Family Closure Through Forensic Odontology

Source: Robin Ainsworth, DDS, MS, with contributions from SSgt. Kevonn Williams, USAF, and Ms. Cierra Williams
Justice Talks

At seven years old, SSgt. Kevonn Williams vividly remembers the day when his father's best friend came to their house in Las Vegas, NV. Kevonn's mom answered the door and the two adults spoke softly and then began to cry. Kevonn knew without having to be told that his father, Kevin Deawohnn Williams, Sr., had died. Although today Kevonn admits that he may not recall the timeline exactly, he knows that his father had not come home for at least two days prior to that day. Kevonn lived with his father and his sister, Cierra, and they split their time between their two homes in Las Vegas, NV, and Los Angeles, CA. His father traveled a lot between the two locations, sometimes making a trip back and forth in one day. 

At the same time in Los Angeles, Cierra, who was 11 at the time, recalls that she was told their father died in a car accident. She recalls searching every media outlet but could not find anything involving his name with any accident cases. On the day of his funeral, October 4, 2004, Ms. Williams states that it was a very unsettling moment for her, one reason being that he had a closed casket at the service and she did not understand why. 

Growing up, young SSgt. Williams' dad told him that he was an entrepreneur. He was, in fact, a very successful entrepreneur, with businesses in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. With his success, Mr. Williams was known for his generosity as he would help support many community projects in Los Angeles. However, with his success, those who worked for him wanted a bigger piece of the proverbial pie. One day in September 2004, a few of the men who worked for Mr. Williams ambushed him at his home in Los Angeles. They demanded to know where he kept his money, as they felt they deserved more than what they were getting paid. Kevin, knowing his money was at his Las Vegas home where Kevonn was staying, would not give up the location. The men apparently intended to just detain Kevin until he gave up the location of the money. They placed duct tape over his mouth. However, they also duct taped his nose. Mr. Williams ultimately suffocated and died. 

Mr. Williams' remains were found by hikers in the Mohave Desert in Nevada days after his death. Kevonn recalls that he had given a buccal (cheek) swab for DNA to be compared with his father's. Mr. Williams' identification was finally confirmed through dental records by a forensic dentist on September 25, 2004. 

SSgt. Williams recalls that upon learning of their father's death, Cierra was extremely angry, but Kevonn just felt confused. He did not cry at the funeral. In fact, the first time he cried about losing his father was six years later, when he was 13 years old. He jokes now that it was probably because he was the only male living with his mom and sister, and that is a time in every young man's life when they need their father. 

Cierra recalls that anger that Kevonn remembers. Five years later, when she turned 16, her grandmother called her to wish her a happy birthday. That is when she told Cierra the truth about her father's passing. Her grandmother told her that her father had been kidnapped and murdered, and that is when the young woman's world stopped. She confirmed what SSgt. Williams had been told, that when their father would not give the location on where his money was, they "taped my dad's mouth and tortured him." Once her grandmother told Cierra this, she called her mother immediately. She recalls being "so mad that she had lied to me." But Ms. Williams understands her mother did it to protect her feelings.   

In 2006, Cierra was in the sixth grade and became intrigued with death. She would watch "Dr. G: The Medical Examiner." The older she got, the more fascinated she became, not just in learning how the human body breaks down after life but providing closure for a grieving family.

Sometime between 2011 and 2013 (Cierra cannot remember exactly when), their father's case was finally closed; it took almost ten years to convict the killers. The men who were involved with his kidnapping and death were charged with manslaughter. They testified that they did not intend to kill him.

Ms. Williams is currently majoring in Forensic Science and minoring in Biological Chemistry. Her father's death "pushed me to become a coroner" because she was obsessed with trying to discover the reason behind his death, why he had a closed casket at his funeral, and how his body would have looked. By becoming a coroner, she will get the satisfaction of providing closure for families so they will not have to go through what she and her family had to endure. 

SSgt. Williams joined the U.S. Air Force in 2016 at the age of 18. He wanted to "do something different" with his life and chose the Air Force because "it is the hardest service to get into." His first duty station was at Boling AFB in Washington, DC, where he was detailed to the Honor Guard. Kevonn was a young Airman wondering what he wanted to do next. In a random conversation about what he was interested in, someone suggested he recall an impactful moment in his life. From that recollection, "was there a specific person that impacted his life?" Kevonn recalled the forensic odontologist who identified his father and provided closure for his family. It was then he decided to pursue dentistry as a career. In addition to serving on active duty, he is currently completing his degree in aviation to satisfy his fascination with airplanes. He has researched what is needed to get into dental school and intends to pursue that ambition, using his G.I. Bill after his obligation to the military is complete. 


The views and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Academy News are those of the identified authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Academy.