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Cold case: Seeking killer of ‘a vulnerable target’

Case of elderly Gainesville store owner killed in 2005 remains unsolved

POSTED: August 9, 2010 12:30 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS /The Times

Hall County Sheriff's Office Investigator Sean McCusker stands outside the Atlanta Highway appliance shop where 77-year-old Manuel Williams was fatally shot while working inside in February 2005. His murder remains unsolved.

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Manuel Williams lived for seven months after he was shot in his Gainesville used appliance store, but he was never able to tell detectives who shot him.

Williams, a 77-year-old who owned and operated D&W Appliances on Atlanta Highway, languished in a coma from the time his body was discovered on the floor of his store Feb. 10, 2005, until he succumbed to his injuries the following September.

"We were never able to get any information from him," Hall County Sheriff's Sgt. Sean McCusker said.

Five years later, Williams' murder remains unsolved, the few leads exhausted and no real suspects. Hall County Sheriff's investigators would like to talk to someone seen leaving the store that day with a refrigerator in the bed of a truck, but that person is more likely a potential witnesses, not the shooter.

Williams' store and the lot behind it were filled with washers, dryers, refrigerators and freezers. He took in used appliances and always paid cash, usually peeling bills off a fat roll from his pocket. That, combined with his generosity to the street people who came in asking for help, made him a target.

"It seems like someone had information that he had cash money and that he often worked alone," McCusker said. "Plus, at his age, they knew he wasn't going to be able to put up much of a fight. He was a vulnerable target."

For such a busy store, the timing of the robbery and shooting seemed bold. Williams was last seen alive around 3:45 p.m. that day and his body was found by a customer at around 6 p.m.

From the outset, detectives had a challenging case. The Atlanta Highway corridor, particularly at the time, was teeming with transients, many immigrants who came into town by way of a nearby bus stop. A reward was offered by the family and posted on a sign near the crime scene, but no one came forward.

Williams' well-known generosity, though good-intentioned, may have led to his death, authorities said.

"He was known to help people out," McCusker said.



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