‘Homeless drifter’ accused of stabbing 14-year-old boy to death

Posted at 7:18 AM, December 3, 2021 and last updated 3:14 PM, December 13, 2022

By Peter Burke

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (WPTV) — A 14-year-old Palm Beach Gardens boy was stabbed to death by a “homeless drifter” in what appears to have been “a completely random act,” the city’s police chief said Thursday.

Semmie Williams Jr., 39, was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder Wednesday night.

Palm Beach Gardens Police Chief Clint Shannon said there didn’t appear to be a motive other than an “innocent child victim having a chance encounter with a very violent criminal.”

(L) Ryan Rogers (Palm Beach Gardens PD), (R) Semmie Williams, Jr. (Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office) via WPTV

Shannon said Williams, who was arrested in Miami, had no ties to Palm Beach County or Palm Beach Gardens.

“None whatsoever,” he said. “It’s a mystery to us why this man was in our community, but, again, we have evidence that places him on the scene and makes him responsible for the murder of this child.”

According to a probable cause affidavit, DNA evidence collected at the scene linked Williams to the crime, who authorities say has a lengthy criminal history of several violent acts.

Rogers left his home on his bicycle at 6:40 p.m. on Nov. 15. About four hours later at 10:30 p.m., the boy’s mother reported him missing.

The boy’s body was found the next day in a wooded area, “out of plain sight,” off Central Boulevard, 80 feet south of the Interstate 95 overpass and about 24 feet from the sidewalk.

Lead Detective Jennifer Brashear said the investigation revealed that Rogers was traveling south along the I-95 overpass on Central Boulevard when, according to data recovered from his cellphone, he stopped at 7:31 p.m.

Surveillance video showed Williams walking north on Central Boulevard in Rogers’ direction at 7:28 p.m.

“The two would have crossed paths at approximately 7:31 p.m.,” Brashear wrote in the affidavit.

An autopsy revealed that Rogers “was stabbed numerous times in the head and face.” Palm Beach Gardens police announced on Nov. 20 that Rogers was the victim of a homicide.

A view from WPTV’s Chopper 5 shows Palm Beach Gardens police search for Ryan Rogers in a wooded area off Central Boulevard. (WPTV)

Brashear noted that a set of headphones found at the crime scene didn’t belong to Rogers. DNA swabs were collected from the headphones and processed by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office forensic team. The DNA sample was then entered into a national database, “which produced a positive match belonging to the suspect.”

When investigators located Williams in Miami, he had a green backpack in his possession.

A search warrant was obtained and investigators discovered a bloodstained bandana inside.

Forensic analysis showed that “the sole two contributors to the DNA mixture from the blood on the bandana” were Rogers and Williams, Brashear wrote.

Williams was interviewed by detectives last Friday but “denied any interaction with the victim.”

However, Brashear said there was “evidence to show” he traveled to Palm Beach County on Nov. 15 — the day Rogers disappeared — and returned to Miami on Nov. 16 — the day the boy’s body was discovered.

William is now back in Palm Beach County, where he was being held without bond at the main jail on a charge of first-degree murder.

This story was originally published Dec. 2, 2021, by WPTV in West Palm Beach, an E.W. Scripps Company.