Originally created 08/30/99

Downs indicted in Aiken



AIKEN -- An Aiken County grand jury indicted William "Junior" Downs in the North Augusta slaying of 6-year-old Keenan O'Mailia, Solicitor Barbara Morgan said Sunday.

Mr. Downs, 32, was indicted on charges of murder, criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping after North Augusta Public Safety Investigator Joe Counts presented evidence Thursday to the grand jury.

Ms. Morgan filed court papers in May stating her intention to seek the death penalty against Mr. Downs if he is convicted.

Mr. Downs has admitted to sexually assaulting and strangling Keenan, a kindergartner who left his Georgetown Villas home April 17 and never returned, police said. The boy's body was found the next day in nearby woods. Mr. Downs was arrested April 26.

During subsequent interviews, Mr. Downs confessed to strangling James Porter, 10, of Augusta, in 1991 after James refused to have sex with him. Police said Mr. Downs threw James' body in the Savannah River.

The body was not found for two months. Authorities in Richmond County ruled the death an accidental drowning in 1991, but reopened the case in April after Mr. Downs' confession.

Mr. Downs was indicted June 1 in Augusta in the Porter case. Aiken County authorities will extradite him to Augusta after the Aiken County trial. Augusta District Attorney Danny Craig has said he will ask a jury to send Mr. Downs to death row for the Porter killing.

The O'Mailia case is on the "fast track" and should be heard in court by next spring, Ms. Morgan has said.

In May, a South Carolina judge ordered Mr. Downs to provide hair and blood samples for comparison to evidence in Keenan's killing.

However the process might be delayed because one of Mr. Downs' defense attorneys has been taken off the case, and death penalty cases require the defendant to have two attorneys.

That leaves Mr. Downs with only Deputy Public Defender Wallis Alves to represent him. A judge must assign a second attorney before a competency hearing or other preliminary matters are addressed in court. It is unclear when another attorney will be assigned.

Meanwhile, Mr. Downs is jailed without bond at the Aiken County Detention Center.

Greg Rickabaugh covers crime for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.