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Manling Tsang WILLIAMS





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: August 7, 2007
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: 1979
Victims profile: Her husband, Neal Williams, 27, and their sons Devon, 7, and Ian, 3
Method of murder: Smothering - Slashing with a sword
Location: Rowland Heights, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on January 18, 2012
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Manling Williams sentenced to death for murder of husband, sons in Rowland Height

By Brian Day -

January 19, 2012

POMONA - A judge sentenced Manling Tsang Williams to death Thursday for smothering her two young children with a pillow and slashing her husband to death with a sword in the family's Rowland Heights home in 2007.

The 32-year-old woman sobbed and shook as Pomona Superior Court Judge Robert Martinez handed down the sentence for the Aug. 7, 2007 murders of her husband, Neal Williams, 27, and their sons Devon, 7, and Ian, 3, at the family's condominium in the 18200 block of Camino Bello.

A jury convicted Manling Williams of three counts of first-degree murder in 2010, along with the special allegations of using weapons and lying in wait. After one jury was unable to agree on whether to sentence her to death or life imprisonment, a second penalty phase jury recommended last year that she be put to death.

Judge Martinez followed that recommendation.

"It is the order of this court that you should suffer the penalty of death," he told Williams.

Williams, who was dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit and glasses and had her hands shackled at the waist during the proceeding, kept her eyes fixed on the table in front of her throughout.

Jan Williams of Whittier, mother of Neal Williams and grandmother to Devon and

Ian Williams, said she was glad to see the trial, now in its fourth year, draw to a close at last.

"I'm relieved that this chapter is over," she said. "I couldn't take another trial."

She added, "This has had a terrible impact, not just on me and my family, on the Tsang family, but everyone involved."

The judge reflected on the crime at the sentencing hearing.

"The evidence is compelling that the defendant, for selfish reasons, murdered her own two children," Martinez said.

Her motivation, Martinez said, was a "narcissistic, selfish and adolescent" desire to start a new life with another man, free from the hindrances of family life.

In the months before the murders, Manling Williams had reconnected through the Internet with an old friend and began a relationship with him.

The judge pointed out that Manling Williams had numerous family members who would have taken in the children, should she have decided to abandon them.

After smothering Devon and Ian in their bunk bed, "The defendant savagely, brutally and viciously attacked her husband with a katana sword," Martinez said.

Neal Williams was stabbed and slashed more than 97 times in the attack, investigators said.

"In the final moments of life, Neal begged the defendant for help," the judge said.

The case was prosecuted by Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorneys Stacy Okun-Wiese and Pak Kouch.

Defense attorneys Tom Althaus and Haydeh Takasugi argued for their client's life to be spared.

Althaus told the court that the killings were not calculated executions, but a "sudden mistake."

"There's no basis for the prosecution's contention that these murders were planned," Althaus said, adding that Manling Williams was in a state of "extreme mental and emotional disturbance" when she killed her husband and sons.

Mitigating factors also included a difficult upbringing and no previous history of violence, he said.

Althaus acknowledged that his client had had an extra-marital affair, but disputed the prosecution's assertion that the affair formed a motive for the crime.

"There's no good explanation why it happened," Althaus said.

Prior to the killings, Manling Williams was "a kind, generous, troubled woman who loved her husband and children," he said.

Manling Williams' sister, Shun Ling Tsang, also urged the judge to spare her sister's life and sentence her instead to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"Both families involved in this case have asked the prosecution not to pursue a second penalty phase," Tsang said.

Following the announcement that the first jury had hung in the penalty phase of the trial, both Williams and Tsang family members said they would rather see the prosecution accept a defense plea deal for a life sentence without the possibility of parole that included waiving rights to future appeals.

The prosecution elected to re-try the penalty phase, resulting in a jury recommendation of the death penalty in August of last year.

The ongoing court proceedings entailed in a death penalty case are only serving to cause more pain for family members already devastated by tragedy, Tsang said, adding that she believed the prosecution's pursuit of the death penalty was "ego-driven" and "politically motivated."

"Today will not bring about closure or healing," Tsang said.

Jan Williams said she had mixed feelings about the sentence.

"I have some reservations, because it can be hard on the families. It can take decades to resolve," she said.

She said she hoped the appeals process, which begins automatically when a convict is sentenced to death in California, will not require her to continue attending court hearings regularly.

The judge said he himself had concerns over the way the death penalty is administered in California.

"This penalty is precariously close to becoming a hypothetical," Martinez said.

