DA seeks to charge teen as adult for pastor’s murder in carjacking

The late Rev. Autura Eason-Williams of Capleville United Methodist Church in Tennessee.
The late Rev. Autura Eason-Williams of Capleville United Methodist Church in Tennessee. | YouTube/Eason-Williams Answering the Call

The office of a district attorney in Tennessee says it will seek to charge a 15-year-old boy as an adult in the murder of the Rev. Autura Eason-Williams, the late pastor of Capleville United Methodist Church who was gunned down in a carjacking earlier this week.

The Shelby County District Attorney’s office said in a statement that it's submitting a notice of intent to transfer the case, which is set on the Juvenile Court docket for a hearing on Aug. 1, to an adult court, as law allows it if the alleged crimes are serious.

The decision is based on “the facts of this case and this offender’s criminal history,” District Attorney Amy Weirich said in the statement, according to WREG.

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Pastor Eason-Williams was shot dead in the driveway of her home on Whitehaven Lane in Memphis on Monday evening.

Memphis police charged the 15-year-old boy with first-degree murder, murder in the perpetration of a robbery, especially aggravated robbery, carjacking, and employment of a firearm during a dangerous felony. He was arrested along with a 16-year-old accomplice, who was charged with theft of property valued between $2,500-$10,000.

The pastor’s daughter, Ayanna Hampton, said she was opposed to the DA’s decision.

“My mommy was a tireless advocate and strategist for restorative justice practices,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “Please do not use her death as an opportunity to go all ‘tough on crime,’ ‘throw them under the jail,’ ‘charge them as adults so they won’t get a chance to do this again’ on us.”

The transfer hearing might not be scheduled before late August or September.

After Eason-Williams’ death, Jody Hill, president of Memphis Theological Seminary, said in a statement on Facebook that the pastor was a graduate of the school and the seminary community is “devastated” by her death.

“She was a wife, mother, and a devoted friend to many. She led Formation classes at MTS and Signposts groups for the Center for Faith and Imagination. We join so many of you in shock and pain. Autura was a real light and a well of deep care,” Hill said.

“Personally, I saw in her the spiritual gift of hospitality. Autura was eager to embrace all of God’s children with a warm smile, gentle hug, or encouraging word. We grieve her loss and this senseless violence.”

David Perry, a field representative at the United Methodist Foundation for the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences, called Eason-Williams a “dear friend.” He revealed in a Facebook post Wednesday that the Tennessee pastor was on a call with another colleague at the time of her death.

“Even since Monday evening, I’ve been trying to process the tragic news of the murder of a dear friend and an esteemed colleague, Rev. Dr. Autura Eason-Williams, in her own driveway while talking with another pastor on her cell,” Perry wrote.

Perry said he was more troubled by the news that the suspect was a teenager, and suggested the murder was a sign that the Church had much work to do.

“My pain over this tragic loss was compounded yesterday by the news that a 15-year-old boy pulled the trigger. What an awful evidence of the increasing violence we see in our world! Only a few weeks before, the 19-year -old son of another friend and exemplary Christian servant was shot and killed while driving down a main street of Jackson, apparently from a random gang-related act of violence,” he said.

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