HONOLULU — Former Schofield Barracks soldier Naeem J. Williams said when his 5-year-old daughter soiled herself a week or so after arriving in Hawaii from South Carolina, he considered it an accident and didn't think of it as a big deal.
"I just talked to her about it (and told her), ‘Just try to get to the bathroom next time," he said.
When it happened a few more times after her arrival at Williams' home in military quarters at Wheeler Army Airfield in mid-December 2004, Williams said he remained unperturbed. By the end of that month, however, Williams said he had started physically punishing his daughter for soiling herself.
Williams, 34, is on trial in U.S. District Court for capital murder for the July 16, 2005, child abuse beating death of his daughter, Talia. He is facing the death penalty for killing a child through child abuse or as part of a practice and pattern of assault and torture.
The government claims that Williams killed the girl with a punch to her chest, causing her to fall and hit her head on the floor of the family's quarters. By then, she had suffered months of physical abuse at the hands of her father and stepmother Delilah Williams.
Naeem Williams stepped up to the witness stand to testify in his own defense Tuesday. He teared up when his lawyer John Philipsborn asked him whether he was prepared to discuss the death of his daughter and why it happened. The court session ended for the day before Williams could tell the jury how he punished the girl.
Talia Williams was the product of a brief relationship Naeem Williams had with the girl's mother, Tarshia Williams, in South Carolina before he joined the Army. The couple never married.
Naeem Williams said he was at the hospital for his daughter's birth on March 20, 2000, and was there when she went home from the hospital. After that, he said, he had limited contact with the girl before a South Carolina family court judge awarded him custody of her in 2004.
He said his relationship with Tarshia Williams started getting rocky while she was still pregnant, and they split up shortly after the girl was born. He said he tried to see his daughter once after she was born but that he wasn't allowed to.
By 2003 Naeem Williams was in the Army in Fort Hood, Texas, and Tarshia Williams had agreed to let his grandmother have temporary custody of her daughter because the girl was suffering from developmental delays and malnutrition.
In 2004 the family court in South Carolina was considering who should have custody of the girl. Naeem Williams said his mother secured the services of a lawyer to seek legal custody for him.
"She made it sound like it's my responsibility to take care of Talia," he said.
Upon obtaining custody, Williams said he was happy and excited and thought everything was going to be fine. He said he knew that his daughter had bladder and bowel problems and that Delilah Williams learned the routine his grandmother had established to prevent the girl from having accidents.
But, he said, his daughter arrived at his home at a time when he and his wife were arguing on a daily basis about money and his drinking, hanging out with his friends, infidelity and spending habits. The couple were also expecting their first child. Before his daughter arrived, Williams said, he and wife had never discussed the extra financial burden of adding children to their household.