Larry Bernard Williams blamed the “demon which takes him over” for stabbing his ex-girlfriend to death before setting her apartment on fire, also killing their son. His defense intends to prove he was insane at the time of the murders, according to court records.
With his trial set to begin in late June, defense attorney Christopher Boldt recently filed the intent to rely on an insanity defense. According to the court record, Williams suffers from schizophrenia, a major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Williams, 21, was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson.
Two psychologists are listed to testify in Williams’ defense to support his claim of insanity, a defense that is not often used in Manatee County and rarely works at trial.
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Valorie McClaine, one of the psychologists listed as a witness, testified for the defense in the 2017 trial of Andres “Andy” Avalos Jr., claiming that because Avalos had a psychotic breakdown, he did not understand it was wrong when he killed his wife, neighbor and a local pastor. The jury didn’t believe Avalos’ insanity defense and found him guilty of three counts of murder.
On Aug. 27, 2017, an off-duty firefighter driving past the Avalon Square apartments, 3506 14th St. W., Bradenton, just after 6:30 a.m. spotted a fire coming from 18-year-old Diamond Shelman’s apartment. As the firefighter called 911 and pulled in, a Chrysler 300 was seen speeding out of the complex.
Inside the apartment, Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue crews found Shelman and her 8-month-old son dead.
Detectives learned that the baby’s father was known to drive a Chrysler 300. Within three hours of that make of car having been seen fleeing the scene, detectives found Williams and took him into custody.
Initially, Williams denied knowing anything about the fire during a recorded interview with detectives. He quickly recanted, however, revealing details about the fire and murders that had not been made public and only the killer could know, according to detectives, including where a gas canister and knife were, the type of gas canister and where in the apartment Shelman’s body had been.
But Williams claimed it was the “demon which takes him over” that stabbed his ex-girlfriend and set her apartment on fire. Detectives say he also admitted that burns on his legs were caused by that fire.
The state attorney’s office has not indicated it will seek the death penalty if Williams is convicted. He has been held without bond at the Manatee County jail since his arrest.