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Teen charged as adult

WSN hit-and-run death driver pleads not guilty

The W.S. Neal graduate charged in the February hit-and-run death of a Neal middle school student will face trial as an adult.

Last week, Donnavia Williams’ request for youthful offender status in the death of 12-year-old Devon Spencer was denied by Judge Bert Rice. Williams then pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter, failing to report an accident, leaving the scene of an accident and second-degree assault. 

Williams

Williams

Spencer – a seventh grader – died on Feb. 16 from injuries he sustained while walking with a friend from a nearby apartment complex to the W.S. Neal Middle School campus.

Williams, who at the time of the accident was a WSN senior, allegedly told authorities an icy windshield hindered her vision and that she thought she hit a mailbox on the morning of the accident. When Williams reportedly called her mother, Jennifer, she was told to continue on to school. Mrs. Williams is also charged with failure to report an accident.

Throughout the morning, Rice heard testimony from family members, Spencer’s friend, school officials, law enforcement and first responders.

Williams was identified early as a suspect in the accident after eyewitness identified her red Chevrolet Cavalier.

Williams’ attorney, Jerome Carter, argued that Williams’ inexperience behind the wheel was grounds to grant the teen youthful offender status. He claimed Williams had a test the morning of Devon’s accident and was rushed to get breakfast and head to class.

“She scraped enough ice off to see but blocking the view,” Carter said.

He said that when Williams arrived on campus, her demeanor was that of someone taking a test, not “who had hit or hurt someone.”

East Brewton Police Department Chief Kenneth Brazile testified Williams told police she used a “de-icer” her mother had given her and rushed to beat the bus out of her apartment complex. Williams told Brazile she stopped her car when she “heard a banging” and called her mother. Mrs. Williams allegedly told her daughter to go to McDonald’s to get something to eat before heading into class for a test.

Spencer’s family has been very vocal about their desire to see Williams tried as an adult.

During the day’s hearing, they testified as much after saying they have not seen any remorse from Williams after the boy’s death.

“I do not want (Williams) to be tried as a youth offender,” said Devon’s father, Brian Spencer. “My son will never go to the prom or take the ACT test.”

Bobbie Spencer, Devon’s grandmother, testified, “(Williams) should be held accountable. She can’t just do this and walk away.”

Escambia County District Attorney Steve Billy said despite Williams’ age, she should have stopped and checked on the situation.

“(Williams is) bright; knows right from wrong,” Billy said. “We’re not saying this was intentional. She doesn’t get out of the car (to see what was hit). There’s a lot of responsibility in driving a car. At 16 years old, it’s a deadly weapon.”

No trial date has been set in the case.