Corey Williams went after the guy back in the alley.
Corey Williams went after the guy back in the alley.
Daniel Kramer

To Catch a Rapist

Corey Williams comes home from work after midnight, tired usually, and sometimes thinking about the joy he used to feel "knocking people over." As a powerful defensive end, he certainly didn't mind the violence of football, but what he craved even more was the attention that violence brought — the "oooh!" of the crowd when he made a brutal stop.

He equated that sound with winning, and after he left football and Lamar High School, the sound disappeared from his life. Williams's plan afterward was to live as he had played, to understand that "you've got to work hard if you want to win." He had intended to go to college and do the hard work with his brain, but all he can say now is that he had "the champagne bottle tilted up after high school and started to see time slip by." Four years have passed since high school, and Williams has this job now washing cranes from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and also this other job, from 4 p.m. to midnight, cutting sheet metal on the assembly line at an "engineered filtration products" plant.

Then he comes home, usually in the old Buick he shares with his mother, to the apartment he shares with her, in an area along far west Bissonnet where liquor stores are not hard to find, nor payday loan outfits, nor a bail bondsman. Williams knows a lot of people around here who never went to college and some whom he believes to be "criminals." As for himself, he has "always tried to live as honest as possible," he says — "no felony convictions at least." "I'm a winner," says Williams, and this was still his point of view late one evening last March when, stepping out of the car, all 220 solid pounds of him, he heard someone in the parking lot say, "man, there's a guy back in that alley over there."


citizen involvement

Williams, in his usual late-night foul mood, thought to himself, "Don't no one want to come home to that."

The usual schemes in beat number 19G40 involve burglary, robbery, aggravated assault, but there had been a few more rapes than usual in the previous six months, and police believed one man to be responsible for five of them. Typically, the man would scale a balcony or enter through a bedroom window, waking his victim by pouncing on top of her, punching her in the face. Three of the rapes had taken place in Corey Williams's apartment complex, Summerstone, including perhaps the most terrifying, in which a woman was dragged behind a building with a knife to her throat.

The man involved was clearly "not a real nice fellow," as Lieutenant Mike Waterwall said, and police had increased patrols in the area and had distributed composite sketches of him. "Beware" flyers had been posted on every Summerstone door; the residents had held a meeting in the clubhouse. "I mean, everyone was looking for this guy," Waterwall said, but he kept coming back. "He couldn't control himself, obviously."

Among the many who lived in fear was Corey Williams's own mother, Alvanna. Corey Williams himself admits he "just kind of brushed it off" and even teased his mother for being afraid. As a large male, he thought he knew at least two things in this world. One was, "the dude's not going to rape me — that's for damn sure," and the other was, no one was ever going to lay hands on his mother.

These thoughts were far from his mind, however, that night in the parking lot. Williams simply knew that "it's not normal for a motherfucker to be standing in an alley at one in the morning," and he responded to the situation by unbuttoning his shirt. The man who alerted him to the situation would not return phone calls for this account, but he was a visitor to the complex named Derrick Johnson whose children were being babysat there. Williams says he reached into the trunk of his car and pulled out a big, wooden stick. One of Williams's co-workers was there, too — Jonathan Robinson, who had come home with Williams to drink a few beers. His phone number has since been disconnected, but he had no stake in this matter, and Williams said Robinson hung back as the three of them made their way into that dark alley.

At the back of the alley, just at the corner of the building where the balconies rise up, they met an unusually tall figure, cloaked entirely in black. When Johnson posed the obvious question — "what the fuck are you doing here?" — the figure answered by silently producing a cell phone, as though to say, just making a call. Johnson, at this point, reached out to grab the dark presence by the collar of his shirt, just as Williams snatched him up on the other side — as though to say, Williams explains now, "prepare to get fucked-up." The sinister figure dissolved then into a very frightened human being. "I ain't doing nothing!" he blurted. "I ain't doing nothing!"

Then what the fuck was he doing, Williams asked again. And this time, the man answered that he had simply been cutting through on his way to the store — taking a short-cut through a property that was entirely surrounded by a nine-foot fence. Why, then, was he dressed in black, Williams wanted to know. "And the son-of-a-bitch said, 'I just got out of the Navy.'"

He seemed, Williams recalls, nearly hysterical, and no one had said a word about rape when the intruder suggested, "if anything, y'all could be the rapist." Williams and Johnson abandoned their interrogation then. They began "not exactly dragging but kind of pushing him" to the front of the complex. Along the way, they asked someone they met to call the police, and then, at the front, Williams sat the prisoner down on a curb to wait.

Johnson had departed to retrieve his children when the prisoner began to complain, "Man, ants be biting my ass." Corey Williams was tired and "aggravated," and you have to wonder if he was looking for a challenge when he allowed the prisoner to go sit on a staircase about 25 feet away. As though preparing for a race, Williams leaned down then to tie his shoes, and remembers that it was just then that his prisoner "took off."

"I'm gonna catch this son-of-a-bitch," Williams thought to himself, and off he went just like he used to do, chasing after a man who was trying to escape him, a man in black this time who was fleeing as though for his life.

They raced down narrow walkways, hemmed by boxwoods and air-­conditioners. People heard the noise and came out to their balconies to watch. When the man in black hit the parking lot, he faked left and right, "like he didn't know where to go," but, of course, Williams had seen that move before and gained a few steps by following him directly left.

At the end of the parking lot was a four-foot fence, and over that, the man leaped, with Williams jumping right behind. If the man in black had then been able to scale the nine-foot fence, it is hard to say where he would be now and what he might have done. But the board broke in his hand, and it was then that Williams hit him and brought him down. "And then I went to work on him," Williams said, and he had only just begun when four or five of his neighbors joined in to help — people he'd never seen before, men who knew even less than he the history of the man on the ground. For several moments, they silently kicked and stomped the intruder, and then sirens filled the air, and "it was like some sort of martial arts shit," ­Williams remembers. Everyone vanished but him.

"Who beat you up?" the officer wanted to know. The man in black seemed happy to see the police, and getting to his feet, righteously pointed a finger at Williams. The police were not especially sympathetic, though, and digging into his clothes and into his past, they began to discover who he was — that the intruder had been nobly named Marcus Anthony Duffy-Thompson, was 21 years old, that just like Williams, he shared an apartment miles away with his mother, and even worked with her in a grocery store nearby.

On his person, the police found no gun nor knife but only the saddest tool of all in the rapist's trade: a tube in his pocket of K-Y Jelly. Duffy-Thompson was later identified by victims in three cases, and their testimony was supported by a DNA match. "It did turn out to be him, no doubt about it," said Lieutenant Waterwall. "We're confident it's him." Had he not been detained by Williams and others, "we'd have DNA data," Waterwall said, "but we wouldn't know where it came from. So these guys were pivotal."

In the 228th district court, Duffy-Thompson has been charged with one count of sexual assault and two counts of burglary with intent to commit a felony. He remains in jail now under three $100,000 bonds and may well spend his life in prison. As for those who captured him, the police staged a small press conference about a month ago, which transformed Williams into a blip on the local news. People began congratulating him again for another great tackle, and Williams began seeing the difference again "between the limelight and being behind the scenes." In any case, he has something other than football to think about now on the assembly line, and "I'm not going to lie," he said. He wants the limelight back.


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