WILKES-BARRE — One year to the day after Eric Williams was brutally killed while working in a federal prison — and at a time when the case against his alleged killer hangs in a limbo of sealed court documents — King’s College is unveiling new scholarships in honor of the 2003 graduate.
“Nothing’s going to bring our son back,” said Eric’s father, Donald Williams of Nanticoke.
But when the college approached the Williams family about setting up a scholarship for those majoring in criminal justice, it was a good fit.
“Our family is a King’s family. My wife worked there for many years, I graduated there in 1972, Eric graduated there (2003) as did our daughter (2013),” Donald Williams said. “It brings some comfort to the family to help others who are going to pick up his banner, so to speak, of law enforcement.”
Eric Williams graduated from King’s with a criminal justice degree and was serving as a federal corrections officer when he was ambushed and killed by an inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan in Wayne County on Feb. 25, 2013.
On July 25, a federal grand jury handed up an indictment of first-degree murder against Jessie Con-ui, an inmate serving 25 years to life for the murder of a gang rival in Arizona in 2002.
The indictment accused Con-ui of “repeatedly stabbing and striking (Eric Williams) with weapons and repeatedly kicking, stomping and slamming him about the head, face and torso.”
Con-ui pleaded not guilty June 16. Jury selection for a trial was set for Sept. 16, 2013, but was postponed and has not been rescheduled. The docket since then has been a flurry of filings by Con-ui, most of them sealed by the judge at Con-ui’s request.
One of the documents not sealed reveals a potential defense. It cites cases when failures or actions by the Bureau of Prisons were considered mitigating factors in prison murders, and notes defense attorneys have asked for extensive documents, video and audio recordings from Canaan.
Defense attorneys contended “Canaan administrative officials are interfering with counsel’s access to mitigation testimony.”
Donald Williams said he has not followed the court maneuvering closely and that he preferred to focus on the new scholarships.
“Its a rough time no matter what happens or doesn’t happen,” he said. “The idea that something is being done in his memory and someone is receiving some benefit brings comfort.”
King’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement Freddie Pettit said the plan is to give two scholarships of $1,000 each to criminal justice students every year beginning this fall for at least five years. After that, at least one scholarship will be awarded annually.
“Since Eric’s passing a year ago, the college has been trying to find a way to appropriately memorialize him,” Pettit said.
The money comes from the college’s own funds and the Williams family, Pettit said. Donald Williams said it includes money donated in his son’s name.
Pettit said those interested in supporting the scholarships can donate tax-deductible contributions to the college. To donate, call 570-208-5882.