Bethanny Weegar McDonald is speaking out about the consequences of domestic violence after the brutal death of her mother. (WRDW-TV / March 1, 2012)
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, March 1, 2012
COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. -- Just days before his murder trial was set to begin, Michael Todd Williams entered a guilty plea Thursday for felony murder.
Investigators say he killed his on-again, off-again girlfriend Misty Weegar in August of 2010. The murder was brutal. Deputies found her stabbed to death in her home.
After the trial, Misty's daughter, Bethanny Weegar McDonald, is speaking out. She wants to share a message about domestic violence and the life it took from her.
As part of the plea deal, Williams was sentenced to life with parole and a minimum of 30 years in prison.
Just days ago, Bethanny and her family were preparing for a murder trial. They were shocked when they learned Williams would plead guilty. Bethanny said she's thankful not to go to trial, but she still has a lot of questions.
"It brought some closure. We don't have to worry anymore about when the trial's gonna be," Bethanny said. 'But how much closure can you get from that? You'll never recover fully from a murder."
Bethanny was only 19 years old when her mother was murdered.
"We all wonder what she went through that night and just how long did she have to lay on the floor before she was actually died," Bethanny said. "We all wonder what the crime scene looks like and what her final thoughts were."
In court, she got a few answers about the night her mom was killed.
"In court this morning they disclosed some more information about the crime scene and stuff and about a letter he put on her," Bethanny said.
The letter was only two words but too explicit to repeat.
"A crazy person wouldn't have put the knife back in the butcher block," Bethanny said. "And wouldn't have taken her keys and her phone and locked the door on the way out."
Bethanny called her mom's phone that same night after her father told her something was wrong.
"He said don't call your mom, don't go by her house and if you tell me not to call her, I'm gonna call so I called over and over and over again on my way over and she didn't answer," she said.
At the time, she had no idea Williams had her mother's phone. And she wasn't the only one calling her mom that night.
"When her best friend was calling, he was hitting the ignore button," Bethanny said.
But in court, Williams couldn't ignore what he did and now will face the consequences.
Bethany said she feels like a victim because he stole her mom from her.
"There's not a week that goes by that I don't still pick up my phone to call her or send her a text message," Bethanny said.
And she's not the only one. Her brother was 13 when their mom was murdered. She said the hardest part is seeing him grow up without his mom.
"Watching him succeed has been heart-touching and heart-wrenching at the same time because my mom's not here to see all that her son is gonna become one day as a man," Bethanny said. "And seeing the hurt in his eyes and seeing him look over in the stands [during his sporting events] and hope to catch a glimpse of her is just terrible."
She said it's even harder because of her brother's relationship with Williams.
"They went on vacations together, family outings," she said.
Misty and Williams dated for nine months before she was murdered.
Bethanny got married in July. She said they themed the wedding around her mom.
"We tried to incorporate little aspects of her to feel like she was there," Bethanny said.
But they couldn't escape her absence.
"My dad and I danced to 'Mama's Song' and had to stop in the middle of it because my brother was weeping, crying because it's such a hard song and she's not here to watch," Bethanny said. "I think that's when he probably realized, 'Wow, shes not gonna be here for my wedding either.'"
But Bethanny says her mom is watching. She told her 4-year-old daughter she's in heaven.
"It's hard. How do you tell a 4-year-old that someone died? That's such a hard concept to grasp as an adult, much less as a child that doesn't ever know about life yet," Bethanny said.
But she says she's told her daughter she'll see her grandmother again someday. She said her mom's death forced her to grow up quickly, but she has become a better person.
"She taught me and instilled in me awesome morals and values that I didn't pick up until she was gone," Bethanny said. "You know you don't really listen to somebody until they're gone."
Bethanny said she didn't see the warning signs, but again, she was only 19 at the time. After the first incident, she says she warned her mom not to see him again.
"I told her that afternoon, she said, 'Don't come over; he's coming over' and I said, 'He's gonna hurt you. You need to stay away from him,'" Bethanny said. "Because he owed her some money and $2,000 is not worth your life."
But her mom did lose her life, and now Bethanny says she wants to send a message to other victims of domestic violence.
"Think about your future and your children's future. Do you want your children planning your funeral at a young age?" Bethanny said.
And even those without children need to get out.
"Seek help and if you physically can't seek help or financially can't seek help, there is help out there like Safe Homes of Augusta. There's shelters, try a family member, a friend, call a church, anything," Bethanny said. "Because you don't wanna end up like my mom ended up."
Bethanny says by telling her mom's story, she might be able to inspire other victims of domestic violence out there to speak up before it's too late for them, too.