said the ex-girlfriend, "he's done to me. The only difference is that she's dead and I'm not."

It's testimony that could sway a jury and hand Williford at least a sentence of life behind bars, if not the death penalty.

But what would it do to her life, to have to face him again, in open court? She said she wants him convicted.

"At the same time, it's still not fair to me," she said.

The women said she's still afraid of Williford years after she left him and got a restraining order, but did not press charges,

Now, she said she lives with that daily, especially after what happened to Taft. With the possibility of being forced to testify looming, she said all the feelings she suppressed for years are back. She's crying a lot, losing sleep, missing work, getting behind on her bills, and having panic attacks and nightmares.

District Attorney Colon Willoughby said this wouldn't be the first time his office has forced a witness to testify against their will. However, he added that it's a decision that isn't made lightly.

"Jurors need to understand all the facts and circumstances about the facts of that case, and about the defendant to properly assess whether someone is guilty or not," said Willoughby. "The fact that you might have DNA or a fingerprint or something like that, may be explained away if you don't have other facts and circumstances that show this person committed a crime."

Willoughby agreed what many victims who are forced to testify could use psychological help to overcome the trauma of the crime and having to testify.

He said his office has very limited assistance available to victims and there should be more.

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