This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
When Theresa Williams was just a toddler, an oak tree was planted in the yard of the home where she grew up. The tree was meant to grow alongside Theresa.
While that tree is still there and is now in full bloom, Theresa never got to see the beautiful tree.
She was murdered in 2001. The crime has yet to be solved.
Theresa’s mother, Juanita Williams, has had to live the last 20 years without hearing her daughter’s voice and without watching her raise three children. Juanita loved her child very much, and now that she is gone, a piece of her is gone, too.
“She was a beautiful girl,” Juanita said. “She was a beautiful young woman, and she was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The wrong place at the wrong time was in downtown Jacksonville on the morning of March 23, 2001.
Officers arrived at the scene in reference to an aggravated battery and found Theresa there. The officers described Theresa’s condition as unconscious, and she had blunt trauma to the head and neck. Theresa was taken to a local hospital where she stayed until she died a week later.
According to what Juanita was told, Theresa had been struck in the head with a hammer and dragged behind a truck. Her mouth had been stuffed with leaves, and she had been left – still alive – behind a dumpster.
Juanita was at her job in Daytona Beach, Florida when her sister called and told her to come to Jacksonville because there had been an emergency. She thought it was a joke because she was scheduled to see Theresa on vacation in a few days. As she received more calls, she knew that this was a serious matter.
When Juanita reached her daughter, she said that her head was the shape of a small watermelon. Juanita nor anyone else were allowed to talk to Theresa or she would likely have been put in a panic state. Eventually, Juanita made the difficult decision to remove Theresa from life support.
Theresa was known for her charisma and her fighter spirit as a child. She had so much energy that Juanita and her sister would struggle holding her back as Theresa “didn’t take nothing from nobody.” She wouldn’t run from a fight but also lived life to the fullest.
After the murder, the Williams family was left in pieces. Juanita said that Theresa’s sister has not handled the loss well and continues to struggle.
Juanita says she has not returned to Jacksonville and has stayed at her residence in Daytona Beach ever since.
“As of now, I don’t even want to go to Jacksonville,” she said.
Everything that she had loved about going to Jacksonville has been ripped from her.
There has been no justice brought to Theresa’s case. Despite that, Juanita is hopeful that, sometime in the future, Theresa’s murderer will be found.
“I don’t know how to get her back. I can’t get her back. I wish I could. I wish I could, but I can’t,” Juanita said.
“One day, when the good Lord above wants to take me, I will see her again. I will see her again. And that part there keeps me going.”
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Theresa Williams, please call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a $3,000 reward, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.
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