Sunday, July 18, 2010

Matthew Williams: No More Cruisin' on Woodward Avenue

The pony cars are cruisin' on Woodward Avenue.

Go and try to pass 'em, they'll smoke you if you do.

From The Horizontal Bop by Bob Segar

One doesn't have to be superstitious to realize that the Ides of March was unlucky for Matthew Daniel Williams. It was Saturday, March 15, 1997, when Williams died in a 10:20 p.m. drive-by shooting on Woodward Avenue. Reports indicated that Williams' red Mazda truck displayed symbols associated with the Crips; the other two occupants of his truck were Bradley Williams and his pregnant fiancee' Brandi Lee Campbell. Campbell was known to talk of gang related activities and flash gang signs at random--a strange affectation that may have directly led to Matthew Williams' death.

Matthew Williams, a graduate of Muscle Shoals High School, was attending Northwest-Shoals Community College at the time of his death. A member of the choral group "The Singers," he had a perfect 4.0 GPA. Muscle Shoals police were initially mystified as to how the conservative Williams had become involved in a gang related shooting. Their investigation later determined that Bradley Williams, no relation to the victim, had been in a verbal altercation with the shooter earlier in the evening. Was Bradley Williams the intended victim? Were gangs even involved? Had Brandi Campbell sacrificed Matthew Williams to save her fiance'? Did Matthew Daniel Williams take a bullet that was meant for someone else? It's hard to come to any other conclusion after reviewing the various statements concerning the drive-by shooting.

While driving north on Woodward Avenue, Matthew Williams was behind the wheel, while his friend Bradley Williams, an alleged member of the Crips, sat on the passenger side; between them sat Brandi Lee Campbell, often described as a gang-wannabe. Bradley Williams had been involved in a verbal altercation with 16 year-old Charles Eugene Black earlier in the evening. Now, Black was a passenger in a car driven by 18 year-old Jamie Allen Mackey. Three other youths rode in the back seat of Mackey's car, all either members of or closely associated with the Folk Nation.

As Mackey's car maneuvered alongside Matthew Williams' truck, Brandi Campbell saw the glint of a gun as it misfired. Telling her fiance' Bradley Williams to duck, Campbell followed suit, allowing the second shot to strike Matthew Williams in the head. According to Campbell's dramatic testimony, she knew he was dead as soon as she felt him slump against her.

A Colbert County jury took 45 minutes to convict Charles Black of capital murder. Black is serving a sentence of life without possibility of parole at the St. Clair Correctional Facility. Mackey was convicted of felony murder and is currently serving a life sentence at Limestone Correctional Facility; he is eligible for parole.

The third defendant in the case was Ben Edward Burt. A resident of Reedtown, the 37 year-old Burt was supposedly the Northwest Alabama leader of the Folk gang and a close associate of Mark Anthony Hurley, aka the Reedtown rapist. The Franklin County resident admitted to ordering a random hit on a member of the Crip gang and was given a plea deal for his testimony. Burt received a twenty year sentence and is currently incarcerated at Limestone.

According to Danny and Elaine Williams, Matthew's parents, while they accepted the plea deal, they expected Burt to receive much longer than his twenty year sentence. Now Burt's case is to be presented to the Alabama Board of Pardons & Parole on April 13. They are asking that all concerned citizens write the Board in protest of Ben Edward Burt's parole. We don't think it's too much to ask that Burt serve the remaining seven years of his sentence.

Alabama Board of Pardons & Parole
Post Office Box 302405
Montgomery, Alabama 36130-2405
Re: Ben Edward Burt - AIS #1

Note: The above article originally appeared in Shoalanda Speaks on March 6 & 8, 2010. Ben Burt was denied parole for five years. He will again be eligible for parole consideration in 2015.