‘Disconcerting’ — Judge denies bond in Virginia school bus abduction

A Stafford County, Virginia, judge has denied bond for a man accused of abducting a 9-year-old girl who got off a school bus in late January.

Steven Randall Williams, 35, is charged with one count of abduction. According to prosecutors, after asking the girl for directions, Williams grabbed and carried her to the passenger seat of his Buick Regal — when he went around the car to get in the driver’s side, the girl opened the door and ran home.

Williams’ attorney, Mark Murphy, asked Circuit Court Judge Michael Levy for his client to be allowed to live at home, with his parents, wearing two electronic monitoring devices until trial.

Murphy said there were no eyewitnesses to the event, and that his client’s physical appearance differed substantially from the child’s description of the man who abducted her.

Lori DiGiosia, chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney, bristled at the idea of pretrial release.

“This was a stranger-child abduction of a 9-year-old child — a stranger picked her up and put her in his car,” DiGiosia said. “This is one of the most serious, scary situations in the world — a child being taken.”

DiGiosia and senior assistant commonwealth’s attorney Sandra Park provided previously unreported details about the incident. Since the victim is a minor, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court has initial jurisdiction of the case.

If the juvenile court finds probable cause, the case would be transferred to Circuit Court for indictment and trial.

“His cellphone information and the car information puts him at the scene” on Basswood Drive, DiGiosia told the judge.

“He scoops her up, under her leg,” and carried her to his car, DiGiosa said. “A witness saw a girl get out of the car and run.”

Williams’ attorney countered that the witness description didn’t include who was behind the wheel.

When he was arrested, sheriff’s deputies said Williams had barricaded himself in his home for hours.

”Sheriff’s deputies couldn’t find him in the house. They sent in drones. When they send in K-9s, the dog goes crazy,” DiGiosa said.

”Behind the freezer, near the sump pump — the defendant was hiding in there, in the wall,” DiGiosa said. Williams’ cellphone was located in a kitchen drawer, she said.

A long criminal history

As WTOP first reported, Williams was on probation at the time of the January incident for a 2016 home invasion in which he tied up a woman and her 10-year-old son.

”Now he’s asking to be released? The family has great concern,” said prosecutor DiGiosia.

As part of his argument for bond, defense attorney Murphy said Williams remained in danger in jail. He had testified against another man who was convicted in the 2016 abduction and home invasion.

Murphy said Williams had also testified in Spotsylvania County Circuit Court against two defendants in the 2015 murder of 21-year-old Heather Ciccone.

”He put himself at risk from gang members,” Murphy said. “They said someone could get to him in jail.”

DiGiosia said precautions would continue to be taken to keep Williams safe: “What’s paramount is the safety of the community.”

Williams had been arrested five times since his arrest for the 2016 abduction, yet has largely remained out of jail.

On Dec. 18, 2017, Stafford County Circuit Court Judge Charles Sharp sentenced Williams to 35 years, but suspended 33, with two years of active prison time. With time served, Williams was released two weeks later, on Jan. 2, 2018, on indefinite supervision.

On Sept. 9, 2021, he came before Stafford County Circuit Court Judge Victoria A.B. Willis, who sentenced him to 5 years, 10 months and 17 days for drug possession with intent to distribute and suspended 4 years. He received probation for the new felony drug possession count.

Defense: Government shares responsibility for revolving door

In his closing argument for bond, Murphy suggested Stafford County prosecutors shared the responsibility for his client being out on bond, so he could continue to testify and provide information in other trials.

“When they talk about him being released, being a danger, being released, being a danger — it’s the commonwealth that allowed him to be out on bond, because that served their purpose,” Murphy said. “The commonwealth is working with him, getting him out, because of what he’s providing.”

”Now that he’s not cooperating, they want him held,” Murphy said.

The defense said the barricade situation could have been avoided.

”Everyone’s asleep, and they storm the house,” said Murphy. “He was freaked out by this military incursion.”

Murphy acknowledged his client tried to hide. “He did panic and try to secret himself on the upper level of the house,” in the attic, but was trying to get out of the wall to surrender.

Levy said the discovery of zip ties in Williams’ trunk in the current case was “disconcerting, since he was on probation at the time this occurred,” and given previous convictions for kidnapping and robbery.

Levy denied bond, and remanded the case to juvenile court, where a preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 6. Since a JDR judge had denied a request for bond, Thursday’s appeal hearing was heard in Circuit Court.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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