Cody man found not guilty in murder of Paisleigh Williams
November 9, 2023
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CODY — A Cody man was found not guilty for the murder of his 2-year-old daughter after a week-long trial that began on October 30 in Thermopolis.
Moshe Williams stepped out from the Hot Springs County Courthouse on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 3, after a 5-day trial that ended with a unanimous verdict of not guilty. The verdict was reached by the jury around 2 pm, after almost three hours of deliberation.
“Thank God almighty, free at last,” said Williams, as he walked out of the courthouse.
Williams and his partner, Carolyn Aune, were accused of first-degree murder back in April of 2021 for the death of his daughter, Paisleigh Williams. Aune was convicted in April of 2023 for the murder of Paisleigh, and sentenced to life in prison on September 26.
While Aune was found guilty of recklessly inflicting physical injury on Paisleigh after she failed to get Paisleigh prompt medical care, she was found not guilty of intentionally inflicting the blunt force trauma that perforated Paisleigh’s intestines and led to her death.
The prosecution, led by Park County Deputy Prosecutor Jack Hatfield, called their final witnesses to the stand on Friday, including Dr. Steven Cina, the forensic pathologist that conducted Paisleigh’s autopsy on April 7, 2021, three days after her death at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver.
Paisleigh’s official cause of death was ruled homicide by blunt force trauma that ruptured a portion of her bowels, causing sepsis, according to Cina’s testimony. The autopsy also showed fractures on Paisleigh’s hands, ribs and spine that showed signs of healing up to her death.
“I can tell you that a [2-year-old] has a lot of cartilage,” said Cina, and it would take “substantial impacts” to cause those injuries.
The “fatal blow” occurred on March 26, 2021, in Cody, but Williams waited until the next day to bring Paisleigh to Cody Regional Health, said Hatfield. He went on to argue that it was just one piece of evidence that showed Williams acted “recklessly” in not getting his child immediate emergency care.
Hatfield presented cellphone records that showed Williams was in the small Cody apartment he shared with Aune when the fatal abuse occurred, and he maintained that Williams was aware that the child was sick afterward due to text messages revealed in court.
One text shared by Hatfield showed Williams was afraid to take Paisleigh to the hospital because she was “beat from head to toe,” and he was worried that authorities would think he did it.
While the prosecution and defense agreed that Aune was the one who struck the fatal blow, and that Williams had shown himself to be an “attentive father” in the past, Hatfield argued that he was reckless in not getting Paisleigh immediate medical attention for the sepsis.
Williams was on trial for “what he did and did not do … after the fatal blow was struck,” said Hatfield.
During their closing argument, the defense disagreed with the use of the term “reckless,” and maintained that a large part of the prosecution’s case hinged on speculation, conjecture and innuendo.
Defense attorney Dylan Rosalez said that the cell phone records only proved that Williams’ phone was in the apartment when the abuse occurred and, while Williams had experience as a certified nursing assistant, there was no way for him to know of the internal sepsis that led to Paisleigh’s death.
Williams had brought Paisleigh to the hospital on March 27, 2021, after texting back and forth with a woman from his church about Paisleigh’s condition. Paisleigh was then airlifted to Children’s Hospital Colorado, where she succumbed to the injuries on April 4.
It’s not child abuse if “someone else beats your child, then you take your child for help,” said Rosalez. He also said that his client worked with law enforcement during the investigation and was a “man with nothing to hide.”
“The evidence shows that Mr. Williams did not kill his child,” he said. “We know who dealt the fatal blow.”
Family members of Paisleigh were in the courtroom for the trial, including her mother and grandmother. Her mother, Rebecca Holtsman, refused to comment after the not guilty verdict was read, but Colleen Holtsman, Paisleigh’s grandmother, said they were in shock and disappointed.
“Right now it’s hard to say anything,” she said. “[Williams] had a responsibility to [Paisleigh] but cared more about what happened to him.”
This story was published on November 7, 2023.