Stepfather found guilty in teen's death, sentenced to 18 years in prison

A 43-year-old Yemassee man was sentenced to 18 years in prison Thursday after being found guilty of fatally shooting his teenage stepson.

Kevin Jerome Williams was convicted of voluntary manslaughter at the conclusion of his two-day trial in Beaufort County Circuit Court.

Williams shot 18-year-old Rodney "Buck" Young in the thigh with a 12-gauge shotgun at close range during an argument July 9, 2007, outside their home on Newberry Circle. The former Battery Creek High School football player's femoral artery was hit, and he was pronounced dead two hours later at Beaufort Memorial Hospital.

Just before being sentenced by Judge J. Ernest Kinard, Williams stood before the court and apologized to his former common-law wife, Valerie Young, and all those affected by the killing.

"When I was locked away in the Detention Center, Val came and visited me, and I know she forgives me, and I know she knows that I didn't mean to kill Rodney," Williams said. "I loved him, too. He was my first son, too. I'm so sorry for the way it turned out."

Williams and his attorney, 14th Judicial Circuit Chief Public Defender Gene Hood, insisted throughout the trial that Williams had acted in self-defense and that the teenager was armed when Williams shot him.

Taking the stand Thursday, Williams claimed that he knew Young had a gun even though he never saw the weapon and investigators never found the gun.

"He had his hand behind his thigh, and I heard this clicking sound," Williams testified. "I knew he had a gun. I didn't have to see it to know that he had a gun."

Deputy Solicitor Angela McCall-Tanner said Williams' claim of self-defense didn't make sense given the facts of the case.

"How do you claim self-defense when you're the one who grabs the gun and you're the one who chases down your victim?" McCall-Tanner said. "He wasn't protecting himself. He was protecting his position in that house. This was nothing less than murder."

Kinard said he did not believe Williams meant to kill Young and that his sentence would do little to alleviate the pain felt by Young's mother.

"I don't think you meant to kill him because you shot him in the leg and not in the stomach or in the heart, but he died as a result of being shot and you pulled the trigger," Kinard said. "It happened and it has consequences. I can't bring the boy back. A whole family is ruined no matter what I give (Williams)."

According to state law, Williams must serve no less than 85 percent of his sentence before being considered for parole.

The jury also found Williams guilty of possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a violent crime, but he was found not guilty of aggravated criminal domestic violence. Williams was accused of striking Valerie Young with a shower rod the night of the shooting. Rodney Young was protecting his mother when he confronted his stepfather, the prosecution argued.

Valerie Young said she and her family will hold fast to their memories of an 18-year-old they knew simply as "Buck."

"I heard a lot of words this week used about my son and the one that I will use is 'love,' " Young said, tearfully. "Love is something that my son had in his heart until the very end. Me and my family and everyone else who knew him could tell you about a time they spent with Buck."