Wild Bill Gets His Wish in Murder Sentence

August 4, 2022 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

William “Wild Bill” Roberts has finally been sentenced to capital punishment in the murder case of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Hellstrom. Roberts was accused of brutally killing his girlfriend, who suffered bleeding in her brain, a fractured sternum, broken ribs, and a ripped abdomen. She also had an ear severed, a kidney split in half, bruises along her arms and legs, and marks that looked like defense wounds.

The weapon is believed to be a short, wooden handle that had both Roberts’ and Hellstrom’s DNA on it, which was found in his RV. Police were able to uncover a surveillance video that shows him dragging his girlfriend’s body out of the trailer.

Although Roberts’ defense team got the medical examiner to say Hellstrom might have lost consciousness after the first hit, the prosecution argued that she knew what was happening and that she was being choked to death.

In the sentencing memorandum, the prosecution wrote: “Dr. Lavezzi explained that because of the appearance of the wounds and the internal hemorrhage associated with each wound, all of the wounds…were inflicted prior to her death. If the wounds were inflicted after her death, there would be no hemorrhaging.”

To read more about the initial murder case of Elizabeth Hellstrom, find our blog post here.

We will cover Roberts’ difficulty as a defendant, his previous criminal convictions, and what’s next for him after his sentencing.

Difficult Defendant

Roberts has not made it easy for his defense team, going down as one of the most nightmarish clients in Lake County. First, Roberts demanded that he represent himself in court. He would not allow mitigating evidence on his behalf, and at one point he even refused to leave his cell for a trial date.

In addition, Roberts did not wish to have a jury trial and said he wished to take the stand in the courtroom. Finally, he bluntly asked the judge to send him to Death Row. Wild Bill did not go down without making more of a scene, though. After the courtroom emptied after sentencing, Roberts bashed his attorney Hawthorne for not interviewing witnesses he wished to question.

Roberts even claimed that the witnesses who testified had lied. “Every one of them (expletives) that got on the stand perjured themselves,” he said.

Wild Bill’s Dark Past

Roberts supposedly said to a jail visitor he knew he was “going down for murder” because his past was “going to bite [him] in the ass.”

Before allegedly killing his girlfriend, Roberts had been accused of multiple violent acts. One witness claimed she was raped by Roberts, with him ripping off her clothes and demanding, “if you’re not going to give it, I’m going to take it.” The woman fled to West Virginia out of fear, which made it impossible to prosecute the rape against him.

Roberts was once convicted of aggravated assault in 2004, with him serving a seven-year prison sentence in Volusia County. He was also convicted of burglary and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in 1985, which led to him serving 4 ½ years in Orange County. He also served another 2 ½ years for burglary and assault in Lake County.

One woman’s testimony against Roberts in one of his past trials claimed he threatened her and showed up at her house, waving a gun in her face. She said Roberts threatened that he would “hang me from a tree like other people in Lake County, or he’d shoot me right then.” She quoted him saying, “There’s a bullet with your name on it.”

Another man claimed Roberts had once chased him through the Ocala National Forest, where the man was forced to hide while Roberts destroyed his truck.

Heading to Death Row

Roberts’ defense attorney Hawthorne tried to keep her defendant from complete self-destruction, but he managed to continuously cause chaos throughout the trial. At one point Hawthorne even told the judge that she wished to quit the case. “We have a lot of disagreements,” she said.

After rejecting a jury trial and requesting to take the stand, Roberts asked the judge to sentence him to death. Now that capital punishment has been granted, Roberts will head to death row. The defendant made it very clear that he did not want to go into the general population prison. “You’d better have your boots laced tight,” Roberts warned.

Wild Bill got his wish and will be sent to a 6-foot-9 solitary confinement cell until he is executed.

First-Degree Murder in Florida

Under Florida Statute Section 782.04, a first-degree murder charge is one of the harshest in the state of Florida, resulting in possible life in prison or the potential of the death penalty.

 For a charge of First-Degree Premeditated Murder, the prosecutor needs to prove the following during trial:

  • The Victim is dead.
  • The death was caused by the criminal act of the defendant.
    • An “act” includes a series of related actions rising from and performed by a single design or purpose.
  • There was a premeditated killing of victim.
    • “Killing with premeditation” is killing after consciously deciding to do so.  The decision must be present in the mind at the time of the killing.  The law does not fix the exact period of time that must pass between the formation of the premeditated intent to kill and the killing.  The period of time must be long enough to allow reflection by the defendant.  The premeditated intent to kill must be formed before the killing.
    • The issue of premeditation must be determined by jurors using the facts presented in the case.

While there are possible defenses like self-defense, defense to others, or defense of property when dealing with such violent crimes, it is important to understand the law to know if the defenses may be applicable in your situation.

To read more about murder and violent crimes, you can find our blog on them here.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Getting accused of a crime can be extremely stressful. A criminal conviction can lead to harsh consequences such as pricey fines, imprisonment, and in the most extreme cases such as the one above, the death penalty. Working with an experienced homicide defense attorney is the best way to build a strong defense for your case. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients all across the statKy

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