Killer from '60s seeks release from psych center

ALLEGAN, Mich. (AP) -- A killer who has been in custody in a psychiatric hospital for more than 40 years is asking a western Michigan judge to give him a chance at freedom under a law that was repealed in the 1960s but still applies to him.

Theodore Williams, 75, has the right to ask an Allegan County judge to hold a jury trial to determine if he's no longer a threat to society. The Grand Rapids Press reported he plans to make that request again Wednesday, although many previous requests have been turned down.

In 1967, Williams admitted killing a 7-year-old Grand Rapids girl, Sonya Santa Cruz, whose body was found in Allegan County. Police said he also confessed to killing a 13-year-old girl in another county in 1966.

Williams' path through the criminal justice system has been unusual. Before he could be sentenced in Sonya's death, he was designated a criminal-sexual psychopath and committed indefinitely to a state hospital, the Press reported.

The law, however, was repealed in 1968. Five years later, Williams and many others were released.

After three months, Allegan County authorities again charged him with killing Sonya, and he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. The Michigan Supreme Court threw out the conviction and ordered him to go back to a state hospital under the old law.

"He's recovered and no longer a threat to society," said Williams' attorney, Robert Champion.

Prosecutor Fred Anderson said he will oppose Williams' request to show he can be trusted in public.

Sonya's mother, Edith Siordia, 73, of Long Beach, Calif., said she's lost sleep worrying about the court hearing this week. Williams was a family friend in the 1960s.

"It's a nightmare all over again," she said. "It gets worse every time he goes to court. Every time this happens, I wind up getting all riled up."

In 2008, Williams told the Press that he was remorseful and a different man.

"The two little girls, you know, they never hurt anybody. I'd do anything in the world if I could bring them back," he said. "It's a terrible case, no two ways about it."

Published: Tue, Apr 1, 2014