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Friends and family turn to God for healing as suspected killer blames ‘demon’ for his actions

Friends, family honor murdered mom and infant son

Manatee County friends and family hold a candlelight vigil for murdered 18-year-old Diamond Shelman and her infant son Jeremiah.
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Manatee County friends and family hold a candlelight vigil for murdered 18-year-old Diamond Shelman and her infant son Jeremiah.

About 75 people who knew and loved Diamond Shelman, 18, gathered in Lincoln Park on Sunday night with hands raised to God and praying for the community to heal in the wake of her tragic and violent death on Aug. 27 alongside her 8-month-old son Jeremiah.

Rosalba Velazquez was Shelman’s best friend. The two became pregnant at the same time, became roommates and developed a bond like sisters.

“She would always call me her sister and not a best friend,” Velazquez said. “That’s how close we were.”

Velazquez said Shelman was trying to move on from her sometime boyfriend, Larry Bernard Williams, 20, who is suspected as being her killer. Williams was known to have another female in his life with another child, and Velazquez said it was just getting too complicated. Shelman had found someone she really liked, but her life primarily revolved around Jeremiah. She was on the road to great things.

“She had a great job at CVS, and she was just starting to go to college,” Velazquez said. “I don’t know why (Williams) started coming back around, but if I know Diamond, it would be something to benefit Jeremiah. I never thought he would harm her in that way, but I know she isn’t suffering anymore. There’s no more pain, and I know she’s in a happy place and I know she’s still here.”

Velazquez said Shelman was a soul full of love. Love for her family, friends, Jeremiah and God. Velazquez accepted Jesus Christ at Shelman’s funeral.

“She loved God so much and would always tell me how much God loves me,” she said. “I know someday I’ll see her again in heaven and we’ll be back together. I believe God took Jeremiah, too, because there isn’t anyone who could have loved that child more than she did. Diamond was love and God wanted her back.”

There was probably drugs involved. That’s the only you can do something that crazy and cause that kind of harm.

Rosalba Velazquez, friend of murder victim Diamond Shelman

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office arrested Williams, 20, on Aug. 27 for the killings of Shelman and her infant son. The next day, officials released the cause of her death as being stabbed with her throat cut, according to the probable cause affidavit. The baby was found face down in the apartment. He, too, was dead from smoke inhalation.

Police say Williams killed Shelman and set her apartment on fire, resulting in the death of Jeremiah.

Williams continues to be held on two counts of murder without bail in the Manatee County jail. Williams is also charged with setting the fire and a bond of $100,000 was set only the charge of arson. Bond was withheld on the two murder charges. Gasoline was used to start the fire, and Williams was found the same day of the murders just three hours later with burns on his leg.

He initially denied any involvement but then admitted he knew about the knife and gas canister inside the apartment. When asked why he admitted to knowing that, Williams said, “the demon which takes him over,” stabbed Diamond and torched the apartment.

Velazquez isn’t buying it.

“The devil can get to you, but he can’t force you to do that,” she said. “There was probably drugs involved. That’s the only you can do something that crazy and cause that kind of harm.”

The mother and her young son were found in their home at Avalon Square Apartments, 3506 14th St. W. A firefighter en route to work on the morning of the murders at 6:36 a.m. spotted the the flames from a downstairs apartment and called for help. Crews from Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue responded, and the two victims were found inside the apartment at that time. Law enforcement immediately determined that Shelman’s injuries were not consistent with a fire and launched a homicide investigation.

Williams has had previous run-ins with the law that include a 2012 charge of lewd and lascivious battery.

While Williams traverses the court process en route to justice one way or the other, the community who loved Shelman will not soon forget her.

“Look at these people,” said vigil organizer Wayne Washington. “This young girl touched a lot of lives. This young girl spread a lot of love.”

Reporters Sara Nealeigh, Hannah Morse and Jessica DeLeon contributed to this report.

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