Charge dropped in Brooks case

Friday, May 23, 2003

An eastern Missouri prosecutor has dropped first-degree murder charges against a man suspected of killing 13-year-old Gina Dawn Brooks of Fredericktown nearly 14 years ago.

Madison County prosecutor M. Dwight Robbins said Wednesday he reluctantly dismissed the charge against Nathan D. "Danny" Williams, because of lack of evidence to convict him. Robbins said he didn't want to risk the possibility of acquittal in case stronger evidence surfaced later. The state may bring a defendant to trial only once for the same crime, otherwise it's considered double jeopardy.

"The offense alleged is so egregious, and the consequences of conviction so great, that prosecution should proceed only when the evidence is sufficient to ensure the likelihood of conviction," Robbins wrote in a statement to the media.

Gina disappeared Aug. 5, 1989, after she was knocked off her bicycle a few blocks from her Fredericktown home and thrown into a station wagon. Authorities found the bike, but she was not seen again. Fredericktown is about 50 miles northwest of Cape Girardeau.

Investigators searched nine years before finding an eyewitness who identified Williams as one of two men seen in the car at a campground near Fredericktown.

The station wagon's driver, Bryant Squires, 37, died of cancer 1996. But in a death bed confession, he told nurses that he and Williams kidnapped Brooks and that both men were responsible for other crimes. He also implicated Timothy R. Bellew, then 28, in the murder. Bellew's second-degree murder charge was dropped in 1999 so federal prosecutors could charge him with lying twice about where the girl's body was buried.

Williams, a convicted child rapist serving a 30-year sentence in the Jefferson City Correctional Center, was charged in 1998 with first-degree murder for the girl's disappearance.

Prosecutors have said Williams abducted Brooks and stabbed her to death near Lambert Airport in St. Louis.

The case was moved to New Madrid County in Southeast Missouri and set for trial in January 2002. But in the months leading up to trial, prosecutors discovered new information that made them re-think the case.

KSDK-TV in St. Louis said prosecutors noticed contradictions in the testimony of state's witnesses and several offered an alibi for Williams.

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