GREENEVILLE, Tenn. - George Williams had no idea that the dark secret he's carried with him for more than 33 years was going to surface as he entered an elevator in Greeneville, Tennessee.
"Hey George, how are you?" Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman said.
"How you doing," he answered warily.
"Can you tell me about your involvement in the murder of Eugene --"
Before Norman could finish the question, Williams lashed out, striking the reporter's hand, knocking the cellphone crashing to the floor.
"Don’t do that s--t to me!" Williams yelled.
"Have you lost your mind?" Norman asked.
As the elevator door opened, Williams began walking away.
"How come you didn't do time in prison, George?" asked Norman, following him. "Do you have anything to say to Eugene Hicks' daughter?"
Williams wouldn't say another word to Norman -- and he's had nothing to say to say about the 1983 murder of Eugene Hicks, a murder in which he confessed to playing a key role in a recently surfaced videotaped interview with a Hallandale Beach police detective, in which he recounts watching a kitchen knife being plunged into Hicks' chest.
"It was the awfullest thing I've seen in my whole life," he said, laughing.
Hicks' daughter, Jessica Lauren, who was 3 years old when her father was killed in their family home, doesn't see the humor.
"This guy laughs on camera about killing my dad," she said. "He thinks it's funny and he got away with it. He literally got away with murder."
In the videotape, Williams admits to driving his friend, Kenneth Bicking, to Hicks' home in Golden Isles to commit a crime, though he claims he didn't know Hicks would be killed. He told Hallandale Beach police Sgt. Ronald Beukers that he only knew Hicks and Bicking were involved in drug smuggling together -- as well as robbing drug dealers -- and believed Bicking was going to the home to collect cocaine, or possibly cash, involved in that business. He said Bicking promised to pay him for his role.
He said as he waited nervously outside the home, he heard the sound of gunshots and Bicking brought him into the home, where Hicks was lying on the floor gasping for life.
"He was jerking," Williams told Beukers. "I could see the body moving. ... I said, 'Kenny, he's still alive.'"
He said after he alerted Bicking to the fact that Hicks wasn't dead, Bicking walked into the kitchen and returned with a knife.
"He had a knife and he started stabbing him a bunch of times," Williams said.
"He gave a play-by-play of how he robbed and helped murder my dad," Lauren said. "And walked out the door. He made sure my dad did not live another day."
So why was Williams never charged after playing a role in a murder case and then covering it up?
"I can't move forward with it," assistant state attorney Tom Coleman said.
He can't charge Hicks, said Coleman, because Buekers promised Williams during the 2004 interview he wouldn't be charged. He cites this exchange:
BEUKERS: You're nothing more than a witness to what occurred.
WILLIAMS: Even though I was there and I was with him? I'm not an accomplice?
BEUKERS: I'm not looking for any accomplices.
Beukers assured him that the state attorney's office was "on the same page."
"Once he does that, that makes it an inadmissible statement," Coleman said. "You're giving him a false promise, and once you give him a false promise he's immune from prosecution based on that statement."
Lauren doesn't agree, saying a judge should decide on the admissibility of the statement.
"These types of statements are made by homicide detectives all the time," Norman challenged Coleman. "And they are hashed out in court."
"They're hashed in court over years," Coleman said. "The law in this case is clear. When you give them that position you can't change that position on them."
Prosecutors said Bicking wasn't charged in the case because the only evidence they had against him was the Williams confession. Bicking, who was later implicated in the murder of a former Dallas Cowboys punter named Colin Ridgway, is now serving a life sentence in prison on a rape conviction in Jacksonville.
Lauren said Beukers, now a sergeant, not only let Williams off the hook, but also was uncooperative with her family and cast suspicion on relatives even after he got the confession from Williams in 2004. When reached on the phone, Beukers said he would answer questions about the case with the permission of Chief Dwayne Flournoy. But when Flournoy gave him that permission, he still declined comment.
Lauren said Beukers and prosecutors mistreated and misled her family.
"They were just sending me off on a magic carpet ride to nowhere," she said. "I'll have full peace when the Broward County state attorney's office does the right thing. If you admit to killing someone, you should go to jail. I'll have peace when he goes to jail."
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