Haunted Crime Scenes: Mercer House
The 'Incident' and the Ghosts
Each year, Williams threw a socially significant Christmas party, but all that ended when he killed Danny, his lover and "part-time assistant." Claiming self-defense during an argument in which Danny threatened him with a loaded gun, Williams went through a historic series of four trials, starting in July 1982. Initially, the jury found Williams guilty, but he appealed and got a new trial. Again, he was found guilty and again appealed. New evidence surfaced from witnesses who stated that Hansford had planned to harm Williams. Despite the suggestion that the witnesses had been paid, the Georgia Supreme Court granted a third trial, which resulted in a hung jury and mistrial. In 1987, the fourth trial commenced, this time in Augusta, where the jury did not know about Jim Williams. This jury acquitted him in less than two hours —ten days after the eighth anniversary in 1989 of the shooting. He was free.
He then resumed his Christmas galas — but managed only one. In January, just eight months after his acquittal, Jim Williams died, some sources say from a heart attack, some from AIDS-related pneumonia. He had just turned 59. It's likely that the stress of four trials, which interrupted his business and threatened his image as a refined gentleman, had taken its toll as well. Some even whisper that Danny's ghost extracted revenge, although Berendt's story that Williams fell on the very spot where he'd have fallen had Danny actually shot him, is fabricated.