The judge expressed sympathy to both the Williams and Tsang families and spoke of his own concerns of the inefficient way in which the death penalty is carried out in California, but ruled that the death penalty was appropriate, considering the law and the facts of the case.

Out of more than 700 California death row inmates, fewer than two dozen of them are women, and none has been among the 13 prisoners executed since the death penalty was restored in 1976.

"Ms. Williams, I will probably never see you again," the judge added. "I will be long gone when this case and judgement is finalized."

Each of the three killings, Martinez said, were "deliberate, premeditated and committed by lying in wait."

Martinez said that the evidence showed that Manling Williams had planned the killings two months in advance, and immediately began trying to conceal her guilt afterward.

She wore latex gloves as she attacked her husband, he said.

Testimony indicated it takes five to 10 minutes for a person to die by suffocation, meaning that Manling Williams had at least five minutes to contemplate her actions while killing one of her children before killing her other son in the same manner, Martinez said.

"She clearly had time to reflect on what she was doing," he said.

Following the killings, the judge said, Manling Williams typed up a note indicating that Neal Williams had killed the children and himself, she disposed of bloody clothing and returned home before screaming to neighbors that someone had killed her family.

While being interviewed by detectives after the discovery of the bodies, "For hours, she feigned grief, sadness and bewilderment," Martinez said.

It was only after being confronted by investigators with a bloody cigarette box that was found in her car that Manling Williams broke down and admitted the murders, Martinez said.

"It is not for me to forgive, because the ones in the position to forgive are not with us," Martinez told Manling Williams. "I hope your families find peace."

After years of hearings in which the judge remained intentionally stoic, "It was rather chilling to have the judge pronounce his opinion so frankly," Jan Williams said.


Jury recommends death penalty for Rowland Heights mother who killed husband, two sons

By Daniel Tedford - Whittier Daily News

August 9, 2011

POMONA - Four years ago Sunday, Manling Tsang Williams took the life of her husband and two young children. On Tuesday, a jury recommended Williams face the same fate.

A jury of six men and six women returned a verdict of death in the penalty phase of Williams' trial.

Williams, 31, was convicted last year of hacking her husband, Neal, to death with a samurai sword and then smothering their two young children, 7-year-old Devon and 3-year-old Ian, in their Rowland Heights home on Aug. 7, 2007.

Neal Williams' mother, Jan Williams, emerged from the courthouse stunned, but later conveyed that a decision, any decision, by the jury gave her some closure.

"I don't know that I really processed how I feel," Jan Williams said.

"I am relieved they came to a verdict. My nightmare has been we would have another hung jury and start this over again."

The jury that convicted Williams on Nov. 4, 2010, later deadlocked in favor of the death penalty, 8-4. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office then elected to retry the death penalty portion of the trial with a new jury.

The second jury's decision is a recommendation. Judge Robert Martinez will make a final sentencing judgement on Sept. 23, though it is not expected he will defy the jury's recommendation.

Jan Williams said she felt bad for Manling William's family. And she avoided saying whether she preferred life without parole or death.

"There really isn't anything that can right the wrong," she said. "I would have been just as happy with life without parole."

Jan Williams did say the stronger penalty helped to acknowledge the severity of Manling Williams' crimes.

"The gravity of what she has done has been acknowledged," she said.

Manling Williams' family and her attorneys huddled outside the courtroom following the verdict, sharing hugs and tears. Defense Attorney Haydeh Takasugi cried when the verdict was read and Manling Williams' sister left the courtroom overcome with emotion.

Manling Williams' other attorney, Tom Althaus, called the verdict "horrible."

"Look at what this family has to go through," he said. "(Manling Williams') family is just devastated by this. I just don't think she deserved death. I don't think it is justified in this case."

Los Angeles District Attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons disagreed.

"Manling Williams was tried and convicted of killing her husband with a sword and smothering her two little boys to death," she said. "We believe the jury came to the appropriate conclusion."

While she is happy this "chapter" is at an end, Jan Williams acknowledge there is still a long road ahead for this case.

Since the death penalty was reinstituted in California in 1976, only 13 people have been put to death here, the first in 1992. None of them were women. Not including Williams, 712 people — 19 of which are women — are on California's death row, according to the California Department of Corrections.

Jan Williams said it is unlikely she will ever see Manling Williams' punishment carried out.

“The legal process will no doubt go on for probably the rest of my lifetime,” she said. “But I feel like I am leaving something behind today. Something is finished."


