Witness: Cape Girardeau shooter fired several rounds into victim

Sunday, September 23, 2012
Darcus T. Purl, 38, of Cape Girardeau and Georgia Cowson were having a smoke on the steps outside of 915 S. Ranney St., Thursday, September 20, when they were approached by neighbor Steven Lee Williams, 34, according to Cowson. Williams subsequently opened fire on Purl, who later died at a local hospital. Williams was arrested Friday on second-degree murder and armed criminal action charges. His bond was set at $2 million. (Adam Vogler)

A witness to Thursday night's deadly shooting at the corner of Locust Street and Ranney Avenue said a man fired multiple rounds into her boyfriend, leading to his death and murder charges being filed against the shooter.

The suspect, Steven Lee Williams, allegedly shot Darcus T. Purl several times and then fled the scene.

Steven Lee Williams

Georgia Cowson of Cape Girardeau spoke to a reporter Friday at her residence at 915 S. Ranney Ave., where police found Purl bleeding from gunshot wounds Thursday night.

Cowson said that around 9 p.m. she and Purl were talking outside the residence when Williams approached and immediately became belligerent with Purl.

Cowson, who had retreated from the scene but witnessed the shooting, said she saw Williams pull a gun and begin firing at Purl, who tried to flee. Purl didn't get far and dropped in the street, she said. Cowson said she saw Williams kicking a dying Purl in the head, then flee the scene toward Sprigg Street when she heard a new series of shots.

Purl, 38, of Cape Girardeau was pronounced dead around 9:30 p.m. Thursday at Saint Francis Medical Center. Police responded to two addresses Thursday night, 915 S. Ranney Ave. and 911 S. Sprigg St., on a call that two people had been shot. Williams was found at the Sprigg Street address, and Purl was at the Ranney Avenue address. Both were taken to Saint Francis Medical Center.

Williams, 34, of Cape Girardeau was taken into police custody Friday at the hospital and charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action. Initial reports indicated two possible shooting victims, one of which turned out to be Williams.

According to a probable-cause statement, Williams was in the hospital for being shot in the legs by what he termed "unknown people" who were running toward the scene of the shooting.

Cowson sees it differently. "How could he get shot?" she wondered. "He was the one doing all the shooting. There wasn't anybody else on the street but him and Darcus."

The probable-cause statement says a witness said she heard numerous shots as Williams ran away from the scene but didn't see anyone else shooting.

The probable-cause statement also contains a claim from Williams that Purl had a gun and was threatening Williams with it.

According to Cowson, Purl was unarmed. "He didn't have a gun when Steve came out to us," she said.

Police said that while Williams was fleeing the scene, he forced his way into a nearby house and told the occupants that he had been shot and asked them to call 911. Williams stated that once the police arrived, he told them he had a gun in his pants.

Cowson is the mother of two children with Purl.

"Darcus was a good father to his kids and never went out looking for trouble," she said.

Cowson said Purl and Williams had a history of run-ins before Thursday night.

"Steve was all the time threatening Darcus over the baby," she said. "He would go around telling everybody that the baby was his, but Darcus was the bio dad of my child. It made Steve mad that he couldn't see the baby, and he'd already threatened Darcus at least twice over it."

According to the probable-cause statement, Purl's girlfriend, who isn't identified in the report by name, was formerly romantically involved with Williams.

Williams told police that Purl had threatened to kill him on "numerous occasions" and had "flashed" a gun at him in the past. He said that Thursday night he went to his ex-girlfriend's house to talk and that Purl began threatening him. He told police Purl pulled a gun, and he saw people running toward him, so he shot Purl in self-defense.

Cape Girardeau Police Department spokesman Darin Hickey declined to give direct answers to questions about whether Williams' wounds were from bullets fired from his own gun or whether Purl was armed. Hickey cited the ongoing investigation, saying in an email response early Saturday that evidence is still being processed.

Cape Girardeau County Coroner John Clifton said Saturday morning that he hadn't yet received preliminary results from an autopsy conducted on Purl at Mineral Area Regional Medical Center in Farmington, Mo.

Williams had just been released from jail Sept. 10 after serving 30 days for domestic assault and told police that he had returned home to find his house burglarized the day of his release.

Williams was still in custody at the Cape Girardeau County Jail late Friday on a $2 million bond. Online court records didn't show a lawyer for Williams.

Managing editor Matt Sanders contributed to this report.



Pertinent address:

915 S. Ranney Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

911 S. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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