CROWN POINT — Cornelius Lewis remembered Thursday the day Diamond Lewis was born.
He said his daughter's face was flawless and her skin was soft. He held her and whispered, “I love you.”
He said he also remembered her on the autopsy table, after Kareem J. Williams burned her corpse and left her to rot for nine days in a vacant house.
Her face was still flawless, Lewis said, but her skin was blistered and maggot-infested. He whispered one more time, “I love you.”
Williams, 24, of Gary, was sentenced Thursday to 72 1/2 years in prison for strangling Diamond Lewis, the mother of his infant daughter, and attempting to burn her body in a vacant house in the 1400 block of West 18th Avenue.
A girlfriend of Williams testified at his trial in May she drove April 12, 2016, with Williams and his 2-month-old daughter to Lewis' Merrillville home after Williams confessed to killing his “baby's mother.” She said she saw the 22-year-old woman's lifeless body was on the bed. Williams allegedly pressed his infant daughter to her mother's face and apologized to her corpse, the girlfriend said.
Williams sold Lewis' vehicle and attempted to burn her body with lighter fluid, another girlfriend testified.
Cornelius Lewis said at Thursday's sentencing hearing his daughter, who had three children, saved $330 for his granddaughter's birthday. She was found dead in the abandoned house the day before the birthday.
He said his daughter wanted to become a certified nursing assistant, buy a house and marry Williams, her long-time, on-again, off-again boyfriend. She loved him and had her third child, despite health problems during her second pregnancy, for Williams.
“Diamond put her life on the line for you,” the father said.
Tomica Miles, Williams' mother, said her son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was hospitalized for his mental health problems on several occasions as a child. She said his stepfather would also punish him by locking him in a closet, sometimes all day, with a bucket for a bathroom.
She acknowledged her son needed to be punished, but said he was not a “monster.”
Defense attorney Philip King said his client suffered from narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. An earlier court-ordered evaluation determined Williams was competent, but at least one doctor thought he was incompetent and unable to stand trial.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Infinity Baulos said Williams committed a “heinous” and “intimate” crime. She said Williams had prior convictions in Georgia for crimes against women, including domestic battery, violating a protective order and stalking.
Williams, an admitted member of the Vice Lords street gang, also violated jail rules by fighting, hiding a shank in a shower stall and jamming a door to escape his cell, according to Baulos.
Judge Samuel L. Cappas said Williams caused three children to lose their mother, a pain that will endure for the rest of their lives. Cappas said Williams was not the worst offender he has seen, but he was clearly a danger to the community.
He sentenced Williams to the maximum sentence for the murder, 65 years, and an additional 2 1/2 years in prison for auto theft, mutilating a corpse and two counts of fraud.
An additional conviction for obstruction was vacated due to double jeopardy concerns.