WAPAKONETA — A rural Waynesfield man charged with murder in the 2017 death of his estranged wife had an 11th-hour change of heart Monday, opting to have his case heard by a single judge rather than a 12-member jury of his peers.
The fate of Brent Williams now rests solely in the hands of visiting Judge Mark O’Connor, sitting by assignment of the Ohio Supreme Court to hear the case in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court.
Prosecutors say Brent Williams, 46, killed Erin Mulcahy, whose body was discovered on July 8, 2017, in a Karen Street apartment in the village of Waynesfield. The woman’s body was nude and lying in a running shower.
Auglaize County Coroner Thomas Freytag ruled the woman died of strangulation and had been lying in the shower for approximately three days before being discovered. Williams was arrested a year later in connection with Mulcahy’s death. Mulcahy and Williams married April 14, 2016, records show, but had separated just days before the woman’s death.
Opening testimony in the trial got underway Monday afternoon with Dave Hammond, a special agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation taking the stand as the state’s initial witness.
At the direction of Assistant Auglaize County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Elder, Hammond meticulously reviewed dozens of photographs he had taken at the crime scene in Waynesfield.
The BCI agent said he had first obtained written consent from Williams to search the apartment on July 8, hours after Mulcahy’s lifeless body was discovered in the shower of the Waynesfield apartment.
Hammond testified in both direct testimony and upon cross-examination by Defense Attorney Bill Kluge that he observed no “glaring, visible external injuries” to the victim nor did he observe any signs of a physical struggle in the apartment.
He testified that Mulcahy’s body was found in a fetal position in a stand-up shower. Based upon preliminary information, which included Mulcahy’s reported history of alcohol dependency, Hammond said his initial investigation focused on the suspicion that Mulcahy had suffered “a seizure or something.”
The focus of the investigation changed, he said, when an investigator from the coroner’s office said the woman had died from a “potential strangulation and a potential sexual assault.”
But Hammond said that a second investigation of the crime scene on July 10 showed “no signs of violence or abuse” in the apartment.
Also taking the stand was Scott Bowsher, owner and landlord of the apartment in which Mulcahy’s body was discovered. He testified that two or three days prior to July 8 he had told the woman that she had 24 hours in which to leave the apartment.
Bowsher testified that Brent Williams, who was the sole name on the lease, had announced some four days earlier that he had already moved out of the apartment. Bowsher said the rent for the month had not yet been paid.
“He told me that if I could get (Mulcahy) out of the apartment that he would like to move back in, but that he couldn’t take it anymore with her there,” Bowsher said.
The landlord also testified that late on the afternoon of July 6 he saw Brent Williams and his father, Glenn, leaving the apartment. Asked if Mulcahy was still at the apartment, Bowsher said the two men said yes, and that she was taking a shower at the time.
Two days later, while working on a vacant apartment in the building, Bowsher said he heard water running and shut off a main line leading to the apartment. He then attempted to contact Brent Williams but could not. He then called Glenn Williams, who met Bowsher at the apartment and authorized his entry into the apartmentt. It was then that he discovered Mulcahy lying in the shower, deceased.
Bowsher called the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office and stayed at the residence until Waynesfield Police Chief Nathan Motter arrived, he testified.
Testimony in the trial will resume at 9 a.m. today.
Williams is charged with two counts of murder, unclassified felonies, and one count of tampering with evidence in connection with Mulcahy’s death. He is free on $500,000 bond.