Motion made to nix charges in stabbing at Waffle House|[05/31/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2008

A motion has been made to dismiss charges pending against a Vicksburg man accused in a stabbing death last year at the Waffle House on Clay Street, and the victim’s former girlfriend says “it doesn’t make sense.”

Earlier this month, the 9th Circuit District Attorney’s Office filed the motion in the manslaughter case of Willie Fitzgerald Sanders, 43, 1517 South St., who was indicted in October for killing 36-year-old William Mayer of Florence.

Assistant DA Dewey Arthur, the lead prosecutor in the case, said he was unable to release details, but a Circuit Clerk document said the motion for dismissal was made because Sanders’ actions appeared to be in selfdefense.

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According to the document, witnesses to the fatal altercation, which occurred May 5, 2007, said Sanders was approached by Mayer and another man as he was leaving the restaurant. The witnesses said Sanders made no threats and did not instigatethe confrontation.

The document also stated that Mayer was a much larger man, and that Sanders “had reason to believe as a man of ordinary reason that he was in danger of such harm … and used the knife to protect himself.”

However, a woman who said she was Mayer’s girlfriend at the time and a witness to the altercation, but did not want to be identified, said Sanders was the instigator. She said Sanders was asked to leave the restaurant by employees, and, on his way out, made motions that prompted Mayer to follow him into the building’s breezeway where the fight took place.

“It was not self-defense,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense to me that they would dismiss the case. I hope something can still be done.”

In addition, the motion for dismissal said there was no evidence that the grand jurors who indicted Sanders received instruction on the applicable law of self-defense.

The motion will be presented to Warren County Circuit Judge Frank Vollor, who will make a decision. A court date has not been set.

Police reports and records indicate that Sanders and Mayer did not know each other at the time of the fight. Mayer died at River Region Medical Center during surgery, about four hours after the stabbing. An autopsy later showed he had died from multiple stab wounds to the chest. It was the city’s first homicide of 2007.

Sanders was arrested minutes after the stabbing and initially charged with murder. He was later freed from the Warren County Jail on $100,000 bond.

In addition to his manslaughter indictment, Sanders, a previously convicted felon, was indicted as a habitual offender. If the case is not dismissed and he is convicted as a habitual offender, Sanders would serve the maximum 20 years without parole.

Sanders’ previous felony convictions consist of receiving stolen property and possession of cocaine.