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Crime News Snapped

Florida Mom Executed by Man Wearing Friday the 13th Costume: "This Isn't a Halloween Mask"

Tiffany James had just taken her kids trick-or-treating on Halloween night when she was shot to death.

By Caitlin Schunn

In a heinous act of violence on Halloween night, a Florida woman was shot and killed in front of her twin 7-year-old daughters, still in costume from trick-or-treating.

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Police said Darryl Williams, 49, was responsible for the death of the mother of his children, 35-year-old Tiffany James — and that he committed the murder while wearing the mask of the character Jason from the Halloween horror flick, Friday the 13th.

“He was a monster,” Michael Blair, a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Detective, said on Snapped, airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen. “Darryl had absolutely no regard for his children ... No father would ever put their daughters or ever put their children through witnessing that.”

How was Tiffany James murdered?

Police in Brandon, Florida, a suburb east of Tampa, received a 911 call from a terrified neighbor around 11 p.m. on Halloween in 2015. The woman told dispatchers she heard a loud bang or boom, and the door to her own apartment blew open. She went outside only to see a shocking scene.

A school portrait of Tiffany James, featured on Snapped 3224

“She goes over to look, and there’s a woman on the ground who she recognizes as her neighbor, Tiffany James, and somebody in a full Halloween costume, holding a shotgun, aiming it down at her,” Blair said.

The neighbor told police she closed the door and hid, only to hear three gunshots. That’s when she heard a knock at her door.

“She’s reluctant to open it, but when she does, she sees a terrified little girl, covered in blood,” reporter Gloria Gomez said on Snapped.

She then ushered the child and her twin sister into her apartment.

“They both had blood all over them,” Moises Garcia, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Detective, said on Snapped. “Their costume, and in their hair, and on their face. One of them … couldn’t even talk. She would try and there was no voice coming out. It’s heartbreaking.”

James was rushed by first responders to Tampa General Hospital, where she died of her injuries.

Witnesses reported seeing the costumed person running from the area, and it was believed to be a man, but the descriptions were vague. Witnesses also noticed a silver sedan left the complex quickly around the time of the shots, but no one got a license plate number. There were no security cameras at the apartment complex.

What was Tiffany James' relationship with her ex, Darryl Williams?

James’ brother helped to fill police in on the men in James’ life: her ex, Darryl Williams, as well as her current boyfriend.

Williams and James first met in 2008, and Williams was 14 years her senior. They both had children from previous relationships, but after they had twin girls together, made plans to get married. But it never happened.

Five years later, they’d split up — and James ran into an old friend, a single dad, in the summer of 2015.

“He and Tiffany had never been romantic until after she ended it with Darryl,” Dorell Humphrey, James’ brother, said on Snapped. “And just in the last few months, their friendship had developed into a relationship. He thought she was a wonderful mom.”

Detectives decided to interview James’ boyfriend first. He told police he’d been trick or treating with James and her girls, and they were supposed to come over to his house after changing out of costumes, but they never showed up.

He also told police a driver in a black vehicle had been following them that night, with a Jason mask hanging on the rearview mirror.

“He believed that Darryl had been following them throughout the night,” Garcia said. “I think he really just kind of tried to stay away from him.”

When police tried to talk to Williams at his home, he wasn’t there. However, neighbors reported he did have a black vehicle, as well as two others.

One of Williams’ older daughters arrived as police were waiting.

“She said, ‘I know what my father is capable of,’” Blair said. “She said, ‘If something’s happened to Tiffany, then my father is your prime suspect.'”

Williams’ daughter described his volatile behavior, saying he’d even aimed at gun at her own mother’s face.

A mugshot of Darryl Williams, featured on Snapped 3224

“Darryl’s daughter explains her father as a very controlling man, that has a history of violent behaviors,” Allison Tarbox, a forensic psychologist, said on Snapped. “When Tiffany ended her relationship with him, that’s often a trigger for an escalation of these behaviors.”

Detectives discovered several troubling incidents between Williams and James, including harassment at James’ work, and the fact that one time someone disabled James’ gas tank. Just one day before the murder, the two had been in court, and James had been awarded custody of the twins.

“The courts had sided with her, for him to help financially,” Blair said. “And now we have an individual that may be upset with Tiffany about the fact that he’s going to have to pay her for the next 15 or 16 years. This was just creating more and more issues for him.”

How did law enforcement track Darryl Williams down?

As law enforcement put out an alert for Williams’ vehicle, they found it a few miles from James’ apartment, at Williams’ girlfriend’s house. His girlfriend, Rosalind, also owned a silver sedan, like the one seen driving away from the murder scene. Although Williams was not there, Rosalind told detectives she’d been with Williams on Halloween night and left him sleeping on the couch as she ran errands.

But when detectives subpoenaed Rosalind’s phone records, they showed not only was she not running errands, she was at James’ apartment complex on Halloween night.

Eventually, Rosalind confessed to driving Williams to James’ apartment, but claimed she had no idea what he planned to do, until he put a mask on and got out of the car with a gun. She admitted to seeing and hearing him pull the trigger and fire the first shot, before she drove away.

She was never charged for her role in the murder.

Although Williams was arrested for the slaying, prosecutors decided to offer him a plea deal instead of putting the twin girls through a trial.

“We were disappointed,” Humphrey said. “He shot my sister in the face with a shotgun. Watched her on the ground. The girls were right there with her. Coward is too good of a word. It didn’t feel like justice. But, to avoid any more damage to the girls, I think that avoiding placing them on the stand and putting them back in that situation was the better alternative.”

Williams will spend 20 years in prison based on his plea deal. Although he never explained why he murdered James, detectives got some explanation from an inmate informant.

“He tells me that Darryl Williams confessed to him that he killed her because she wouldn’t take him back, and if he can’t have her, nobody else will,” Garcia said.

Williams is scheduled to be released from prison in 2035.

“I feel like Darryl snapped because he lost control,” Humphrey said. “He was more comfortable with her being gone and out of the picture…as sick and twisted as it is, I think that was his ultimate vengeance.”

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