Suspect in 1983 cold case pleads guilty, then gets out of jail

Ralph Williams pleads guilty to manslaughter, sentenced to time served in jail, 10 years of probation
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 5:20 PM EST
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man accused of killing a Delray Beach woman in 1983 has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, one day after rejecting a plea deal in open court.

Ralph Williams, 60, pleaded guilty Tuesday to the lesser charge of manslaughter with a weapon.

Under the terms of the plea deal, Williams was sentenced to 365 days in the county jail and 10 years of probation. He was released from jail after receiving credit for time served.

Williams was arrested last year after the Delray Beach Police Department's cold case unit used new technology to link him to the 1983 death of Carla Lowe. The 21-year-old woman was beaten to death while waiting for an Amtrak train on Nov. 13, 1983.

Carla Lowe of Broward County. She was murdered in Delray Beach in 1983.
Carla Lowe of Broward County. She was murdered in Delray Beach in 1983.

In court Monday, Williams said he was dissatisfied with his defense and sought to hire his own attorney.

But he apparently had a change of heart, accepting a plea that keeps him from serving any prison time.

"It's not justice," Jackie Lowe-Repass, Lowe's sister, told WPTV's Ashley Glass during a Zoom interview Wednesday. "It's just not justice."

Lowe-Repass, who lives in North Carolina, was among those family members who gathered at the courthouse for Monday's plea hearing.

"Him being cocky, the way he is, decided that he didn't want to take the plea," Lowe-Repass said.

Lowe-Repass said she and other family members didn't really want a plea to begin with, but they understood it.

"It should be a first-degree murder charge," she said. "It really should. … It's like it happened all over again."

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg told WPTV in a statement that the "guilty plea and sentence, while imperfect, hopefully provides a measure of justice for the family of homicide victim Carla Lowe in this nearly 40-year-old cold case."

"I want to thank prosecutor Aleathea McRoberts and detectives from Delray Beach police for the hard work that led to the conviction of Ralph Williams," Aronberg said.

Lowe-Repass said her family will move forward with "a lot of anger," but they accept the outcome.

"He still got a slap on the wrist," she said.

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