Plea reached in 2016 hit-and-run death of WSNMS student

Published 5:56 pm Monday, September 11, 2017

A plea agreement was reached Monday in the 2016 hit-and-run death of W.S. Neal Middle School Devon Spencer.

Escambia County District Attorney Steve Billy said Donnavia Williams pleaded guilty to manslaughter before Judger Bert Rice in the 12-year-old’s death following a four-count grand jury indictment that also included failing to report an accident, leaving the scene of an accident and second-degree assault.

Spencer – a seventh grader – died on Feb. 16, 2016, from injuries he sustained while walking with a friend from a nearby apartment complex to the WSNMS campus.

Williams, who at the time of the accident was a WSN senior, 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. Her case remains pending; however, Billy said he expects a plea in the near future.

“Jury selections were set for Monday, and her attorney came in and asked for an offer,” Billy said. “We said the state would accept a blind plea to manslaughter, which is the most serious of the charges which stemmed from the same incident. Under the law, any sentence would have run concurrently.

“We’re happy with the outcome, and so is the victim’s family,” he said. “It’s the same position as a guilty verdict, but it spared the family the trauma of a trial.”

Sentencing is set for Nov. 1 at 9 a.m.

Prior to Monday’s hearing, Williams was being held in the Escambia County Detention Center after a July arrest for minor in consumption and bond revocation. Billy said Williams, who was released on a reinstated bond, was placed under house arrest and required to wear an ankle monitor until her November sentencing date.