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Wilkinsburg mother found guilty of murdering her 3-year-old daughter

| Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, 2:09 p.m.
Adrienne Williams, 27, of Wilkinsburg was found guilty Thursday of third-degree murder and two other counts in the death of her 3-year-old daughter, Adrionna Williams.
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Adrienne Williams, 27, of Wilkinsburg was found guilty Thursday of third-degree murder and two other counts in the death of her 3-year-old daughter, Adrionna Williams.

Adrienne Williams laid her head on the courtroom table and began sobbing as an Allegheny County jury found her guilty of third-degree murder in the death of her 3-year-old daughter, Adrionna, whom she asphyxiated and left on a dirt pile in Swissvale.

“I just praise God we got justice today,” said Jarren Crosby, Adrionna's father. “It verifies for me what I already knew. I hope my daughter can rest in peace.”

A lone holdout kept the jury from finding her guilty of first-degree murder, said the foreman, who declined to give his name after reading the verdict. He said third-degree murder, along with misdemeanor counts of abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence, represented a compromise after nearly three days of deliberations.

“One of the jurors just wasn't using common sense. The rest of us had to persuade her,” the foreman said.

After the jury of nine women and three men sent a note Thursday morning suggesting someone was making “arguments ... based without factual support,” leaving them at an impasse, Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani gave them more instructions about weighing the facts and sent them back to deliberate. They reached their verdict at 1 p.m. Friday.

Police said Williams, 27, of Wilkinsburg asphyxiated her daughter June 14, 2015, and left her body at the side of an abandoned road two miles from the home of the girl's maternal grandmother, Lucille Williams.

A woman walking her dog found the body less than an hour and a half after Adrionna went missing; prosecutors say phone records and video surveillance showed Williams driving to and from where the body was found instead of heading to work as she told police she had.

Colored paper clips similar to ones found in her car were found near the body, and Adrionna's DNA was found in stains on Adrienne's work shirt that appeared to be similar to the girl's last meal of watermelon.

Allegheny County homicide detectives arrested and charged Williams on July 7, 2015.

Prosecutors claimed Williams was overwhelmed at being a single parent — Crosby was in jail at the time of her death. The verdict of third-degree murder meant the jury couldn't agree Williams had the specific intent to kill her daughter, but she still acted knowingly or recklessly in a way that caused Adrionna's death.

Sonja Crosby, Adrionna's paternal grandmother, said the verdict left her with mixed emotions — happy that Adrionna got justice but sad because she still loves the little girl's mother.

Members of Williams' family, some of whom testified during the trial about the frantic search for Adrionna, were not available for comment.

Prosecutors had offered to let Williams plead guilty to third-degree murder in exchange for a sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison, but she turned it down to go to trial.

Defense attorney Brandon Herring said Williams maintains her innocence and intends to appeal.

Testimony was delayed last week when the defense was notified of allegations that Lucille Williams had a foster child die in her care about 20 years ago when she was living in Buffalo. However, an investigator the defense hired was unable to verify anything mid-trial, said Lisa Leake, another of Williams' attorneys. They made a motion for a mistrial that Mariani denied, which Herring said could be one basis for an appeal.

Williams' sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 28.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412 391 0927 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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