By ANGELA MOORE
© St. Petersburg Times,
TAMPA -- Margaret Alford got a frantic call Tuesday night from her friend and housemate, Delores Williams, who said she had just been beaten by her estranged husband but had managed to get away.
Williams, 32, was at a pay phone a short distance from Alford's house and said she'd be there in a few minutes.
As Alford peeked out the window to look for her friend, she saw 36-year-old Arthur Williams drive around the corner and snatch his wife from the street.
Alford heard screams for help, then watched the car speed away. Neither Delores nor Arthur Williams has been seen since.
Police, fearing the worst, held a press conference Wednesday to ask the public for help. "Their relationship has always been a violent one," Tampa police Sgt. Bill Rousseau said. "We're very concerned. If she was kidnapped, she could be in very serious trouble."
Since they were youngsters, Delores and Arthur Williams have been more or less together, Alford said. And for almost as long, Arthur Williams has been beating her, friends and police said Wednesday.
The couple married five years ago, but Mrs. Williams moved in with Alford and her family a month ago. "She came to me to get away from him because he beat her so much," Alford said.
Alford and her daughter said Arthur Williams had threatened to kill his wife, punched her, bitten her and cut her on the arms and head.
Still, when he called his wife Tuesday afternoon and asked if he could talk to her, she agreed that he could come over at 5 p.m.
"She told me that she wasn't going to get out of the apartment with him, that they were just going to talk," Alford said.
Instead, Delores Williams agreed to walk with her husband to a park and playground less than four blocks away.
"It may have just been a ploy on his part," Rousseau said Wednesday.
The stormy relationship is a familiar one to officers in the sex crimes and domestic violence unit. Since 1985, Arthur Williams has been charged with four counts of domestic violence, three counts of child abuse, three counts of aggravated battery, and kidnapping. The disposition of those charges was not known Wednesday night.
Alford said the couple have two daughters, 18 and 6, who live with their maternal grandmother in Tampa.
Delores Williams disappeared on the same day 25-year-old Latasha Wiggins was hunted down and shot three times by her ex-boyfriend, Eric Thompson, authorities said. Wiggins was in fair condition at Tampa General Hospital on Wednesday night. Rousseau said his department had been in constant contact with Wiggins, who feared for her life.
"We knew that she was in danger," Rousseau said. "We talked to her. We believed that he was trying to kill her. But he got to her before we got to him. We don't want to repeat that scenario here."