A 22-year-old man was sentenced Thursday in Multnomah County Circuit Court to 17 years in prison for stomping a homeless man to death in Old Town last February while wearing the same blood-splattered sneakers he used to attack another man an hour before.
Elijah Nathaniel Williams pleaded guilty Feb. 21 to the first-degree manslaughter of 46-year-old James “Tony” Wise.
Police found Wise shortly after 4 a.m. a year earlier, in a pool of blood near a tent where he was living on the sidewalk of Northwest Third Avenue between Flanders and Glisan streets, court records show.
Wise, one of at least 15 homeless Portlanders to die by homicide in 2022, was taken to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center on Feb. 13, 2022 with multiple severe skull fractures and a brain injury. He never regained consciousness and was declared brain dead due to “unrecoverable” injuries, according to court records.
A county medical examiner determined Wise died from blunt force trauma to the head.
Wise’s mother, Connie Noble, spoke via video conference and said her son had been homeless for several years. She had been planning to travel to Portland from Longview to start searching encampments for Wise in the hopes of reuniting him with his sons when Portland police called her to say he was in the hospital.
“If I had more time, we could have gotten him standing back up again,” Noble said through tears. “He died alone in a cold street not knowing that anybody loved him.”
Noble said her son’s injuries left him unrecognizable, with his organs so badly beaten that only his kidneys could be salvaged for donation.
About an hour before killing Wise, Williams attacked Thembelani Daniso, then 39, a few blocks away. Police found Daniso slumped unconscious in a Mercedes parked on Northwest Second Avenue and Everett Street, his head, shirt and lap covered in blood from facial fractures, court records show.
Daniso, seated at the back of the courtroom, turned down the opportunity to address Williams. He also declined to speak after the hearing with a reporter from The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Williams stood and looked up at Noble’s face on the television screen.
“I’m very sorry for my actions and what I’ve caused not just for you but for your family, and now knowing of his children — I wish I could take back my actions or give you more of a comfort,” Williams said to Noble. “I just pray that your family can begin to heal.”
Outside the courtroom, Williams’ mother said she was praying for forgiveness. She asked to be referred to as “Mrs. Williams” due to safety concerns, as she had received multiple death threats following her son’s arrest.
“Both families are grieving,” she said. “Our losses may not be the same, but the pain is still felt and I apologize and pray they find peace.”
Witnesses of the first attack flagged down police after seeing Williams stomping and kicking Daniso around 3 a.m. Surveillance footage moments later shows Williams’ white tennis shoes splotched with crimson, court records show.
About an hour later, an Old Town resident heard Wise scream “No, stop!” He told investigators he looked out his fourth-floor window and watched Williams hoist himself on a nearby fence and stomp down on Wise about eight times. Williams walked away for a minute, then returned to stomp and punch Wise repeatedly, according to the witness.
Surveillance footage shows Williams leaving the area and entering the Shoreline Building apartments on West Burnside Street around 4:15 a.m., just as police found Wise’s body, court records show.
Four days after the attack, Williams’ parole officer called police to identify him as the suspect in Wise’s attack.
Williams had been on probation and living in a transitional housing program in downtown Portland since his release from the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in October 2021, court records show.
Williams was convicted in 2015 of first-degree sexual abuse of a 6-year-old boy when he was a 15-year-old freshman at Centennial High School. The boy told his mother in July 2015 that Williams was playing tag with him in Northeast Portland when he led him to a truck canopy and touched him, court records show. Williams was tried in adult court and served four years and 10 months in juvenile prison.
Portland police arrested Williams on Feb. 19, 2022, as he exited a TriMet bus on Southeast Stark Street and 140th Avenue.
Detectives searched his apartment and found the leather jacket he was wearing in the surveillance footage, along with rags and a bottle of cleaner they believe he used to clean blood from his white sneakers. Forensic analysts found human blood on the outside of his shoes, court records show.
Multnomah County Circuit Judge Benjamin Souede also ordered Williams to pay about $2,400 in restitution and sentenced him to three years of post-prison supervision.
Williams’ attorney, Russell Barnett, told Souede that his client had been estranged from his family for years, and requested that Williams be imprisoned at the Oregon State Penitentiary so he could build a relationship with his father, who is incarcerated there.