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Mental state of accused child killer under microscope

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 5:31 PM EST
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We are digging deeper into the past of Ryan Rogers' accused killer, including his mental health treatment history.

Semmie Williams Jr., 39, had a criminal past including an attack on a senior citizen in Atlanta in 2014.

A judge in Georgia wanted to send Williams on a bus to his mother, who lives in Sanford, Florida.

WPTV learned that she didn't want him back, and he was supposed to stay in Atlanta and receive treatment.

So, what brought Williams back to Florida and later to Palm Beach Gardens?

Marsha Martino, the executive director of the National Alliance for Mental Illness in Palm Beach County, spoke about the case.

Police say Semmie Williams Jr., 39, stabbed Ryan Rogers to death in Palm Beach Gardens.
Police say Semmie Williams Jr., 39, stabbed Ryan Rogers to death in Palm Beach Gardens.

"Here's a person who travels cities away and murders someone he doesn't even know," Martino said. "Yeah, my first thought was mental illness."

Court documents from Atlanta say Williams tried to choke the senior to death in the 2014 attack. The victim told the court he was lucky to be alive.

During the course of the case, Williams disappeared and was arrested in San Diego in January 2016.

He was extradited back to Atlanta and his case was put on hold when Williams was declared mentally incompetent.

He wrote letters to the court while in jail saying law enforcement's "goal is a new world order to make everyone a gay slave."

Marsha Martino offers her thoughts on the mental state of Semmie Williams Jr.
Marsha Martino offers her thoughts on the mental state of Semmie Williams Jr.

MORE: Divers search canal for more evidence in Ryan Rogers death investigation

"Everyone was a threat to him. His paranoia was escalating. You can see that," Martino said.

Williams received treatment at a hospital during his time in custody.

The judge wanted to send him back on a bus to his family in Central Florida, but the public defender later heard from Williams' family. His mom did not want him living with her or his sister.

It's unclear what happened from that point or if Williams was recently receiving any mental health treatment or was on medication.

"People who fall through the cracks. There aren't enough staff to go chasing after someone who doesn't show up for an appointment," Martino said.

Shortages in the mental health field and lack of resources can be obstacles experts say in continuing care.

Sharon L'Herrou believes once the 988 hotline goes live, it will spur an increase in calls for...
Sharon L'Herrou believes once the 988 hotline goes live, it will spur an increase in calls for those seeking help.

However, national help is on the way with a new law creating a national hotline for behavioral crisis.

"We do believe that when the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline rolls out the 988 hotline number, the shorter number, they expect to see a sharp increase in volume, and we will need funding support to meet that need," said Sharon L'Herrou, president and CEO of 211.

Locally at 211, resources are offered to community members in crisis every day.

The 988 number will become a national emergency line that will connect someone with a mental health professional.

"Every time that we're helping someone, we are not only helping that one individual, we are [also] helping everyone that that individual interacts with," L'Herrou said.

Scripps Only Content 2021