Veteran homicide detective chokes up describing discovery of dead 3-year-old
Just after Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani warned jurors not to let crime-scene photos of a dead 3-year-old girl inflame their emotions, it was a 25-year veteran detective who choked up on the witness stand.
Allegheny County Homicide Det. Steve Hitchings, a veteran investigator with seven years in county homicide and 18 years as a Pittsburgh detective, developed a catch in his voice and had to pause to collect himself as he described how Adrionna Williams was wearing blue shorts and a pink “Hello Kitty” T-shirt when a dog-walker found her dead atop a dirt pile off an abandoned street in Swissvale the evening of June 14, 2015.
Adrionna was lying on her back, with her head pointed downhill, on the back side of the dirt pile so she wasn't visible from the road. Police eventually charged the girl's mother, Adrienne Williams, 27, of Wilkinsburg, with homicide, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. Hitchings and others testified at the second day of her jury trial Wednesday.
“I saw what looked like a foot. At first, I thought it was a doll, but as it came into view I realized it was a little girl,” said Kristie Pippy, the woman who discovered Adrionna while walking her dog along Chalmers Way at about 7:30 p.m.
Hitchings said the girl's feet weren't dirty or wounded, despite the fact that she was barefoot more than two miles from her grandmother's house on Wright Street, where relatives had last seen her at about 6:30 p.m., chasing her mother for a hug and a kiss as Adrienne left for work.
Clouds gathered into a summer thunderstorm as police arrived to secure and photograph the body and its surroundings, spangling the crime scene photos displayed for the jury Wednesday with flying raindrops caught in the camera flash. Tarps and tents were set up over the body and other evidence to keep it dry.
Under the body, investigators found a package of thank-you notes and a pair of colored paperclips; they would find even more of the paperclips near where the body was found and washed down Chalmers Way when they went back to search again the next morning, Hitchings said.
Despite the fact Adrienne had told family and police she was going to work at her job as a security guard in the Hill District, Det. Mike Feeney said he found footage on multiple surveillance cameras that showed a car that looked like hers — a red Toyota with tinted windows, damage to front and rear bumpers and a missing hubcap on the right rear wheel — going past the interchange for the Parkway toward where Adrionna's body was found.
Cameras mounted on a house along Lacrosse Street a few blocks from Chalmers Way, showed the red car passing at about 7:22 p.m., Feeney said.
Police and prosecutors said other evidence, including cell phone records, paperclips in Adrienne's car and stains on her work uniform, would further tie her to Adrionna's death.
Adrienne Williams asked Judge Mariani for new attorneys after the trial's lunch break Wednesday, unsatisfied with the representation she was getting from Brandon Herring and Lisa Leake. But Mariani denied her request given that she didn't have a specific complaint legally allowing her to stop mid-trial and have new representation appointed.
Testimony was scheduled to continue Thursday with cross-examination of Det. Feeney and presentation of the cell phone records.
Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412 391 0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.