Donna Rae Williams “sounded business as usual” in the two weeks between when she allegedly beat her husband to death with a hammer and when she called 911 to alert police to his death, her daughter Rukiya Droste said Monday afternoon.
Williams talked about getting a new job at a local grocery store and having a sore throat, among other things, during the four or five phone conversations they had over the two-week span, said Droste, who lives in Texas.
“There was absolutely no reason for me to believe anything was going on in the house,” Droste recalled.
Clark County prosecutors charged Williams with suspicion of first-degree murder Thursday in the death of her husband of more than 30 years, Mark. The 51-year-old woman called 911 on Wednesday, May 30, and told authorities that she used a hammer to kill her 55-year-old husband two weeks earlier, after suffering years of abuse, according to a 911 tape released by Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency.
Williams told investigators that on the night before she killed her husband, they had an argument over his cocaine use, according to a police probable cause statement. He hit her in the eye, she told police, and the next morning, when she saw her black eye, she became enraged and killed him with a hammer while he was asleep.
Clark County sheriff’s deputies found Williams outside her Sifton neighborhood home, 12216 N.E. 76th St., smoking a cigarette, according to court documents. Investigators found her husband’s body in a bed in the back room covered with blood-soaked bedding.
Her mother’s alleged actions marked the end of a “toxic” relationship that had been fraught with verbal and physical abuse, Droste said. Neighbors and a co-worker who spoke about Williams outside the scene where police investigated Wednesday noted they had suspected and heard rumors she had been abused.
Contrary to her mother’s statement to a 911 dispatcher and statements made by others who knew her, Droste said her mother had been the instigator of arguments and violence throughout her parents’ relationship.
Williams struggled with alcoholism and addiction to painkillers prescribed for back and shoulder problems, her daughter said. She may have also had an undiagnosed mental illness that manifested itself in recent years, her daughter added.
About three months ago, Droste said her father had “reached his breaking point” with his wife after she was arrested for shoplifting in Portland. Droste advised both parents at various times to leave the relationship, but they did not follow her advice.
While Mark Williams was not her biological father, Droste viewed him as her dad because he raised her from an early age.
“He absolutely did not deserve to die like he did,” Droste said. “I truly believe my mother was a very, very, very disturbed individual. She should have gotten help a long time ago.”
The family attempted to get Williams help, her daughter said. Nothing helped. Not rehab, not surgery to remove her gallbladder, her daughter noted.
“We were on her like white on rice,” Droste said, noting family members tried to get her to stop drinking. “She was 95 pounds soaking wet and drinking like a fish.”
Droste, 34, moved out of her parents’ house when she was 17. At the time, they lived in Portland.
The family’s situation was tumultuous back then. Both Droste and her brother, Brandon, now 27, were removed from the home when Droste was 14 or 15 due to an episode where her parents abused her, she recalled. Attempts to contact Brandon Williams, who lives in Texas and does not own a cellphone, were unsuccessful.
Donna Rae and Mark Williams were each convicted in 1994 with fourth-degree assault in Multnomah County, Ore., court records show. The victim’s name was not available. Droste identified herself as the victim in a phone interview, noting her parents whipped her with a belt as punishment for youthful misbehavior.
Droste stayed in foster care for about two years. She left her parents’ house for good about six months after moving back in with them. Over time, Droste said she was able to forgive her father. Her mother was more difficult to trust, the daughter added, noting her mother lied and manipulated others.
Droste doubted her father started the incident that eventually resulted in his death. She said if her mother would have been in her right frame of mind — not abusing alcohol and painkillers — her father would still be alive.
“I feel my father, overall, was a really good man,” Droste said. “He’s not here to defend himself. Somebody has to stand up and tell the truth. The truth is not mom was a battered wife for 30 years. I can’t stand by that and I won’t.”
Columbian staff writers Laura McVicker and Paul Suarez contributed to this story.