From Timothy Gonzales’ appeal: The body of Lora Beth Williamson was found in a Kansas cornfield on August 17, 1986. Williamson was last seen alive by witnesses the evening before at the Finney County free fair. At the fair, Gonzales and Adam Flores (“Flores”) had been spending time “checking out the scenery and checking out the women.” After Flores and Gonzales noticed Williamson, Gonzales said “he was going to try to get it,” and approached her. The two started a conversation and walked together while Flores followed behind. When they reached the parking lot, Flores stopped following them because “three’s a crowd.” The fair was ending, and that was the last Flores saw of Gonzales and Williamson that night. The next morning, Williamson’s body was found.
Flores testified that he had been in Gonzales’s car a few weeks before the murder and noticed a lock-blade knife on the console of the car. He stated that Gonzales had the same knife in a leather pouch fixed to his belt the night of the fair. The doctor who performed the autopsy testified that the victim died of knife wounds inflicted by a single-edged blade with a minimum length of two inches.
Officer Abundio Munoz (“Munoz”) was on the night shift patrol when the victim was killed. Investigating a bonfire in close proximity to where the body was found, he noticed a car traveling in the area. Officer Munoz testified that his attention was drawn to the car because it was unusual to see any traffic in the area at that time of night. He followed the car, called in the license plates, and discovered that it was registered to Ernest Campos, Gonzales’s brother-in-law. Campos testified that Gonzales had possession of the car that night because he was in the process of purchasing it.
Munoz was personally acquainted with Campos. He noticed that it was not Campos driving the car, and described the driver as a wet or sweaty Hispanic male with no shirt. Munoz did not pull the car over because the driver was neither driving erratically nor in violation of a traffic law.
Williamson had been stabbed numerous times and her throat had been cut. Though the upper portion of the body was soaked with blood, it was relatively clean from the waist down. Police found a semen stain on the victim’s leg, which was collected and sent to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (“KBI”) for analysis. The semen was examined by KBI serologist Kelly Robbins (“Robbins”), who found no sperm in the sample. Robbins noted that a complete absence of sperm was somewhat unusual, and told investigators that one explanation for this might be if the murderer and attempted rapist had a vasectomy. The fact that there was no sperm evident in the sample was not disclosed to defense counsel and was not introduced by the State at trial. Gonzales has not had a vasectomy and has a normal sperm count.
Blood, hair, and saliva samples were taken from Gonzales. Robbins testified that based on the genetic markers in the saliva and blood, Gonzales could be the donor of the semen found on the victim’s leg. Within the group of potential donors, approximately 26% of the Hispanic population would have all of the serological markers found in the sample, and 24% of the Caucasian population would have these markers.
Gonzales’s car was searched and samples were taken. The tires were removed from the car and sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“F.B.I.”) in Washington, D.C. A tire tread expert testified that the tires from Gonzales’s car matched the tracks from the crime scene in size and design, and at least one of the tires matched the wear of the tracks at the scene.
Two fibers found on the victim’s jeans matched fibers from the seat of Gonzales’s car in color and microscopic characteristics. Additionally, investigators sprayed a substance called Luminol on the interior of the car to detect traces of blood not visible to the naked eye. Though the Luminol test indicated traces of blood, the source of the blood was inconclusive.
In November 1986, the police obtained a warrant and searched Gonzales’s home. Under his bed, officers found a box containing pornographic magazines and a Garden City Telegram newspaper from August 18, 1986. The front page article was about Williamson’s murder. When interviewed by a KBI agent, Gonzales explained that he had the paper in his room because his sister used newspaper to wrap her baby’s diapers. Though Gonzales lived in the house with his sister, there were no diapers or baby supplies found in the room.
After Gonzales’s arrest, he was placed in custody in the county jail. He was held in the same cell as Jack Spears, who was incarcerated for another crime but was also under suspicion for the Williamson murder. During the investigation of Gonzales’s case, the KBI discovered that Spears had written a letter to another inmate alleging that Gonzales had confessed to killing Williamson. At trial, the letter was admitted into evidence before the State called Spears to testify and without objection by Gonzales’s defense counsel, Dennis Bahr (“Bahr”). Because Spears invoked his Fifth Amendment right and refused to testify, Bahr was unable to question him about Gonzales’s alleged confession. Spears testified at a hearing held after the trial that the letter was untrue, and that he wrote it to deflect suspicion for the crime away from himself.
A jury convicted Gonzales of one count of felony murder and one count of attempted rape. Gonzales was sentenced to life imprisonment on the felony murder charge, and, pursuant to the Habitual Criminal Act, Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-4504, ten to forty years on the attempted rape. The sentences were ordered to run consecutively. A motion to modify the sentence was denied, and Gonzales appealed.
In December 1989, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Gonzales’s convictions. See State v. Gonzales, 783 P.2d 1239 (Kan. 1989). In August 1992, Gonzales filed a motion for state habeas relief pursuant to Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-1507 in state district court in Kansas. In January 1994, the state district court denied him relief. In December 1994, the Kansas Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s denial of the 60-1507 motion. Gonzales v. State, No. 71,217 (Kan. Ct. App. Dec. 30, 1994) (unpublished opinion). Review was denied by the Kansas Supreme Court in March 1995.
In April 1997, Gonzales sought federal habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254 in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. In November 1999, the district court denied Gonzales habeas relief as well as a certificate of appealability. Gonzales v. McKune, 76 F. Supp. 2d. 1222, 1229 (D. Kan. 1999). In December 1999, Gonzales filed notice of appeal seeking review by this court.
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