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Driver Caught in Africa Gets 4-Year Term

November 06, 1986|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

A Palm Springs man who led authorities on a two-year, three-continent chase as a suspect in the hit-and-run death of a La Canada Flintridge teen-ager has been sentenced to four years in prison.

Thomas Anthony Williamson, 35, pleaded guilty last week in Indio Superior Court to vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and felony hit and run in a 1984 incident in which 15-year-old Kent Andrew States was killed on a Palm Springs highway.

In exchange for that plea, Superior Court Judge James H. Herrin dropped a charge of driving under the influence against Williamson.

Randy States, the victim's father, said he regrets that the case did not go to trial, where Williamson, if convicted, could have been sentenced to 14 years in prison.

'Angry and Very Bitter'

"I'm disappointed at the system, and I'm angry and very bitter that I've lost my son," States said.

Attorneys for both sides believed it would be difficult to convict Williamson on the drunk-driving charge because the blood sample taken when he was arrested was misplaced.

Williamson, a British citizen, was arrested three hours after States' death May 27, after police traced the hit-and-run car to his father's home in Cathedral City, outside Palm Springs.

Charges against him were dismissed in September, 1984, because key witnesses could not be located. Besides, there seemed little chance of conviction because important evidence was misplaced, including the blood sample and a purse on which a witness had scrawled Williamson's license number.

Case Refiled in 1984

The case was refiled in December, 1984, because of the persistence of Chris Evans, a deputy district attorney from Riverside who took a personal interest in the case because his mother had been killed by a drunk driver, prosecutors said.

Evans found the missing witnesses and later taught himself extradition law and prepared a 60-page extradition request that enabled federal officials to track down Williamson in Africa.

When Williamson failed to appear at a preliminary hearing in December, 1984, authorities learned he had fled to Great Britain.

He then moved to Uganda and subsequently to Kenya, where he was extradited with help of the State Department, Interpol and members of the Riverside County district attorney's office.

States was killed early on the morning of May 27 as he and a friend walked home after missing their ride from a video arcade. Witnesses said a car hit the youth as he walked along the shoulder of the road, then drove off.

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