Donald Williams, man suspected of killing former girlfriend, Maria Serrano, testifies during murder trial

Man accused of killing former girlfriend testifies in murder

READING, Pa. - A man on trial for a grisly homicide in Reading took the witness stand to help save his own life Monday.

After sitting still and stone-faced as prosecutors presented their case last week, Donald Williams testified for more than two hours, presenting jurors with his version of what happened in June 2009.

Williams testified that he and Maria Serrano were together inside her home in the 800 block of Lincoln Street in Reading on June 24, 2009, the night before the alleged incident that led to her death.

Williams said he then returned to her home the next day -- June 25, 2009 -- and saw something he never expected to see. Williams told the court he heard music playing, and when he called her name she never answered. He noticed the basement door was open, and when he made his way down the steps he told the court he found his own brother, Marvin, adjusting his pants and Maria partially dressed.

"I felt betrayed, hurt and angry." Williams testified. "I actually wanted to hurt him real bad, possibly kill him with my bare hands." 

Williams admitted he snapped and started throwing punches at Marvin. Maria yelled for them to stop, and when she intervened, she was hit in the face several times and fell to the floor.

"In the process of fighting, I smelled gas, but didn't think anything of it," said Williams, as he described seeing a sudden burst of flames erupt in the basement.

Williams' brother, Marvin, and Serrano ran upstairs to escape the fire, but Williams said he remained to try to put it out.

Williams then returned to the halfway house where he was staying, took off the clothes he was wearing and placed them in a trash bag, which he discarded in a common area of the building, and showered.

Last week, witnesses called by the prosecution testified Williams dragged Serrano out of the shower, raped her, doused her with gasoline and set her on fire in her basement.

The prosecution also played the 911 call made by Serrano as she was agonizing in pain.

"I feel sick. I feel horrible. I'm burning all over the place. Hurry up. I'm bleeding and there's a fire. You have to call the fire department," Serrano was heard saying. 

Serrano was flown to a hospital, but she died six weeks later.

Williams told the court Monday he does not know how the fire started, but feels responsible.

"Had I not come over that day, these terrible things would not have happened to her," said Williams. 

This is the second attempt at a trial for Williams. The first in August 2012 ended in a mistrial during jury selection.

Both sides are expected to present their closing arguments on Tuesday. The case will then be handed to the jury.

Williams is facing a possible death sentence if he is convicted.

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