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Step father's trial in teen's shooting death begins

Kevin Jerome Williams looks on as the prosecution talks to a witness during the first day of his trail at the Beaufort County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon.
Kevin Jerome Williams looks on as the prosecution talks to a witness during the first day of his trail at the Beaufort County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon.

A former Battery Creek High School football player was merely trying to defend his mother when he was gunned down by his stepfather, Deputy Solicitor Angela McCall-Tanner said Wednesday in Beaufort County circuit court.

The prosecution presented most of its case Wednesday during the first day of the murder trial of Kevin Jerome Williams, 40, who was charged in July 2007 with shooting his stepson, Rodney "Buck" Young, during an argument outside their home on Newberry Circle in Yemassee.

Investigators say that on the night of July 9, Young, 18, was attempting to break up an argument between Williams and his mother, Valerie Young, that turned violent when Williams struck the woman with a shower rod.

Rodney Young left the home briefly, police said, but when he returned, he was met by Williams, who held a 12-gauge shotgun he had retrieved from under his bed. Williams fired around of bird shot into Young's upper left thigh at close range, according to police. The pellets tore into Young's femoral artery, and the teenager died two hours later at Beaufort Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Cynthia Schandl, who performed Young's autopsy at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, said a large chunk of Young's upper thigh was torn away by the shotgun blast and that the damage to his femoral artery was enough to cause someone to bleed to death in "minutes or more than an hour if care is given."

Williams turned himself in to authorities the night of the shooting and was jailed until February 2008, when he was released from the Beaufort County Detention Center on more than $55,000 bond, according to the county's jail log.

During her opening statement, Tanner said Young was trying to do the right thing by his mother and paid "the ultimate price."

"He stepped up like a young man should when he saw his mother in danger and said, 'Stop hitting my mommy,' " Tanner said, her voice cracking. "This is a case about a family broken from within."

Fourteenth Circuit Chief Public Defender Gene Hood, Williams' attorney, said his client was defending himself after Young threatened to kill him. Hood also insinuated that the teenager was armed when he returned to the house.

"Kevin never planned this," Hood said. "Kevin never intended to do any harm to anyone, but he was faced with that threat and a sound that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end -- the cocking of a weapon."

Young's mother, stepbrother and best friend all testified that Young never threatened Williams the night of his death, but all three said the two had a tense relationship.

The trial will likely conclude today with Williams possibly taking the witness stand in his own defense, Hood said at the conclusion of Wednesday's proceedings.

Williams faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted.

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