narrator: sheila williams had abright future, a boyfriend she adored, and astrong faith in god. so why did she commit suicide? several bobby pins onthe floor and some gold under her fingernailshelp provide the answer. [theme music] 19-year-old josiah wardlived a life of luxury in grand rapids, michigan. he was a millionairemany times over,
and seemingly hadeverything a man could want. but he paid a very steepprice for his fortune. six years earlier,josiah's aunt and was driving him to his13th birthday party. on the way, she lostcontrol of her car and crashed into a tree. -joey was in the front seat. he went through thewindshield and impaled himself onto the tree.
josiah's auntsurvived the crash. but josiah'seight-year-old brother, who was riding in thebackseat, was killed instantly. josiah was badly disfigured. -that is the reason why he hadthe severe facial lacerations, a head injury, and multiplefractures to his face. narrator: theinsurance settlement made him an instant millionaire. ken kolker: he got a judgmentof $3.5 million dollars,
and it was to bepaid in installments. the money justcould not-- was not enough to-- to undo the damagethat was done, because kids in school werecalling him scarface. and he had a hot temper. narrator: afterhigh school, josiah started dating20-year-old sheila williams, anunemployed hairdresser. soon, sheila becamepregnant with josiah's baby.
-well, he had told heranyway at one point he was going to marryher, because she told me. and i said, you just met him. narrator: sheilahad also experienced a spiritual awakening. she started to attend churchagain and sang in the choir. [singing] i'm climbing up. i'm climbing on up. on the rough sideof the mountain.
-i was so happy tosee her just come back and renew her faith in christ. so she came back,and pastor asked her where are you going to be? she said, from nowon, right back there in the choir along with mymom and dad, where i belong. [singing] climbing onup, on the rough side. narrator: on laborday in 1998, josiah called police toreport an emergency.
[phone rings] -911 emergency. josiah (on phone): she'slaying here in a pile of blood. operator (on phone): ok.all right. are there any weapons nearby?josiah (on phone): yes. she's holding a gun in her hand. narrator: according to josiah,sheila had killed herself. josiah (on phone): man, i ain'tnever seen nothing like this before.operator (on phone): ok.
where did she shoot herself? josiah (on phone):it's in the head. operator (on phone): isshe breathing right now? josiah (on phone): shelia? no, she's not bleeding-- or,she's not breathing no more. narrator: whenpolice arrived, they found sheila deadon the kitchen floor with a single gunshotwound to her head. the gun was next to her body.
josiah told police they arguedabout sheila's pregnancy. josiah wanted herto have an abortion, but sheila wantedto have the baby. josiah said he left thehouse to buy cigarettes. when he returned, hesaw sheila kill herself. -he said she didnot say anything at that point,just shot herself. -and i was like, what?oh my god. i was like, no.what happened?
what? and i was just speechless. -i didn't want to believe itwas true until i got all the way here, you know, and i see allmy family members and everybody here and i justknew it was true. i just knew it was true then. narrator: studies showthat suicide is extremely rare among africanamerican women. as a group, they compriseless than 1% of all suicides.
-it doesn't mean anafrican american female can't commit suicide. it just means that it's anunusual event, quite rare, and certainly would warrantadditional consideration of other possibilities. narrator: and sheila'sautopsy revealed some surprising newsabout her pregnancy. josiah ward andsheila williams were a classic example ofhow opposites attract.
josiah was lonely and withdrawn. sheila, warm and outgoing. estella jones: she wasthe center of everything. fun, energetic, warm. and she was the type ifyou came to the door, she would greet you with a hugand a smile and a big embrace. welcome you in and make youcomfortable as she could the whole time you was there. narrator: sheilaand josiah did have
a common bond, a troubled past. sheila was a high schooldropout struggling to find work. she had been pregnant twicebefore and lost both due to miscarriage. josiah's problems includedhis disfiguring car accident and his inability tohandle the multimillion dollar financial settlement. he spent lavishlyon luxury items and often loanedmoney to his friends.
he was paying childsupport for two children he fathered withtwo different women. -there's an old saying, youknow, song, women, and drink. and that's pretty muchwhat he spent it on. -the money was corrupting him. he was already an angry kid,and the money was corrupting him and drawing certainkinds of people to him. -i think that he gavemoney to a lot of people, and probably did notget the love or respect
or whatever it was he waslooking for in return. narrator: at sheila'sautopsy, the medical examiner confirmed she was killedby a single shot that entered the leftside of her head. -the trajectoryactually appeared to go into her left cheek, lowerleft cheek just above the jaw and actually wentin an upward motion into the left side of her brain. narrator: the preliminary labtests showed gunshot residue
on sheila's hands, a findingconsistent with suicide. toxicology tests revealedsheila's blood alcohol level was 0.09, which in some statesis considered intoxicated. and sheila's autopsyrevealed a surprise. despite her previousclaims, sheila williams was not pregnant. ken kolker: i don't know whethershe was just claiming she was pregnant and she knewotherwise, or she just-- if-- if she reallythought she was.
