‘Donta didn’t need enemies’

Published 10:38 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Last of three murderers found guilty of 2015 killing

A Circuit Court jury on Wednesday delivered guilty verdicts and recommended the maximum sentence for one of three men accused of choking and beating their friend before pushing his body into a North Suffolk lake last year.

Nathaniel Charles McCoy Jr., 23, was found guilty of first-degree murder, murder by mob, conspiracy and shoot, stab, cut or wound in commission of a felony.

He was one of three who killed Donta Williams of Portsmouth on Jan. 20, 2015. According to testimony, they choked him with a pocket saw and beat him with a hammer and their fists before pushing his body into Lake Mathews, near the Department of Defense complex off College Drive.

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The other two suspects, Kyle Lamar Purvis and Tremayne L. Johnson, have already taken plea deals. Johnson was a witness for the commonwealth in this week’s trial, which lasted three days.

“With friends like these, who needs enemies?” prosecutor George Bruch said during his closing argument on Wednesday. “Donta didn’t need enemies.”

McCoy called the victim his “blood brother” in a police interview heard by the jury. The interview happened March 21, 2015, about two months after McCoy had lured Williams to a pedestrian bridge over the lake and choked him with the garrote, while Purvis beat him with a hammer and Johnson hit him at least once in the face.

The four knew each other through a combination of school and church. All four of them, at one time or another, had attended New Abundant Life Christian Center, but McCoy and Williams were the most involved at the church.

The problems started when McCoy got mad about rumors Williams was supposedly spreading within the church about McCoy’s mother.

During his testimony, Johnson said he walked in on the plot to kill Williams between McCoy and Purvis, who were living together at the time, a few days before the attack.

“I asked him was he serious about what he was saying and why was he going to do it,” Johnson testified. The only answer from McCoy was “Yes.”

“There were issues between the two that I thought they had resolved, but apparently there was some grudge,” Johnson testified.

A couple of days later, the three conspirators went to Walmart to purchase gloves. They also acquired zip-ties and brought the hammer and pocket saw to the parking lot of the federal complex.

They lured Williams with talk of drinking and hanging out. McCoy drove to the parking lot and fidgeted around in the trunk, Johnson testified, and the four walked out onto the bridge.

Johnson testified that McCoy started restraining Williams with the pocket saw, and Purvis hit Williams with the hammer — at least 19 times, according to the medical examiner.

Williams had wounds to his hands that indicated he was trying to loosen McCoy’s hold on the garrote around his neck.

Johnson testified he hit Williams with his fist once. He had started walking back toward the car when he heard a splash. Williams had met what would become his watery grave for the next seven weeks. The other two accused him of chickening out.

None of the three ever helped search for their missing friend. When someone texted McCoy with the news that Williams was missing, his response was, “What’s wrong with him?”

“The defendant knew exactly what was wrong with him,” Bruch, who was prosecuting the case alongside Matthew Glassman, said during his closing argument. “He was laying at the bottom of Lake Mathews.”

The next morning, a federal employee spotted the blood on the bridge and alerted security, who quickly deemed it animal blood and ordered it cleaned up. A very important visitor — President Barack Obama — was visiting the complex that day.

Williams’ body remained hidden until March 9, when a Department of Defense employee spotted it in the lake. Purvis and Johnson were charged less than two weeks later, and McCoy was arrested in Michigan, where he had fled.

During the trial, McCoy’s defense attorney, Mike Rosenberg, sought to cast doubt on Johnson’s testimony. In his closing argument, he called it “worthless, useless lies.”

“Just because they put Tremayne Johnson on the witness stand doesn’t mean you have to believe him,” Rosenberg said. He noted that Johnson accepted a plea agreement just last week.

Rosenberg also had Johnson read a letter Johnson sent to McCoy through another inmate while they were incarcerated awaiting trial. Johnson had suggested the two make Purvis look like the bad guy to minimize their roles.

The jury took less than an hour and a half to reach the guilty verdicts. They deliberated for only an hour on the sentence after hearing from Williams’ family and pastor.

“This has truly been my worst nightmare,” said Williams’ fiancée, Terri Douglas. “This tragedy has been emotionally and mentally draining, not only because I lost him but in such a way.”

The two had been dating since they were in high school, she said. They planned on getting married and having children.

“My heart will be forever broken,” she said.

Williams’ cousin, Decinda Williams, said her cousin’s death “left a big void in all of our lives.”

“We try to move on, but it’s hard when someone who showed nothing but love is gone,” she said.

Bishop Spencer Riddick of New Abundant Life Christian Center said Williams had been a leader in the church.

“He was a smart young man and had wisdom for his age,” Riddick said. “He was a great inspiration to me. Donta is a person that you would want to be around.”

The jury recommended the maximum sentence of two life terms plus 15 years. McCoy will be formally sentenced on Nov. 28.

“I think justice has been served,” Riddick said.