Ronald Turney Williams—from FBI’s Most Wanted List to prison janitor

One of West Virginia’s most notorious criminals turned 76 this month.  Ronald Turney Williams remains housed in the state’s maximum-security prison at Mount Olive in Fayette County where he will spend the rest of his life.

Williams was already serving a life sentence at the old Moundsville penitentiary for the murder of Beckley Police Sgt. David Lilly when he helped lead a mass escape of 15 inmates on November 7, 1979.  Williams and others commandeered a passing vehicle and fatally shot the driver, off-duty State Trooper Phillip Kesner.

Most of the escapees were rounded up quickly, but Williams managed to elude authorities for 18 months. During that time, he sent taunting postcards to some of his inmate friends and continued his violent ways, murdering a Scottsdale, Arizona man.  The FBI put him on their Most Wanted List.

Ronald Turney Williams in a 2014 mug shot

Finally, in June 1981, he was tracked to a hotel in New York City where FBI agents arrested him following a shootout where he was wounded.

Today, Williams’ life is confined to a simple routine at Mount Olive.  Here are some facts about his imprisonment, according to the State Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

He is housed in small cell in one of the maximum-security Quilliams units (named after correctional officer William Quilliams, who was stabbed to death by an inmate in in 1972). Prisoners in this unit are segregated from the rest of the prison population.

His cell is very basic—about 80 square feet of floor space, a toilet, wash basin, desk with stool and a bunk with mattress. He does have a television and radio and receives newspapers. Williams has an Xbox and a word processor, but no access to the internet.

Williams is a “pod janitor.”  His duties include cleaning floors, walls and the unit shower.  He also is allowed to go to “outdoor recreation” one hour a day, five days week.

I had other questions about Williams confinement, but DMAPS is limited on what inmate information it can provide. For example, I wanted to know whether Williams has caused any disruption or whether he has any health problems that require treatment.  Inmate medical privacy issues preclude any comment about his health.

They did add, however, that Williams does receive visitors.

This will likely be the extent of Williams life for the rest of his days.  He is serving two life-with-mercy sentences for murder, plus two consecutive 25- to 100-year terms for kidnapping. His earliest possible parole hearing would be in 2047. Additionally, Williams faces the death penalty in Arizona.








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