17 year old charged with first degree murder

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Christopher Sowell is escorted by Mississippi County deputies during his arraignment Thursday at the Mississippi County Jail. He is being charged with first degree murder in the death of 11-year-old Jessica Williams. (Photo courtesy of Blytheville Courier)

The search for Jessica Williams, 11, of Gosnell ended at 6:30 Wednesday morning, Aug. 28, when her body was found in a floodwater ditch on East County Road 122 just miles from her home.

The girl had been reported missing by her father, Eric Williams, Tuesday evening. She was last seen by her father riding her bicycle and playing with her dog in the yard of their country home at around 6:30 p.m. A short time later Mr. Williams did not see not see her and after a brief search, he notified police. Her bicycle was found near her home on North County Road 503.

Investigation led officers to 17-year-old Christopher Sowell, a neighbor who lives about a quarter of a mile from where the victim lived with her father.

Sowell, who had searched along side of Jessica's father on Tuesday evening, was later questioned and he admitted being angry with her, choking her and pushing her off the bridge and leaving.

Sowell was arrested Thursday morning on suspicion of first-degree murder. He appeared before Poinsett County District Judge Ron Hunter, who was hearing cases Thursday on behalf of Blytheville District Judge Shannon Langston. Judge Hunter set a $2 million cash only bond for Sowell. A Sept. 26 arraignment in Mississippi County Circuit Court at Blytheville was set. Judge Hunter also appointed Mississippi County Public Defender John Bradley to represent Sowell.

Sheriff Cook said authorities are still working on the case and completing interviews. They are awaiting autopsy results from the state crime lab in Little Rock to determine the time and an exact cause of death.

Sheriff Cook praised his deputies, state police and the prosecuting attorney for working well on this case.

Jessica was a sixth grade student at Gosnell. On Friday morning members of the Gosnell Community were out holding signs "In loving Memory of Jessica Williams" and collecting donations for her family. Faculty members at Gosnell Elementary have set up an account in her name, "Jessica Williams Memorial," at Southern Bancorp and all funds are set up to pay directly for funeral expenses.

The funeral was held Saturday at Cobb Funeral Home Chapel in Blytheville.

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