Did she love him, or kill him?
Charles "Chuck" Rock died after he was set on fire. Prosecutors say his ex-lover Elizabeth Williams planned it.
By COLLEEN JENKINS
Published September 13, 2006
TAMPA - She wrote him a note signed "Your Fatal Attraction." She showered him with gifts - beer, a race car and jewelry - when she felt him slipping away. She phoned after he moved on to another woman.
Elizabeth Jewell Williams called it love. Charles "Chuck" Rock's family and friends called it obsession.
They now say she carried out her fatal attraction on Aug. 10, 2003, using drugs and money to get a friend to douse 35-year-old Rock with gasoline and light him on fire in a Riverview park.
Williams says the man who killed Rock was acting on his own.
"I loved Chuck Rock with all of my being," she told a detective hours after her ex-lover was burned. "I would never let anybody hurt that man."
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Williams, 40, of Pinecrest, is on trial this week on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Since Rock's death, former radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem made a public outcry for her arrest and the man responsible for the fire has turned against her.
After more than 900 days in a Hillsborough County jail, Williams will soon learn whether a jury believes she is a grieving ex-lover or a killer covering her tracks.
Rock's family says just being in Williams' presence again is more chilling than the crisp courtroom air.
"She is the kind of person," said Rock's sister, Vickie Lynne Rock, "who makes your hair stand up on the back of your neck."
After several years of frequent breakups and short-lived makeups, Rock and Williams' relationship ended for good in December 2002.
But Williams wasn't willing to let go, prosecutor Jay Pruner told jurors during Tuesday's opening statements.
"She could never get Chuck Rock out of her head," he said. "The mere sight of Chuck Rock with any other woman ... threw Beth Williams into a tirade."
After leaving Williams, Rock moved in with a new girlfriend, Michelle Mulligan, who testified that she fielded unwanted phone calls in the middle of the night from the former lover.
The night of Aug. 9, 2003, Mulligan and Rock ran into a friend of Williams' at a strip-mall bar in Riverview. His name was Joshua Singletary, but he introduced himself to Mulligan as "the town drunk," she said.
Singletary, 25, began needling Rock about being Williams' ex-lover. The two men argued; Singletary got thrown out of the bar.
He came back soon after with Williams. She was incensed to see Rock with Mulligan, the prosecutor said.
Williams and Singletary then went back to her home to continue their hourslong binge on cocaine and alcohol, Pruner said. The supply came from Williams, who operated a Beverage Castle on U.S. 301.
As the night wore on, Williams concocted a plan, Pruner said. Feeding Singletary's drug-induced paranoia, she told him that he would be in danger if he didn't go after Rock, Pruner said.
Williams decided they needed a gun. During their hunt, she tried to call her roommate, Alexis Lidey. The roommate didn't answer.
But her voice mail picked up a conversation that could help the prosecution prove premeditation.
Singletary: "How you gonna feel, killing somebody? Is it going to be on your conscience?"
Williams: "I ain't gonna kill nobody. I'm passed out drunk in the back seat, and I didn't hear none of it."
Singletary: "I don't even know you, but I'm sticking up for you to do this."
The message came at 3:56 a.m.
Shortly after, Pruner said, Williams pumped and paid for a container of gasoline. She gave Singletary money, drugs and the keys to her red pickup, according to the prosecutor.
He dropped her off at home and drove to the boat ramp in Williams Park. Rock was there.
As Rock approached the truck, Singletary threw out a lit rag, then splashed Rock with gasoline, Pruner said.
Both men caught on fire. As Rock spun in flames, Singletary jumped into the Alafia River but was caught by authorities.
Rock died six days later at Tampa General Hospital.
"Beth Williams' manipulative hand drove the engine that resulted in Chuck Rock's death," Pruner said.
In exchange for testifying against Williams, Singletary was allowed to plead guilty last year to second-degree murder, for which he is expected to be sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Jurors shouldn't be fooled, defense attorney Brian Gonzalez said.
Though Williams wasn't happy with how her relationship with Rock had ended, Singletary alone is responsible for Rock's death, he said.
"It's called self-preservation," Gonzalez said of Singletary's testimony, which is expected today.
Williams wasn't charged until March 2004, seven months after Rock's death.
Frustrated by the delay, Rock's friends passed along the voice mail recording to Clem. He played the conversation repeatedly for listeners of his morning radio show, aiming to pressure detectives into arresting Williams.
Rock's family said Tuesday that they had confidence all along in detectives and State Attorney Mark Ober's office. Now they are banking on jurors.
"All I want," said Joyce Rock, Chuck's mother, "is a guilty."
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813 226-3337.