A man accused of deliberately infecting at least 11 young women with the AIDS virus -- one of them 13 years old -- was described Monday by Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace as "despicable and criminal."
Nushawn Williams, who will be 21 Saturday, made many of his sexual contacts after he had been diagnosed as HIV-positive in August 1996, officials said.
Currently jailes in New York City on a robbery charge, he came to the county in mid-1996 and left in the middle of this year.
Williams left "before we were positively assured he was the individual responsible for infecting the young women," Dr. Robert Berke, Chautauqua County health commissioner, said Monday.
Because of the confidentiality law protecting the identity of people with AIDS or who test HIV-positive, Berke had to obtain a court waiver before making Williams' name public.
"We felt, under these extraordinary circumstances, with so many innocent people already involved and many others who could be involved, our petition was justified," he said. State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Gerace, the sheriff's father, granted the waiver Monday. The Chautauqua County Sheriff's Department tracked Williams down over the weekend and found him locked up in New York City's Rikers Island Jail, where he is being held on a robbery charge. "We have charged Williams with statutory rape in connection with the 13-year-old female, and he will face numerous other charges," including first-degree assault, