JACKSON, N.C. (WJHL) — Saturday’s capture of fugitive former Johnson City business owner Sean Williams wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the amount of drugs allegedly discovered in his possession.
Williams, wanted for nearly two years on felony ammunition charges, is in a North Carolina jail after police say they found him with three-fourths of a pound of cocaine and nearly a pound of methamphetamine.
Western Carolina University (WCU) police arrested Williams, 51, at around 2 a.m. Saturday after allegedly finding the drugs in a vehicle. The arrest by WCU officer Charles Gooden occurred while Gooden was patrolling a small riverside park off campus that Western owns.
“We don’t get a lot of vehicles here extremely late at night,” WCU Police Chief Steve Lillard told News Channel 11 while standing at the Lena Davis Landing park along the Tuckasegee River. “So he went to inquire to see if there was any issues.”
What Gooden found, Lillard said, was Williams asleep, or nearly so, and enough evidence to conduct a search of the vehicle.
“We were able to get sufficient information to where we would move forward with doing the further search of the vehicle,” Lillard said. “And then we did identify some controlled substances at that time.”
That search allegedly yielded 354 grams of powder cocaine and 411 grams of methamphetamine. Williams was booked into the Jackson County Jail Saturday morning on seven drug counts, including two counts each for trafficking methamphetamine and trafficking cocaine.
Williams’s bond was set at $1 million.
Later Saturday, officers learned of a felon in possession of ammunition charge that U.S. Marshals began actively seeking Williams on in July 2022.
“Gathering additional information, it was discovered that the person we were dealing with had some outstanding charges from another state,” Lillard said. “And so we were able to confirm that we had the right person.”
Johnson City police investigated Williams in the fall of 2020 and winter of 2021 after a woman fell from a window of his fifth-floor apartment at East Main and Spring streets in September 2020. Mikayla Evans survived that Sept. 19, 2020 fall, but what Johnson City Police Department investigator Toma Sparks’s notes referred to as a “medical investigation” also turned up ammunition during a search of Williams’s safe several days later.
A later note from Sparks’s file showed that on Nov. 12, 2020 he “spoke with Kat Dahl about getting a federal indictment on Sean Williams for the ammunition found in his Liberty safe.
“All the evidence was put on Kat’s portable hard drive. She said that she would be in contact with me next week.”
Kateri “Kat” Dahl was a federal prosecutor who worked with Johnson City police through an agreement with the Eastern District of Tennessee U.S. Attorney’s office.
More than a year later, in July 2022, U.S. marshals visited several downtown Johnson City businesses and left posters of Sean Williams with the same birthdate and height as the Williams currently in the Jackson County jail.
A conviction just for the cocaine amount could bring more than six years in prison. But Lillard said he’s also glad his agency caught a wanted felon.
“Any time that we’re able to locate somebody that’s wanted, it’s always a benefit for the whole community that we’re able to identify people that may have some outstanding charges so that those can be properly addressed.”
Lillard said campus police have no indication Williams posed a threat to Western.
“This is just a piece of property that’s owned by the university,” Lillard said. “So we do patrol it, but we have no indication that he’s ever had any affiliation or ties to our main campus.”
Williams had a bond hearing Monday in Jackson County Court. Judge Christine Earwood denied public defender Leo Phillips’s request that his bond be reduced from the $1 million that was set Saturday.
An assistant district attorney and Lillard both told News Channel 11 that if Williams were to make bond, he would likely be remanded to federal custody, where he is charged with being a felon in possession of ammunition. Williams has been wanted on those charges for a total of nearly two years.
Williams’s next court date is May 8.