narrator: josiah's lawyerclaims the pregnancy was a scam and josiah was the target. -sheila williamswas part of a group, i would say five to sixpeople, that were-- set out to victimize joeyward for his money. and they would use whatevermeans they could do it, befriending him,having sex with him, making false claimsof pregnancy. narrator: the man who allegedthe scam was a prison inmate
who claimed he overheard sheiladiscussing it with his cell mate, who was sheila'sformer boyfriend. yet, sheila's familyinsists she was pregnant. -yeah, she told me thatshe thought she was. -a lot of thoughts start runningthrough my head, like did she have an abortion, didshe have a miscarriage and she didn't tell anybody? you know, i didn'tknow what to think. -she could miscarry at avery early stage in pregnancy
and may not have evenbeen aware of it, yes. narrator: to fullyunderstand the shooting, investigators asked josiahto explain in detail exactly what happenedwhen sheila died. -we asked him toportray or reenact how she was with the weapon. and so we asked him to standup and we took a photograph of him doing thatin just the way that-- that he said thatthe angle of the gun was at.
narrator: almostimmediately, investigators saw inconsistencies. josiah denied there had beenany physical altercation. yet, investigators foundevidence to the contrary. -we saw that ms.williams had a weave that was forcibly pulledout of her hair. and we observed several bobbypins that were strewn about. narrator: investigatorsalso found blood spatter on the kitchen floor thatwasn't from the gunshot.
it happened when thegun hit the floor. -and that spatter would not havebeen created if she had shot herself and droppedthe gun immediately after shooting herself. narrator: that's becausethey're shouldn't have been a pool of blood on thefloor when the gun dropped. to recreate the bloodspatter at the scene, forensic experts droppeda gun into varying amounts of horse blood fromdifferent heights.
the only way theycould reproduce it was by pouring almost agallon of blood on the floor. and tests revealed the gunfell only a short distance into the blood, notfrom head level. -the reenactment ofthe blood spatter test did prove that thegun was actually dropped at a height ofbetween 18 and 24 inches. and that it was actuallydropped into a rather large pool of blood, which disputedmr. ward's claim.
narrator: this provedthat sheila was bleeding long before thegun hit the floor. photographs taken justafter police arrived showed the blood was not fresh. -it was coagulating almost. it was darker and coagulating. it was starting topool and to get darker. that doesn't happen right away. narrator: and a neighborcame forward saying
he heard a gunshot several hoursbefore the ambulance arrived. -they thought they heardsomething similar to a gunshot at about 2:30 or 2:45 am. the police 911 call didn'tcome until about 4:47 am. so there was a spanof about two hours that are really unaccounted for. narrator: but if josiah wardmurdered sheila williams, why was gunshot residuefound on her hands? 20-year-old sheila williams laydead in josiah ward's kitchen
from what he said was aself-inflicted gunshot wound. forensic evidencecollected at the scene contradicted severalaspects of josiah's story. josiah claimed sheila heldthe gun with her left hand, but investigatorsdidn't believe it. -we discovered thatshe was right-handed, and she wasn't familiarwith the weapon. so for her to shoot herselfwith her left hand, first of all was-- would' havebeen quite odd.
narrator: the bullet hadentered her left cheek and traveled upward,lodging in her skull. the medical examiner confirmedwhat josiah had claimed, that the gun was severalinches away from sheila's face when it went off. -this gunshot wound had gunpowder stippling, stippling being the unburned grainsof powder that come out the end of the barrelwhen the shot is fired, indicating that the-- thatthe barrel was not in contact
with the skin and was probablyseveral dent-- several inches away from the skin whenthe shot was fired. narrator: but dr.start said this seldom, if ever happens in a suicide. -so physically itmay be possible. but when one considers allthe circumstances surrounding the case, certainlyto a reasonable degree of medical certainty,this case is best classified as a homicide.
narrator: using a plasticgun, dr. david start demonstrated the kind of woundhe would expect from a suicide. david start, md: most are in thetemple, intraoral in the mouth, underneath the chin. occasionally, thecenter of the forehead. very unusual for otherlocations of the face. narrator: assistantprosecutor kellee koncki was convinced josiah wardmurdered sheila williams. but she knew his defense wouldargue it was suicide and point
to the gunshot residue onsheila's hand as proof. -it's a good defense, you know. especially when you have onegunshot wound and someone who's saying that they are pregnantand they're a teenager. i mean, all thosethings kind of point at, well, maybe she killed herself. narrator: as amatter of routine, crime scene techniciansswabbed both sheila and josiah's handsafter the shooting.