Attorneys debate life, death in the final arguments of the Manling Williams trial

By Daniel Tedford -

November 22, 2010

POMONA - The death penalty is reserved for not only the worst crimes, but for the worst people - and Manling Williams isn't the latter, said defense attorneys Monday.

Defense attorneys Haydeh Takasugi and Tom Althaus made their closing statements in the penalty phase of Williams' trial.

Williams faces the death penalty after she was convicted on Nov. 4 of slashing to death her husband, Neal, and smothering her two sons, Devon, 7, and Ian, 3, with a pillow in their Rowland Heights home on Aug. 7, 2007.

Throughout the penalty phase, the defense tried to reveal the story of Manling Williams, one they said was filled with "pain, heartache, and diminished dreams."

Through that story, Takasugi said she hoped the jury woukd grat her life.

"This is the hardest thing I have ever done, wondering if I called the right witnesses, that I told you who (Williams) is, that I made the right arguments," she said. "With my heart racing, hand trembling, and voice breaking, I ask you to allow this sister, this daughter, this mother to retreat back to her cell ... to do so each and every day until she awakes no more ... to do so at the hands of God and not the hands of man."

Deputy District Attorney Stacy Okun-Wiese spoke with conviction to begin statements Monday.

"Make no mistake about it, granting life without parole is granting leniency," she said.

Okun-Wiese asked jurors to consider the impact of the murders in determining a penalty.

The family of Neal Williams has been damaged beyond repair, she said.

"The defendant not only took the lives of Neal, Devon and Ian with these murders. She took a piece of Jan (Neal's mother) with her, a piece of Mala (Neal's sister) with her. She ruined more lives than I can count."

In the end, all those families have left are memories, Okun-Wiese said, as she showed recent photos of Neal and his children.

"There will be no more additional photographs in these frames," she said. "Never again. In 15 years, 20 years, Jan Williams will have these photographs and nothing more."

Althaus said a life sentence was not "lenient."

"Think about the hopelessness of it," he said. "A 30-year-old woman sitting there for 40 or 50 years."

Takasugi said punishments are nuanced and can't be determined based solely on the crime, but a person's life and character outside the crime are factors as well.

Williams was a good, charitable person before the murders with no history of violence or criminal behavior, defense attorneys said.

"A life is measured by its valleys and its hills," Takasugi said. "The prosecution is asking you to measure it by its valleys, and they are deep. But there are hills and some of them are magnificent."

Okun-Wiese criticized the defense's case that focused on Williams' tough and potentially abusive upbringing.

"When did it become OK in our society to to commit three heinous crimes, kill your children and your husband and to blame it on your mom?" Okun-Wiese said. "This case screams for the maximum punishment."

Defense attorney Tom Althaus, who made the final statements Monday, said the defense wasn't trying to justify the murders.

"We are not trying to make any excuses," he said. "We are not trying to blame anybody else. We are not blaming her mom. Manling Williams is responsible for the crime and she will suffer the consequences."

Althaus discussed one of the factors of mitigation he felt the jury should consider, which was mercy for Williams.

If jury members felt sympathy for her, for her life, family and who she is, they could consider that even in the face of her crimes, he said.

"Pity is not a trade off," Althaus said, often pausing between thoughts and briefly describing the death penalty chamber in San Quentin. "It is something you give for free, something that comes from your heart, that this woman has something worth saving. That's your choice, ultimately. To give her life or decide for her to go to that death chamber and have her family look in those windows and see her die."


Manling Williams guilty on all counts; faces death penalty

By Daniel Tedford -

November 4, 2010

POMONA - A jury on Thursday found Manling Williams guilty on all counts, making the former Rowland Heights resident eligible for the death penalty for killing her husband and children.

Closing arguments were heard Wednesday in the Williams case, where the 31-year-old was on trial for having stabbed and slashed her husband, Neal, 92 times with a sword in their Rowland Heights home on Aug. 7, 2007. She also smothered her children Devon, 7, and Ian, 3, with a pillow that night.

The defense didn't argue against Williams' guilt, but differed on the extent to which she is guilty.

Defense Attorney Tom Althaus said Williams didn't premeditate the murder of her family and instead acted in a fit of rage.

"I'm not trying to make excuses or condone anything in this case," he said. "The District Attorney's claim, of course, is this has to do with premeditation. You have to decide if that is what is going on or if something else is going on."

The prosecution tried to show Williams' actions leading up to the killings as calculated attempts to eventually pin the children's murders on her husband.

