Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Radio Legend Steven B. Williams

A Body in the Water


Sheriff's Deputy Jim Pennington was on his regular morning patrol around California's idyllic Santa Catalina Island on May 18, 2006, when he got an unusual radio call from the U. S. Coast Guard.

West end view of Catalina Island
West end view of Catalina Island
A pleasure boat had been sailing seven miles off shore and had noticed something floating in the water. Upon closer inspection, the boat's owner had determined that it was a human body.

Pennington boarded the boat and saw the body floating face down and wearing a green fleece jogging suit. The lower back was extended out of the water and three seagulls were perched on top, scavenging the remains.

The body, of a man, was then hauled on board, bloated with water. Decomposition and time in the water made it impossible to tell the age or race of the victim. He was wearing gloves and one came off, showing a hand missing three fingers. Something that looked like it could be a bullet hole was visible on the head.

But that wasn't the most telling thing about the whole scenario. Pennington noticed that barnacles had grown on the bottom of one shoe.

"For a barnacle to attach itself to an object like that, in my experience, it's taken two to three weeks," Pennington would later say in court. "Seeing the barnacles made me realize that this person had to have been in the water, like I said, an extended period of time."

The body was taken to the morgue in the basement of the island's hospital. No missing person matched the victim's description, so the body was left in a freezer there for a few days before being moved to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office and given case number 063815.

The preliminary cause of death was listed as drowning.


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