GODFREY, Ill. – The murder of 87-year-old Eldon “Twirp” Williams still haunts his friends and loved ones. Williams devoted his life to the Village of Godfrey and was serving as a trustee when he was shot in the back of the head and killed in October 2018.
Godfrey Mayor Mike McCormick was inside the Madison County Courthouse when a guilty but mentally ill verdict was announced Thursday. The defense argued the defendant, Donald Nelson, should be found not guilty by reason of insanity. The mayor said several of Williams’ family members were inside the courtroom.
“They were all so happy with the verdict that came today,” said McCormick.
“To have that moment where they finally got justice for their dad’s murder, it was big,” said Madison County State’s Attorney Tim Gibbons.
He credited the work of witnesses, investigators, and First Assistant State’s Attorney Crystal Uhe, who prosecuted the case.
A sentencing hearing will soon be scheduled. Prosecutors expect Nelson to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The Madison County State’s Attorney said Nelson was set on killing someone and later showed no remorse. Gibbons said the court rejected the insanity defense and found Nelson was cognizant of his actions. Prosecutors said the court noted Nelson did seek mental health assistance in the past without success because of a lack of funding for mental health facilities.
“He’s still going to prison; he will just be kept in a facility that provides mental health services and deals with patients with severe mental illness,” said Gibbons.
Investigators found no connection between Williams and Nelson.
“The victim just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and run into the person who was absolutely determined to kill,” said Gibbons.
One of the witnesses who testified came face-to-face with Nelson soon after he murdered Williams. Cynthia Pratt called 911 after Nelson entered her home. She threatened to unleash her dog unless Nelson left. He walked out of her house and she called 911.
“I thank the Lord every day for that one thing, that he’s kept us safe,” she said.
Pratt said she was worried about testifying but determined it was the right thing to do.
“I was so upset about the man that he killed that I was willing to go the whole route to see that he gets put in jail,” she said.
“He loved the Village of Godfrey and the Village of Godfrey had always loved him,” said McCormick.
A wall inside the Godfrey Village Hall is covered in photos of Williams. The tribute began before he was killed and continues as more photos surface.
“As long as I’m mayor, that wall is going to be there just so people can remember ‘Twirp’ Williams,” McCormick said.