A judge pronounced a 22-year-old Rock Island man not guilty in connection with the death of an infant at a brief hearing Monday in Rock Island County Court.
Mateo Williams was with his attorney Andrew Larson on Monday afternoon in the courtroom, where Williams’ family and friends gathered.
The court concluded a bench trial in the case on Thursday, Judge Peter Church said at the hearing. (In a bench trial, the judge makes the decisions, as compared to a jury trial, in which a jury makes the decisions.) He said the court carefully reviewed the notes and exhibits over the weekend.
“This is a close case. It was well-tried by both sides,” Church said.
The standard of proof in a criminal case is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, he said. Church asked Williams to stand.
“The court finds the defendant, Mateo Williams, not guilty,” Church said, whereupon shouts of joy and sobbing from Williams’ family and friends erupted in the courtroom. Williams, too, wiped his eyes.
Friends and family gathered to hug and shake hands with Larson, who talked with the group just outside the courtroom.
“This is a sad time,” he said. “No matter how you look at it …. The child won’t have a life. I ask you to be respectful for the process and everybody’s else’s feelings. I understand you’re very glad to have Mateo home.”
Lashawn Young and Charles Williams, Mateo Williams’ parents, caught their breath outside the courthouse.
“The Lord showed up and showed out,” she said. “Miracles can happen. My son is free. It’s overpowering. I just feel like dancing and shouting and screaming right now.”
“I feel like I’ve been holding a giant rock over my head for the past two years. I’m able to chuck it … get some happiness in my life,” Charles Williams said.
“Mateo is going to be in church every Sunday,” his mother said.
Both parents are from the Chicago area.
“I’m going back to Chicago and getting back on my feet there,” Charles Williams said. “I will always keep checking up on him, like I was doing before he was even in the situation he was in – I’m still going to be there for him,” he said. “Live life and try to live happy.”
The incident in 2020
Mateo Williams faced a murder charge in connection with the death of a 4-month-old infant on March 10, 2020, court records show.
Also arrested in connection with the death was the child’s mother, Tanda Allee, 25, also of Rock Island.
The incident in 2020
The infant, identified as Elias S. Austin, was declared dead. It was suspected that foul play was involved when multiple fractures were found throughout the infant boy’s body, law enforcement said.
An autopsy was conducted March 11 and preliminary results concluded the cause of death was blunt-force head trauma.
The baby also had multiple skull fractures, bone fractures, and other injuries consistent with abuse, officials said.
On March 13, Allee and Williams were charged with murder.
Allee was in a relationship with Williams, officials said. An older sibling was removed from the home and placed in foster care. No injuries were found on that child, officials said.
Allee remains in custody in Rock Island County Jail, and is set for a plea hearing Thursday in Rock Island County Court.