INDIANTOWN, Fla. — A Florida woman slain Tuesday as her 10-year-old daughter started her first day of school via Zoom was able to identify the man who shot her before she died, and her young son tried to stab the shooter to protect his family, court documents allege.
The heartbreaking details of the killing of Maribel Rosado Morales, 32, of Indiantown, emerged Wednesday as court documents became available in the first-degree murder case of Donald Leshay Williams III.
Williams, 27, of Indiantown, is also charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, burglary with an assault or battery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, records show.
The aggravated assault charges stem from allegations that Williams pointed his gun at two of Morales’ children before fleeing their home on a bicycle. A total of six children were in the house when Morales was gunned down — most of them witnessed her killing firsthand, authorities said.
The firearm charge appears to stem from a 2018 felony marijuana conviction, according to court records.
A judge on Wednesday ordered that Williams be held without bond in the Martin County Jail.
“The court finds that no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to persons, assure the presence of the accused at trial and assure the integrity of the judicial process,” 19th Judicial Circuit Judge Darren Steele’s order read.
Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said Tuesday that the 10-year-old girl and her classmates at Warfield Elementary were logging in for their online classes just after 8 a.m. Tuesday when screaming and profanity could be heard coming from the girl’s home. The teacher muted the audio so the other children wouldn’t hear.
“The teacher said that she heard a commotion, heard profanity, realized there was some kind of domestic altercation, and still could see the child that’s online,” he said. “The teacher said she mutes her button so nobody has to hear it.
“And then she sees the 10-year-old put her hands up to her ears.”
Gunfire broke out, including a bullet that struck the girl’s computer, making the screen go blank, the sheriff said.
Watch Tuesday’s news conference below, courtesy of WPTV in West Palm Beach.
An arrest affidavit filed in the case states it was Morales’ daughter who called 911 and reported that her mother had been shot. The girl described the gunman as a Black man with dreadlocks and the nickname “Hondo.”
Williams was later identified as “Hondo.”
One of Morales’ daughters told detectives Williams pointed his gun at her as she stood in front of her dying mother. One of the victim’s sons tried to defend the family, according to court documents.
“Detective William Baker informed me that, during his interview with (redacted), (redacted) stated that he attempted to stab Donald after Donald shot (his) mother,” the affidavit states. “(Redacted) told Detective Baker that he fell to the floor after attempting to stab Donald, and Donald turned and pointed the gun at him.
“(Redacted) said that he dropped the knife and put his hands up, afraid that Donald was going to shoot him.”
The statements from the children, who range in age from 10 to 17, indicate Williams entered the house through the front door and confronted Morales about a social media post. Williams would later tell detectives he’d seen a video about him that upset him that morning.
“Donald said that (the victim) denied being involved with the video but when she smiled, he ‘knew’ that she had released the video,” the affidavit states. “Donald stated that he shot her two times and then exited the residence.”
Read the arrest affidavit for Donald Williams III below.
Morales was shot twice in the abdomen or chest, the document says. She was flown to Lawnwood Medical Center in Fort Pierce by helicopter but was pronounced dead about 70 minutes after the 911 call came in.
Detectives found a large amount of blood in the laundry room of the home.
A female relative of Morales’ who lives across the street told investigators one of the children ran to her for help. As she hurried over to Morales’ home, she spotted a Black man riding away on a bicycle.
When he turned and looked back, she recognized him as Williams, the woman said.
“(The witness) stated that she went into the residence and found (Morales) on the floor. She said that (Morales) told her that ‘Hondo’ came into the house.”
One of Morales’ sons said he knew the man as Williams, the affidavit says.
Meanwhile, Williams had abandoned the bicycle and hid in a laundromat for a while before trying to board a public transit bus.
“He had a conversation with the driver and asked her if she would take him to Stuart,” Snyder said Tuesday. “She said, ‘This is a local bus.’ He said, ‘Well, no, I need to go to Stuart.’”
Stuart is about 40 miles from the scene of the shooting.
Williams carried a bag in his hand, which made the driver suspicious, the sheriff said. She exited the bus and called 911.
Several members of the department’s SWAT team happened to be nearby for training. They were able to head straight to the bus’ location and take Williams into custody less than an hour after the fatal shooting, Snyder said.
According to the affidavit, a deputy “obtained the bag and, while manipulating it, he felt and observed a handgun inside.”
Williams was taken to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office’s Indiantown substation, where he allegedly confessed to killing Morales.
“Donald stated that he was mad when he went to (Morales') residence but said he did not have the intent to harm (her) at that time,” the document states. “However, he said that he loaded the firearm with three ammunition rounds at his residence before going to (the victim’s). He stated that he believes he emptied the third round after shooting (Morales) twice and he threw it out.”
He admitted the gun he used was in the bag deputies found on the bus.
Court records indicate that Williams also incriminated himself later in the day as he was booked into the jail. In handwritten statements filed with the court, two deputies said the admissions came when Williams was brought into the intake center around 3:30 p.m.
Read the witness statements from the jailers below.
“Donald Williams stated, ‘I (expletive) up this time. It was not supposed to happen this way. I will probably be charged with first-degree murder,’” both deputies’ statements allege.
According to one deputy, Williams then stated, “I am not a bad guy.”
Both allege Williams told them they would read about it on TCPalm, the digital news site for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.
Each deputy wrote that they did not question Williams about his statements. After intake was complete, he was allowed to shower and change into a jail uniform to await booking.