A 24-year-old Rancho Peñasquitos man with a history of mental illness accused of violently at their home earlier this week pleaded not guilty to murder charges on Wednesday.
Brian Rockwell Williams, who was ordered held without bail, could face 52 years to life in prison if convicted of the alleged murders, Deputy District Attorney Kristen Spieler said.
Williams is accused of stabbing his mother, 52-year-old veteran San Diego police detective Donna Williams, and 18-year-old sister Briana Williams, who in June.
Both women were pronounced dead at the family home on Paseo Montril in Rancho Peñasquitos after police responded to reports of screaming around 1:15 a.m. Monday. Neighbors reported seeing Briana Williams pushed from an upstairs balcony and left nude and bleeding in front of the home.
During Brian Williams' arraignment hearing on Wednesday, Spieler said the 6-foot, 300-pound defendant was seen struggling with his sister on the balcony outside her bedroom window. At one point, the teen was seen hanging by her hands from the balcony before dropping to the pavement below, the prosecutor said. Williams was then seen walking calmly back into the home, and police later found a bloody knife near Briana's body, he said.
Donna Williams, who had been in the Child Abuse Unit for the past 22 years, was found face-down in her daughter's bedroom with at least two stab wounds to the stomach and a severe gash to her throat, Spieler said. Briana Williams suffered multiple slashes to her throat and about 20 stab wounds to the chest, he said.
Spieler said the motive was unclear, but his state of mind would be important in the case, as in all murder cases. Defense Attorney Richard Gates said Brian Williams had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, but he was not undergoing treatment at the time of the killings. It was not clear if the 24-year-old was taking any medication for the condition.
Judge David Szumowski granted the defense attorney's request to have his client placed in protective custody.
"The pattern of the disease that he suffers from includes self-harm as well as harm toward others, as we've seen," Gates told reporters. "You know, when you're talking about a significant mental illness like schizophrenia, you're talking about a young person who's in their 20s, this is the beginning of the disease.
"When you have a situation when you're living with a mentally ill person—like the detective was—it puts you into a conflict situation, because the mentally ill resist treatment," he said. "As every mother would tell you, they're not likely to send their child out—even a 24-year-old, 6-foot, 300-pound child out—untreated into the community."
At the end of June, officers went to the Williams' home on a call of a disturbance involving Brian, police officials have said while declining to provide further details.
Donna and Briana Williams are said to have been best friends with similar, vibrant personalities. Late Monday afternoon, after word of the womens' deaths had spread, a large crowd in Rancho Peñasquitos to remember the women. Briana Williams was a popular softball player and cheerleader at Mount Carmel High School, and Donna Williams was known as the "Queen Mother" of the police department's Child Abuse Unit.
Mount Carmel High School provided to students on Tuesday afternoon.
A status conference for Brian Williams was set for July 26 and a preliminary hearing for Aug. 2.
City News Service contributed to this report.