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Trial testimony begins in 2018 case of missing wife found burned in Waterloo cemetery

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WATERLOO — Fredrick Williams didn’t show much concern when his wife disappeared in January 2018, according to prosecutors.

Black Hawk County Attorney Brian Williams, no relation, told jurors it was 40-year-old Lakisha Owens’ co-workers at Grainger industrial supplies and her mother who reported her missing after she failed to show up for work on a Monday.

Fredrick Williams, 31, of Waterloo, is charged with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse to conceal a crime, and testimony began Wednesday in Black Hawk County District Court.

Lakisha Quintel "Kisha" Owens

Lakisha Quintel "Kisha" Owens

Lakisha Owens’ mother, Peggy “Cookie” Owens, the first to take the stand, told jurors about her children.

“I had two. Now I have one,” Peggy Owens said.

She recounted how she accompanied police to her daughter’s apartment on Paige Drive after she had been reported missing. The TV in the bedroom was still on, and the bed had been made, which the mother — who had a job cleaning hallways and common areas in the apartment building and regularly cleaned her daughter’s apartment as a favor — found unusual.

Lakisha Owens rarely made her bed, and Peggy Owens usually left it unmade when she cleaned.

The mother also told jurors how, sometime earlier, Lakisha Owens had showed her a cut on her head and told her she got it when Fredrick Williams struck her with a crowbar.

011222jr-williams-trial-2

Peggy “Cookie” Owens testifies at the trial of Fredrick Williams, and man accused of killing her daughter, Lakisha Owens, on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.

Brian Williams told jurors investigators believe Lakisha Owens was killed Jan. 20, 2018, about four days before she was reported missing. She had been arguing with her husband and later took a taxi to a pawn shop and then to a convenience store. Fredrick Williams had followed in his own vehicle. He also followed when she returned home, he said.

The taxi driver was the last person to see her alive.

On the night of Jan. 20, 2018, a neighbor backed into Fredrick Williams’ vehicle in the apartment parking lot, prosecutors said. The neighbor knocked on the door to tell him about the damage, and after a while he answered, opening the door a crack and then shutting it on the neighbor, unconcerned.

Also on that weekend, residents noticed a 55-gallon trash can was missing from the apartment building’s laundry room.

It wasn’t until Jan. 26, 2018, that antler hunters discovered Lakisha Owen’s body in a wooded area on the edge of the Garden of Memories Cemetery north of town. It had been partially burned and was wrapped in bedding and plastic sheets, prosecutors said. An autopsy determined she died of asphyxiation.

Authorities said Fredrick Williams’ cellphone had pinged around the cemetery Jan. 20, 2018. He later disappeared and surfaced in Minnesota.

Defense attorney Steve Drahozal said there is no direct evidence linking Fredrick Williams to his wife’s disappearance and death.

“The state is trying to present you with a sand castle,” he told jurors during opening statements.

He said defense witnesses will include a man who was visiting the grave of a friend at the Garden of Memories around the time of the disappearance. He said the witness encountered a white man in a vehicle who threatened him with a gun and chased him out of the cemetery.

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