Ralph A. Williams is still on the docket to appear in Multnomah County Circuit Court today to respond to his neighbor’s request for a permanent stalking order against him.
Instead, Williams, 54, faces murder charges, and his neighbor, Sean Liam Kelly, 40, lies in the morgue, dead of stab wounds and crushing blows to the head.
Kelly had been begging for help for at least the past month from Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare housing officials, police and the courts, citing his neighbor’s increasing threats of violence against him, court records show.
He had hoped a judge would sign a permanent order today against Williams, who lived next door to him in an independent housing building for the mentally ill on North Chase Avenue.
Stalking orders between residents living side by side in public housing complexes aren’t uncommon. Judges can’t order people to move, making such orders a challenge. Judges say they must be creative to give the person seeking an order some sense of security and make sure they have a safety plan in place.
“It’s one of the most difficult things that we face,” Multnomah County Circuit Judge Cheryl Albrecht said. “In stalking orders, there’s just no ability to force someone to move from their residence. It’s not an effective remedy. It’s just not. You just hold your breath and try to be as direct and clear with the respondent about the scope of your order. It’s perilous at best.”
Kelly obtained a temporary stalking protective order against Williams last month, detailing ongoing harassment, intimidation, racial slurs and vandalism he endured from Williams.
Kelly, who was on unemployment and attending classes at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek campus, called police twice last month and documented the abuse, threats, property damage and growing tensions between him and Williams in back-and-forth e-mails to Cascadia Housing property manager Deborah Hicks.
In early March, Kelly said Williams poured six gallons of water into the gas tank of his car and then became aggressive and called Kelly a “snitch” after he reported the vandalism to police. He said Williams stuck his hand in his face, threatened to harm him, and banged on his apartment door while spewing profanity and racial slurs, according to the stalking order application.
“I was clearly not safe in my own house, and I began to be afraid of leaving my room,” Kelly wrote, noting Williams, at 6-foot-5 and more than 200 pounds, was much larger. Kelly was 5-foot-11 and weighed 160 pounds.
Cascadia had recommended mediation between the two men and urged Kelly “to stay clear” of Williams, although that was next to impossible because Williams lived in the neighboring unit and they shared a kitchen. Cascadia also recommended Kelly contact the courts or police and mailed Williams an eviction notice March 13, listing Kelly’s well-documented run-ins with Williams.
“I understand that you are fearful, and I would be too,” Hicks e-mailed Kelly on March 16. “I hope he doesn’t do anything to harm you, but you are totally within your rights to do whatever legally you can. … You want to do whatever you can to protect yourself while we wait this out.”
Cascadia does not staff the housing complex with a case manager, and the property manager is not on site.
Jim Hlava, Cascadia’s vice president for housing, said he could not talk about specifics but said the case would be reviewed internally.
Applicants must be assessed as “ready and capable” to live on their own, Hlava said. Cascadia also does a criminal background check and reviews the person’s documentation of income and disability.
Kelly moved to the North Chase Avenue unit early this year. It’s not clear how long Williams lived at the site. Williams also faced an unrelated domestic violence restraining order filed against him in March 2008, after he knocked a woman unconscious and stomped on her head, court records show.
Christy Brewfaugh, a close friend of Kelly’s mother, questioned why Williams was allowed to live in the building, considering his violent past.
Hlava said that when tenants don’t get along, Cascadia gives them options, whether it’s mediation or calls to police if there’s vandalism or violence.
“We take appropriate landlord action with the information that is given to us,” Hlava said. “We work within the landlord-tenant law.”
The court granted Kelly a temporary stalking protective order March 18. The next day, a Multnomah County sheriff’s deputy served the notice in person to Williams. It ordered Williams not to come into “visual or physical presence” of Kelly, speak with him or damage his property.
Just before 7 a.m. Tuesday, a 9-1-1 call came to Portland police, reporting an assault at the North Chase Avenue address. When police arrived, Williams was outside the building, and said, “Arrest me. … I stabbed him with a butcher knife.”
According to Williams, Kelly had come into the common kitchen area of the building, told Williams to get out of his way, and went back to his apartment. Williams told police he had “had enough” of Kelly, grabbed a butcher knife and waited for Kelly to return.
Once he returned, Williams told police, he “let the knife do the talking.”
He said he stabbed Kelly five to seven times in the upper chest and head. As Kelly tried to run across the street, Williams tried to stab him in the back, a probable cause affidavit says.
When the knife blade broke, Williams picked up a cinder block and struck Kelly in the face as he lay dying on the front yard of a neighbor’s home.
READ – Suspect identified in deadly stabbing outside N. Portland halfway house, KGW.com
READ – Man Stabbed To Death In North Portland – Body Found Outside Group Home, KPTV.com
READ – Sean Kelly’s stalking order petition and correspondence with Cascadia staff staff about threats from Ralph Williams
READ – N. Portland deadly stabbing suspect confesses in court, KGW.com