prosecutors sent those swabsto skip schwoeble, a nationally recognized expert ingunshot residue analysis. -when a gun is fired,the burn of the primer escapes the firearm throughany available opening in the form of acloud or a plume. the vapors or gases solidifyinto tiny particles, which are deposited onthe hands, clothing, and the immediateproximity of the firearm. narrator: schwoeble used ascanning electron microscope
to analyze theparticles on the swabs. the bright particlesare gunshot residue. -overall, the gunshotresidue related particles on sheila williams' handswas approximately five. narrator: this was significant. but schwoeble saysa person firing a gun would have muchmore residue on the hands. the amount onsheila's hands could have come becauseshe was near the gun.
schwoeble next analyzedjosiah's hand swab. -josiah ward denied handlingthe gun, shooting the gun. obviously if we find a largeconcentration of gunshot residue or particles,it's going to show us that he was in proximity to theshooting of a gun, or, in fact, did shoot the gun. narrator: and that's exactlywhat schwoeble found. -overall, the particlepopulation on mr. ward's hands was larger than theparticle population
on ms. williams' hands. -he was the one thatactually handled the weapon and discharged it duringthe commission of the crime. narrator: but schwoeble foundsomething on sheila's hands besides the gunshotresidue, something completely unexpected. he found gold particles. lots of them. -there were over 3,000 particleson one of the hand samples.
several on theother hand, getting close up to around5,000 particles. narrator: handling a gold watchmight leave 100 gold particles, so 5,000 particleswas significant. -we ran it by a lot of peopleand no one could pinpoint it. we thought, well maybeit's something specific to the gun or the ammo. we just weren't sure. narrator: if the particleson sheila's hands
were from the gun orammunition, it would give weight to the argument thatsheila pulled the trigger and killed herself. needless to say, prosecutorsand josiah's lawyers all wanted to knowwhere they came from. skip schwoeble wanted to knowthe origin of the thousands of gold particles onsheila williams' hands. investigators naturally askedif she worked in a jewelry store or wore expensive jewelry.
the answers were all no. -he wanted to know from uswhere this could have come from. you know, what did she do? what was she wearing? anything else in thehouse, in the area that could have left offthese particles. narrator: investigatorswere stumped and were about to addthis to their list of unanswered questionswhen they looked again
at the photos ofjosiah ward taken on the night of the murder. -we realized the shirtjosiah ward was wearing had gold threading or goldembroidered into the shirt. narrator: armed witha search warrant, police found theshirt in josiah's home and sent it off to the lab. schwoeble compared thegold from the shirt to that on sheila's hands.
-you see an incredibleamount of detail. we're looking at the size,the shape, the morphology or surface textureof the particle. narrator: the microscopemagnified the particles from josiah's shirt 7,000 times. and they were identicalto the gold particles on sheila's hands. -it showed us that josiah hadhad physical contact with her at the time of the murder,which he had flatly denied.
-i always like thesaying, a picture's worth a thousand words. and i think in thiscase, it really was. narrator: prosecutors thinkjosiah believed sheila was pregnant, since hehad already given her money for an abortion. and on the night ofthe crime, sheila admitted she didn't usehis money for that purpose. -have an abortionif i don't want one.
-where's the money? narrator: since he didn'twant to support another child, there was an argumentthat got physical. sheila's hair piece andbobby pins flew to the floor. the gold on sheila'shands from josiah's shirt proved there was a fight. during the struggle,josiah fired a single shot from a foot or two awaykilling sheila instantly. over the next few hours,josiah tried to stage the scene
to make it appearto be a suicide. he had to drop thegun on the same side as sheila's head wound, evenknow she was right-handed. and by the time he dropped it,he did so into a pool of blood from only a foot or two away. proof of yet another lie. by the time police arrived,the condition of the blood proved the deception. just hours before josiah ward'smurder trial was to begin,
he confessed. -he indicated that sheinitially consented to getting the abortion,but then later indicated that she did not wantto go through with it. which probablyincreased the tension that led to theinitial confrontation that led to her death. -i certainly believe theforensic evidence was a large part of why josiahconfessed to the crime,
and why he subsequentlyplead guilty without a trial. narrator: josiahsaid he sincerely believed sheila was pregnant. if he had known the truththat sheila wasn't pregnant, quite possibly, there wouldn'thave been the altercation. in august of 1999, josiahward was sentenced to 25 years in prison for seconddegree murder. -makes me feelbetter just knowing that he didn't kill herand get away scot-free.
because you watch the newsall the time and you see it, a lot of people,they-- you know, i don't think theyget what they deserve and i was actually surprised. -with this forensic evidence,this strong forensic evidence, we got a confession and aconviction and a murderer is in jail.