Kathy Taft

Defense portrays Taft's accused killer as mentally damaged

Posted May 23, 2012
Updated May 24, 2012

— The man facing a potential death sentence in the fatal attack of North Carolina state school board member Kathy Taft comes from a family with a history of depression, alcoholism and other mental disorders, his mother told jurors in his first-degree murder trial Wednesday.

Pam Williford Jason Williford trial (Day 6)

Testifying for nearly three hours, Pam Williford recounted years of her son Jason Williford's struggles with addiction, anger issues, sexual deviancy and his never-ending cycle of failing to succeed in life.

Williford, who has sat stoic with his head down for most of his trial, became emotional twice during the testimony.

Once was when his mother detailed a family mental health history that included bipolar disorder, electroshock therapy, drug overdoses and suicide.

He wiped tears from his eyes a second time as she talked about how, despite all the problems she had with him, there were still times that he brought joy to her life.

"He's my son," Pam Williford said. "I brought him into this world, and I do love him."

Prosecutors, meanwhile, wrapped up their case earlier Wednesday after calling 23 witnesses to testify about how, they say, Williford intentionally broke into the Raleigh home where Taft had been sleeping on the morning of March 6, 2010, beat her in the head multiple times and raped her.

She died from her injuries three days later.

Defense attorneys don't dispute that their client is responsible for Taft's death but contend he did not have the mental capacity to form the necessary intent required for a first-degree murder conviction.

They say that he has suffered his entire life from a variety of mental disorders, including alcohol dependency, bipolar disorder and impulse control disorder.

Pam Williford Jason Williford's mom testifies

Pam Williford testified that her son was different than most children. At a young age, he was temperamental and aggressive and found it difficult to make friends.

He started failing school in eighth grade and dropped out of high school in eleventh grade. He was always angry and argued with his parents and older sister over anything and everything, Pam Williford said.

"It was always hard to get Jason to talk to you. Sometimes, it was impossible," she said. "It was so hard to get him to sit down without being angry and screaming."

Lying was just a pattern that continued from eighth grade onward, Pam Williford said, and he even lied about things he didn't need to lie about.

By age 15, he had started drinking and was getting in trouble for vandalism, breaking and entering and smoking marijuana.

The Willifords repeatedly sought treatment for their son and even went to family counseling to deal with his anger issues, Pam Williford said.

At age 14, he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He was committed to a mental hospital as an adult after he talked about killing himself.

But defense attorneys say that the extent of his mental health issues were never known until after Williford's arrest for Taft's murder, because he was never forthcoming with his doctors, family or friends.

"I don't think he gave me a full and accurate accounting of his mental history," said psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Hillsman, who testified first for the defense.

Hillman diagnosed Williford with depression and alcoholism in February 2005 and treated him for the two, as well as ADHD, for about nine months.

During that time, he said, Williford reported that he was staying sober, maintaining a job and had started taking electronics classes at Wake Technical Community College.

Hillman said he eventually reduced Williford's depression medication and took him off of it in October 2005.

Williford never returned after that, Hillman said.

Another part of Williford's life that doctors never fully knew about were his sexual habits and tendencies.

Pam Williford said she found evidence that her son wore her pantyhose and underwear as well as his sister's prom dress. He had pornographic videos mailed to their home, called telephone sex lines and experimented sexually with vegetables, she said.

But they never mentioned the sexual issues to his doctors, Pam Williford said, partly because they didn't want to shame him. Instead, they hoped he was talking about them with his psychiatrist.

Looking back, she said, she wishes she had said something.

"Believe me, you don't know how much I wish we had made a different decision," Pam Williford told jurors.

There were also sexual habits she wasn't aware of, she said, until after he was arrested.

Williford charged $350 on her credit card, after Taft's death, for an escort, she said. She also wasn't aware that he would go on the Internet and solicit both men and women for sex.

Emails found on Williford's laptop computer included exchanges with both men and women about meeting up for sex and cross-dressing, the defense pointed out earlier Wednesday during testimony from Raleigh homicide detective Zeke Morse.


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  • cattoy May 25, 2012

    The Prosecution is missing the point completely: Sex Addiction has nothing to do with a Violent Crime of Rape. Rape is not about SEX; it's about VIOLENCE and I expect this Team; the State to bring this up either in closing or with the "forensic mental health expert" on the stand. It's imperative. Rape has nothing to do with Sex. It is all about Power, Control and Hatred. JW hated his Mother. The state has not done their research on The Crime of Rape. Do your Jobs. Thank you

  • scarlett2 May 24, 2012

    He just happened to get caught this time. Wonder what other crimes he has committed that no one knows about?

  • scarlett2 May 24, 2012

    " Drives me nuts that everything is a disorder now. There is no responsibility for your actions, it's a "disease" Being a murderer, rapist, drunk, and sexual deviant is not a disease, it's a choice! ADD does not make you kill, and for the record, marijuana does not contain any addictive properties! There are hundreds of thousands of alcoholics out there who do not commit murder! Hopefully the jury sees through this scam. " doglovr3

    I agree with your statement. People have a choice. I have a strong genetic family history towards addictions yet I have never become an alcoholic or drug addict. This guy had the choice of just walking down the street that night then going back home to bed. Instead he CHOSE to break into this house, rape and kill this woman. Sure, family members are going to come forward AFTER you commit a crime and state how screwed up you were, or what a nice person you are, to help in your defense. But the bottom line is...he knew what he was doing, he had a choice.

  • starvingdog May 24, 2012

    As long as some self-styled mental health 'professional' doesn't declare him 'cured' in about 3 years, I have no problem sparing him the death penalty. But he should NEVER be released back into society. No 'visitation weekends', no 'supervised release' because he's 'making progress.' This guy is just too dangerous.

  • tigresspen May 24, 2012

    I feel for Williford's mother. But her rebellious son committed a crime that caused another person to die and he needs to pay for that crime. I think if he was as ill as these witnesses are saying then he'd have gone out and committed more rapes. His violent tendencies was just getting started and hopefully it ends with Taft's murder.

  • not my real name May 24, 2012

    This guy should have been in Butner since he was a kid from the way they make it sound. However, he still managed to carry on a pretty normal life, albeit extreme and freakish, in spite of his mental issues and so called depression. He'll enjoy prison, where he'll get to cross dress as much as he wants. The only point of this defence is to spare him the DP, I'm guessing....WHY?

  • sunshine1040 May 24, 2012

    He was forced to drink and take drugs by Ms Taft if so then she is guilty if not her then the person that held him down and poured the drink and drugs in to him. Sorry its time Willford take responsibility for his actions. Get him off the streets before he hurts someone on something else

  • dogluv3r May 24, 2012

    Drives me nuts that everything is a disorder now. There is no responsibility for your actions, it's a "disease" Being a murderer, rapist, drunk, and sexual deviant is not a disease, it's a choice! ADD does not make you kill, and for the record, marijuana does not contain any addictive properties! There are hundreds of thousands of alcoholics out there who do not commit murder! Hopefully the jury sees through this scam.

  • katgotyertongue May 24, 2012

    If he is truely mentally ill than there is more reason to lock this person up and throw away the key.(and I am a liberal)
    If a mental test was done on most law breakers (especilly rapists and thieves) you'd find they are all off their rockers...That can't excuse their actions...he needs to be locked up for the rest of his life so we (society) don't have to worry about him.

  • Gunny the Racist May 24, 2012

    We as a society have grown to learn that nothing is a personal responsibility. There's ALWAYS one cause or another for ANYTHING that ANYONE does.

    It's just more of the liberal agenda.