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'Missing' wife turns up at TV station

Police feared her husband had kidnapped her. But the woman says she went willingly.

By KATHRYN WEXLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2000


TAMPA -- Early Thursday morning, about 36 hours after police feared Delores Williams had been kidnapped by her estranged husband, she walked into a television station on Kennedy Boulevard and announced she was fine.

"I was at a hotel with my husband, that's all," the 32-year-old mother of two later told reporters.

Late Thursday, police were searching for Arthur Williams, who has a history of violence toward his wife and who police say beat her again Tuesday.

Police had asked the public for help in finding the couple after a friend told them Mrs. Williams had screamed for help into a pay phone before the line went dead.

Police said there is now a warrant for Williams' arrest, but it lists only a domestic violence battery charge, a misdemeanor. That stems from a punch Mrs. Williams said her husband threw as they walked together in a park before she made the phone call for help.

Williams, 36, will not face a kidnapping charge because his wife says she agreed to go to the hotel with him. And without witnesses, prosecutors must rely on her statement, Tampa police Sgt. Bill Rousseau said.

"She says she went with him willingly," Rousseau said. "We have no one to talk to but the victim. . . . All we can go by is what she says."

Advocates who work with domestic violence victims say a refusal to cooperate with authorities to bring their attackers to justice is common. Often, they said, fear, love and economic dependence keep victims from helping to put away the offenders, even though there's a greater risk to their safety without intervention.

Attacks often become more violent. "It just escalates," said Catherine Real, a family law attorney.

Williams has been in trouble before. In 1995, he pleaded guilty to aggravated child abuse for binding a child at the feet and hands with masking tape and beating the youngster with an electric cord until welts appeared.

He was sentenced to probation, revoked soon after when he was found to have hit Mrs. Williams, records show. He was given six months in jail, followed by two years of community control and three years of probation, according to records.

In 1998, he violated his parole again when he approached his wife, according to court records. But Mrs. Williams never sought a restraining order.

That's often the case, said Mabel Bexley, executive director of the Spring, a Tampa abuse shelter. Victims don't often help prosecutors build a case.

"This is one of the things victims go through to demonstrate their loyalty," Bexley said.

Last year, there were 17 deaths attributed to domestic violence in Hillsborough -- half as many as in 1994. Some experts credit court-mandated counseling.

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