Williams told friends as much as two months prior to the slayings that she was having dreams where Neal suffocated the children and then killed himself, according to testimony.


Prosecution rests its case in 2007 Rowland Heights triple murder case

By Daniel Tedford -

November 1, 2010

POMONA - The human digestive system was the subject of contentious debate Monday in the 2007 Rowland Heights triple murder trial of Manling Williams.

Williams admitted to killing her husband, Neal, with a Samurai sword in their home on Aug. 7, 2007. She also smothered her children Devon, 7, and Ian, 3, with a pillow that night. She faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murders.

Williams' attorney acknowledged during opening statements that the now 31-year-old woman killed her family, but denied she planned the slayings.

The time of death has been a point of contention in the trial. The prosecution contends that Williams killed her family before going out with friends for dinner. Both the prosecution and defense called expert witnesses Monday to discuss the determination of time of death using a process called gastric emptying.

It is the prosecution's belief the children were killed before Williams went to TGIF restaurant with co-workers from Marie Callender's - where Williams worked as a waitress - and have argued that based on evidence the children died within two hours of eating pineapple pizza.

The prosecution's argument was based on testimony from Los Angeles County Coroner's Office officials and sheriff's forensic scientist and biologist Lynne Denise Herold, who testified Monday.

Ian and Devon had a small amount of food in their stomachs at the time of their death and none in their small intestine, Herold said.

"Death must have occurred after eating and soon enough... before digestion" into the small intestine, she said.

Earlier testimony showed pizza was delivered to the Williams home at 8:22 p.m.

The defense expert, Dr. Gregory Reiber, differed from the prosecution's expert on a few conclusions.

Reiber testified the food found in both boys' stomachs had evidence of being far along in the digestive process.

He also contradicted earlier coroner's department officials' testimony that a small meal of food takes 30 minutes to two hours to digest.

Instead, Reiber testified that a small meal can take several hours to digest and even longer considering various environmental variables.

Furthermore, he said gastric emptying cannot be relied upon as a method for determining time of death.

"If you are talking about a single individual in a single circumstance, it is not scientifically reliable," Reiber said.

During cross examination of crime scene investigator Flynn Lamas, defense attorney Haydeh Takasugi asked about photos that showed hair samples collected for evidence from Williams' shower.

Hair collected from the drain was negative for blood, Lamas said.

Earlier testimony said Manling Williams showered prior to going to TGIF.

Sgt. Donald Walls, one of the detectives who investigated the case, was the final witness for the prosecution Monday before resting their case.

Walls testified Manling Williams told him she purchased a pack of Camel Lights cigarettes, gas and Red Bull at a 76 gas station the night of the killings.

Neal Williams' blood was found on the cigarette pack and Manling Williams said in her video confession that the blood was the evidence that forced her to confess.

During cross examination, defense attorney Tom Althaus asked Walls if police went to the 76 station and inquired about video or a receipt that would prove when Williams went to the gas station.

Walls said police never inquired.


Man-ling Williams (27) was booked on suspicion of stabbing her husband Neal Williams (27) and killing their two sons

August 10, 2007

A woman who reported finding the bodies of her husband and two boys in their home was arrested Thursday after making "incriminating statements," authorities said.

Man-ling Williams, 27, of Rowland Heights was booked into the Los Angeles County jail in Lynwood on suspicion of killing her sons Ian, 3, and Devon, 7, and her husband Neal, 27.

"We placed the wife under arrest," said Sgt. Sandy Nava, of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Homicide Bureau. "She did make several incriminating statements."

Williams is being held without bail. She is scheduled to be arraigned at Citrus Court in West Covina this morning, officials said.

Neal Williams was apparently stabbed to death. The cause of the children's deaths remained unknown Thursday.

Coroner's officials said Thursday they have yet to conduct an autopsy of the three victims. Autopsies are scheduled for today and Saturday, said Coroner's spokesman Capt. Ed Winter.

The case against Williams appears to center on conflicting accounts of her whereabouts just before the bodies were discovered.

On Wednesday, neighbors said Man-ling Williams initially told them she couldn't sleep early Wednesday morning and decided to take a drive.

Williams' first statement to investigators, according to neighbor Jessica Cerda, 19, was that she had gone to a nearby liquor store for Red Bull and cigarettes and discovered the bodies when she returned.

Sheriff's Homicide Sgt. Bill Marsh said Man-ling Williams told them during an interview at the sheriff's Walnut Station later Wednesday that she had gone grocery shopping for breakfast, and returned about an hour later to find the bodies.

