Man accused of killing elderly woman claims insanity, serves as own defense attorney



LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - A man on trial for kidnapping an elderly woman from a Publix and killing her is acting as his own lawyer during his trial.

Donald Williams is accused of killing 81-year-old Janet Patrick, whose body was found in a wooded area of Polk County in 2010.

Channel 9 learned Williams fired his public defense team in February and is claiming he was insane when Patrick was murdered. But after a rigorous round of psychological exams, Williams was ruled competent to defend himself.

The former construction worker, dressed in a suit, served as his own attorney Wednesday, including cross-examining witnesses.

Williams had three years to prepare for the trial from a Lake County Jail cell.

"Did it look like anyone was trying to hide anything?" Williams asked one witness.

"I don't recall that," the witness said.

Patrick was last seen alive in surveillance video with Williams in October 2010 at a Publix in Leesburg.

Her body was found days later, decomposing in a remote section of Polk County.

A crime scene technician testified Wednesday about what he did and didn't find.

The tech was asked if there was anything that would identify Williams at the scene of the body, to which he replied, "No, sir."

Since his arrest, Williams has given conflicting accounts of Patrick's death. The 53-year-old claimed both he and Patrick were kidnapped and thrown in her trunk.

Williams later told investigators he burned the victim's body.

On Wednesday, a forensics expert testified for the prosecution regarding Williams' ability to lie.

The victim's cause of death was never determined. If convicted, Williams could face the death penalty.

WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said cases like this are rare.

"It's very rare that an individual tries to represent themselves in a felony case, it's almost unheard of in a capital case," Sheaffer said.

Despite no cause of death determined, the state maintains it has a strong case, confident against a legal novice.

"You lack objectivity, you make mistakes. Mistakes can cost you your case," Sheaffer said.

The state is still presenting witnesses and is expected to wrap up its case Thursday afternoon.