Crime

Suspect blames ‘demon’ for deaths of his girlfriend and infant son, cops say

Neighbors react to news of mother, infant dead in apartment

An 18-year-old mother and her infant were found dead in an apartment along 14th Street West Sunday morning when a firefighter on his way to work saw smoke. Investigators are calling the deaths suspicious and are investigating them and the fire.
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An 18-year-old mother and her infant were found dead in an apartment along 14th Street West Sunday morning when a firefighter on his way to work saw smoke. Investigators are calling the deaths suspicious and are investigating them and the fire.

When firefighters pulled the limp body of 18-year-old Diamond Shelman out of her bedroom at the Avalon Square apartments early Sunday, they discovered she had been stabbed and her throat cut, according to a probable cause affidavit from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Her 8-month-old son, Jeremiah, was also found face down on the bedroom floor. The District 12 Medical Examiner’s Office believe he died of smoke inhalation.

diamond son
Diamond Shelman, 18, was stabbed before detectives say her boyfriend, Larry Bernard Williams, set her Bradenton apartment on fire. She and their 8-month-old son Jeremiah were found dead inside. Provided photo

Larry Bernard Williams, 20, has been charged in the deaths of his girlfriend and their son.

Early Monday afternoon, Williams made his first appearance before a judge to face two counts of murder and one count of arson. Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas ordered Williams be held without bond on both counts of murder, finding that “the proof of guilt is evident and presumption is great,” based on the probable cause affidavit.

Throughout his brief hearing, Williams remained silent and appeared to be scowling straight ahead as he watched the proceedings on an television monitor from the jail.

larry williams
Larry Bernard Williams, 20, was arrested by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday. Manatee County Sheriff’s Office

Williams has a prior criminal juvenile history, Assistant State Attorney Suzanne O’Donnell said in court. In 2012, he pleaded to a charged lewd and lascivious battery and had a charge of capital sexual battery subsequently dropped, she said.

Assistant Public Defender Franklin Roberts asked that his office be appointed to represent Williams, and only argued that he was entitled to bond for the arson charge. Nicholas agreed and set that bond at $100,000. Williams will still be held without bond at the Manatee County jail, however, because of the murder charges.

Williams had been in the medical unit and was being held separately from the other inmates making their first appearance before the judge.

The blaze was discovered around 6:36 a.m. Sunday by a firefighter driving southbound on 14th Street West on his way to work. The witness saw a dark Chrysler 300 peel out of the Avalon Square apartments, 3506 14th St. W., as he drove in, according to the affidavit.

The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations found that an accelerant, most likely gasoline, had been used to start the fire. Three hours after the fire was discovered, detectives found Williams with burns on his leg and his Chrysler in the 2600 block of 50th Avenue Drive East.

Initially, Williams told detectives he didn’t know anything about the fire, according to the affidavit. Then he told detectives about a gas canister and knife, and where Diamond’s body was in the apartment.

When asked why he admitted these things, Williams said he was there when “the demon which takes him over” stabbed Diamond and torched the apartment, according to the probable cause affidavit.

At 6 p.m. Sunday, community activist Wayne Washington will be holding a vigil for Shelmon and her son at Lincoln Park in Palmetto. He asks that members of the community who wish to participate to bring poster boards and candles. For more information, you can call: 941-249-7532.

Hannah Morse: 941-745-7055, @mannahhorse

Jessica De Leon: 941-745-7049, @JDeLeon1012

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