Williams to be sentenced week of Feb. 5


Prosecutors will recommend life in prison without parole

By Justin Wier

jwier@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A Youngstown man entered into a last-minute plea agreement Wednesday – the day before the start of proceedings in his death-penalty case for the 2014 death of a 16-year-old girl whose body was found in a Mercer County, Pa., landfill.

As a result of the agreement, Ricki D. Williams IV, 22, will avoid a death sentence.

Williams pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and kidnapping and one count each of tampering with evidence and intimidation for the 2014 stabbing death of Gina Burger at the Compass West apartment complex in Austintown.

Assistant County Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa said Burger’s family was satisfied with the plea deal.

Prosecutors will recommend life in prison without parole at Williams’ sentencing hearing, which will take place the week of Feb. 5.

Williams’ defense attorneys plan to argue for less, and Cantalamessa said she will introduce evidence at sentencing to defend her recommendation.

The highly publicized case has a long history.

A criminal complaint said Williams admitted he stabbed Burger inside the apartment building, then put her body in a portable playpen and threw the playpen with her body into a trash receptable.

Her mother told police Burger left to ask a neighbor for tea bags.

That neighbor told authorities she witnessed the stabbing, and she helped Williams hide the body because she thought Williams would kill her, too.

She said Williams brought Burger into her apartment.

Police also found the words “kill fo fun” freshly carved in the wood of a stairwell in the apartment complex, and they think Williams may have been the one who carved the words.

“His purpose was to kill someone that day; didn’t matter who it was,” Ken Cardinal, an assistant county prosecutor, said at a 2014 hearing. “He would have killed the first person he saw.”

The gruesome murder followed a number of convictions in juvenile court.

In 2008 and 2010, Williams served probation on charges of domestic violence. He was also put on probation for an aggravated-menacing charge in 2010.

Also in 2010, Williams spent time in a treatment facility after an assault conviction. In 2012, Mahoning County Children Services took him into custody after a domestic-violence charge because of issues with his family.

Also in 2012, Williams spent six months in a correctional facility after receiving a felonious-assault conviction.

Between his 2014 indictment and the start of his trial, the case underwent numerous delays as Williams underwent mental evaluations.

The evaluations found Williams competent to stand trial.

Burger’s mother died of a heroin overdose months after her daughter’s death.

Williams picked up additional charges while in jail awaiting trial.

In 2016, a grand jury indicted Williams on six counts of harassment with a bodily substance after he was accused of assaulting five deputy sheriffs and another inmate with fecal matter July 6, 2016, at the Mahoning County jail.

On Dec. 22, 2017, a report states Williams sprayed three deputy sheriffs and an inmate with a mixture of urine and fecal matter. Authorities have yet to file charges for that incident.

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