Cerda, who spoke to Man-ling Williams just after she came home said the woman was clad in boxer shorts and a T-shirt.

"She didn't have her shoes on either," Cerda said. "It didn't seem like something you would wear to the store."

At this point, the motive appears to simply be a growing dissatisfaction with the husband on the part of Man-ling, Marsh said. Why the children were killed, however, remains a mystery.

"'Why the children?' is the question I've been asked all day," Marsh said. "I wish I knew the answer."

Jan Williams of Whittier, Neal's mother, released a prepared statement Thursday. "Neal was a loving father, brother and son," she said. "I was proud of him. He was friendly, hard working and had a passion for the truth. His boys were the lights of his life."

Mala Williams, Neal's sister, was included in the prepared statement. She said "My brother was a profound influence in my life. He was a strength and comfort in my times of need and a joy in the good times. He was exceedingly bright, and funny.

Late Thursday, nearly 100 friends, family, and neighbors gathered across the street from the Williams home - which was still barricaded with crime scene tape and guarded by deputies - to mourn the victims.

Neighbors had set up a makeshift memorial to the family. Flowers, candles and stuffed animals lined the sidewalk, along with messages such as "Always thinking of you," and "R.I.P. Neal, Devon, Ian."

Mourners shared memories, prayed, and stood in silence.

Many people also donated money to benefit the family of the victims.

Neighbors in the 18200 block of Camino Bello in Rowland Heights said they remained shocked by the crime. They described Neal Williams as an attentive father who doted on Ian and Devon.

"They were happy," said James Brown, a teenager who found the bodies Wednesday. "They looked happy playing catch or 'Star Wars' on the front lawn.

"He was a cool gentleman," Brown continued. "he wouldn't mess with people. He just read books and played with the boys."

Those who knew Man-ling described her alternately as moody, troubled, foul-mouthed at times, quiet at others.

"She was really a mystery to most people," said Laura Estrada, 27, of Hacienda Heights.

Estrada attended school with Man-ling Williams from kindergarten through high school. Estrada and Williams graduated Los Altos High School in 1998, Estrada said.

"I remember her as very emotionally unstable," Estrada said. "She was not content with who she was. I always felt sorry for her."

Estrada said the two had been out of frequent contact since high school, but saw each other two months ago at Marie Callendar's in La Puente where Man-ling worked.

"She showed me a photo of her family and I was happy for her because everything seemed to be working out well for her," Estrada said. "For once she didn't seem grumpy and irritated."

The couple frequently engaged in loud arguments that often ended with profanity-laced exchanges and slammed doors that could be heard throughout the neighborhood, Cerda said.

Carole Bailey of Hacienda Heights, who said she's known the couple for years and considers them family, had fond memories of Man-ling as a loving wife and mother and cannot believe she is responsible for the deaths of her husband and sons.

"She and Neal were very happy together," she said at Thursday's vigil. "She (Man-ling) couldn't have done this. She doesn't have a violent temper. She's not that kind of person."

Neighbor Jessica Hui said earlier in the day that Man-ling spoke Mandarin Chinese, but seldom said more than hello to neighbors.

"Most times I saw her standing in front of the house smoking and smoking," Hui said. "She never said much."

Detectives continued bagging evidence at the crime scene Thursday morning. From the sidewalk, the Williams home looked cluttered. A trio of stuffed animals sat on a dusty glass shelf just inside the front door.

Boxes and papers seemed to clutter the doorway.

Outside children's toys: a football, a plastic baseball bat and a plastic pitching machine lay discarded. A faded can of Sprite sat on a walkway leading to the front door.

Neighbors said they watched coroner's investigators remove the boys' bodies through a bedroom window, which overlooks Camino Bello. That took place just after the last television crew had gone home about 11:30 p.m., Cerda said.

Neal Williams grew up in Whittier and attended Whittier High School.

George Porter, who lives next door to Williams' mother, just got back from Cancun and was shocked at the news.

"I'm sorry to hear that. It's terrible," he said.

He described Man-ling Williams as outgoing, very bubbly and a people person, while Neal Williams was "reserved."

"I never expected that from her. They looked happy together. She looked happy," Porter said.

Porter said Man-ling Williams once tried to sell him life insurance.

He hadn't seen Neal Williams in a month and a half. But he added that in the past few months, the young man was often in the neighborhood.

When Williams visited his mother, Porter said he brought his wife and sons.



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