Originally created 08/09/99

Downs faces pretrial hearing



The man whom investigators say confessed to the 1991 rape and murder of an Augusta boy after his arrest this spring on charges of raping and killing an 8-year-old North Augusta boy is scheduled Tuesday for his first pretrial hearing in Richmond County Superior Court.

William "Junior" Downs, 32, faces a death penalty trial in connection with the March 13, 1991, assault and slaying of James Porter, 10, whose death originally was ruled an accidental drowning.

The child's body was found in the Savannah River on May 17, two months after he disappeared.

The first in what is normally a series of pretrial hearings in death penalty cases is scheduled Tuesday before Judge Carl C. Brown.

Mr. Downs should also be arraigned -- enter a plea of guilty or not guilty -- at the hearing.

A Richmond County grand jury indicted Mr. Downs on June 1, about one month after investigators say he confessed to killing James, the son of a co-worker and his wife, whom Mr. Downs befriended.

Mr. Downs is accused of strangling James and sodomizing the boy before and after death, according to the indictment.

James disappeared on a trip to a grocery store near his home.

In Aiken County, Mr. Downs faces capital murder charges in the April 17 sexual assault and killing of kindergartner Keenan O'Mailia, 6, whose body was found in a North Augusta park near his home.

Mr. Downs has been held without bond in South Carolina since his arrest April 26.

Sandy Hodson covers courts for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3226 or shodson@augustachronicle.com.