Grieving family blames justice system, mental healthcare in Mississippi for murder tragedy

Mississippi has few long term care options for patients with schizophrenia.
William's public defender asked for his $1 million bond to be reduced. Instead the judge increased the bond to $1.1 million dollars.
Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 7:03 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - After a coast pastor was allegedly killed by her own son in a Gulfport stabbing, family members are crying out for help.

They say for years they’ve been working to get the mental health care their family member needs, all to no avail. Now, they are calling on the state of Mississippi to step up to prevent these kinds of tragedies from happening again.

“I’m just really sad that I lost a mother over this,” Dantrell Williams said. “We’ve been crying for help several times.”

Help for Durel Williams. The 28-year-old is accused of slitting his mother’s throat on September 28, 2020.

Myra Williams, 68, died in her home on 32nd Avenue in Gulfport.

“My mother was a loving woman,” Williams said. “She loved her son. She didn’t want anything to really happen to him. That’s why he was always home with her, but she wanted to seek more.”

“She loved him, she loved him to death,” said Gayle Tart, who once served as an attorney for Durel Williams.

Durel’s sister says the family noticed signs of him spiraling out of control in 2012, before he graduated high school.

“He was so outgoing, he was really smart on a lot of things, he was doing so much in school,” Williams said. “He loved football.”

Dantrell Williams says her brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia; and she pinpointed more than 50 split personalities.

“Not too long ago, I lost my father as well,” Williams said. “September 27th was my father’s birthday. So maybe he had a mental state from that.”

She says not only has she lost a brother to mental illness... she’s lost her mother, too.

Family members place blame on the state of mental health care in Mississippi and the justice system.

“I know I’ve been to court with him at least three times,” Tart said. “It was just a band-aid, patched him and let him go.”

“Seeking help with moderate income as in a low income family, you don’t get a lot of help unless you can pay for treatments,” Williams said.

The family spent thousands of dollars on treatment for Durel over the years until Dantrell says it became too costly. They tried again when Durel was charged with simple assault for attacking his father.

“We tried to seek attention to get him inpatient within the state of Mississippi and we were denied because it wasn’t a traumatic instance, but this is a traumatic instance right now,” Williams said.

Throughout their journey seeking help, they’ve learned Mississippi has few options for long term care for patients with schizophrenia... now they are demanding that change.

“My question for Mississippi is - where is the money for mental health going? Why is there no program for people with schizophrenia such as housing, treatment for people with low-income?”

“Everybody in their family knows somebody who has a mental problem with the economy being high, inflation like it is, homeless people walking around every day,” Tart said. “We see somebody who needs help, but they aren’t getting the help. So we need to focus on what can we do to make this better because it could be you next. It could be in your family next.”

Williams appeared before the judge during his preliminary hearing on Wednesday. William’s public defender asked for his $1 million bond to be reduced, but instead the judge increased the bond to $1.1 million. His family says it was because he was called a danger to society.

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