INDIANTOWN, Fla. — A Florida 10-year-old and her siblings witnessed the killing of their mother Tuesday morning as the child and her classmates were logging onto Zoom for their first day of school, authorities said.
The girl’s mother, Maribel Rosado Morales, 32, of Indiantown, was shot to death by her ex-boyfriend, identified as 27-year-old Donald L. Williams III, Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said Tuesday during a news conference. Williams was taken into custody within an hour of the shooting.
“It’s a sad case. It’s a terrible case.”
Snyder said the girl and her classmates at Warfield Elementary were logging in for their online classes just after 8 a.m. Tuesday when screaming and profanity could be heard coming from the girl’s home. The teacher muted the audio so the other children wouldn’t hear.
“The teacher said that she heard a commotion, heard profanity, realized there was some kind of domestic altercation, and still could see the child that’s online,” he said. “The teacher said she mutes her button so nobody has to hear it.
“And then she sees the 10-year-old put her hands up to her ears.”
Gunfire broke out, including a bullet that struck the girl’s computer, making the screen go blank, the sheriff said.
Watch the entire news conference below, courtesy of WPTV in West Palm Beach.
The girl’s three siblings and two cousins, who Snyder said live across the street, were also in the house when Morales was slain. None of the children, whose ages range from 10 to 17 years, were injured by the gunfire.
Most of the children witnessed the shooting firsthand, the sheriff said. Williams was not the father of any of Morales’ children.
Neighbors described Morales as a good mother.
“She was a very friendly, loving, kind person. It’s just sad to see that situation happen,” Jeremy Carroll told CBS12 in West Palm Beach.
Family and friends on social media described Morales as the mother of all six children. A GoFundMe page set up for the kids had raised more than $7,500 as of Wednesday morning.
Snyder said Williams fled on a bicycle, which he had apparently ridden to the house. He then hid out in a nearby laundromat before boarding a public transit bus.
“He had a conversation with the driver and asked her if she would take him to Stuart,” Snyder said. “She said, ‘This is a local bus.’ He said, ‘Well, no, I need to go to Stuart.’”
Stuart is about 40 miles from the scene of the shooting.
Williams carried a bag in his hand, which made the driver suspicious, the sheriff said. She exited the bus and called 911.
Several members of the department’s SWAT team happened to be nearby for training. They were able to head straight to the bus’ location and take Williams into custody.
Snyder said the officers found a gun in Williams’ bag, which was still on the bus. The gun was later determined to be stolen, the sheriff said.
“We believe we have the gun that was used in the murder,” he said, but pointed out that ballistics testing would be needed to confirm it.
When questioned by detectives, Williams confessed to the killing, Snyder said.
The sheriff said Williams told investigators he went to Morales’ home to confront her over a video and social media posts. The couple, who reportedly had a history of domestic violence, had been estranged for more than a year before the killing.
“He says she actually started to smile at him, and he became enraged and shot her,” Snyder said.
Morales, who has also had at least one arrest related to her relationship with Williams, was shot several times. Prior to an autopsy, however, it was difficult to determine how many times she was struck, the sheriff said.
There were defensive wounds, as well as both entrance and exit wounds.
On a Facebook page that appears to belong to Morales, she is pictured with a new man and, in April, she changed her marital status to “married.”
In her last post, written the day before she died, she used a string of emojis and wrote, “This mean a lot, but we still here till God say no more.”
Morales’ children are now in the custody of the Department of Children and Families.
According to CBS12, Warfield Elementary and the Martin County School District released a statement following the shooting.
“Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the victim’s family, including the children present in the home who were witnesses to this heartbreaking and senseless tragedy,” the statement read. “We have our grief team deployed to assist students and staff who will undoubtedly feel the impact of this horrible incident. We stand ready to assist and offer support in any way we can.”
Snyder told reporters that he understood that the public, when learning of the shooting, would be horrified.
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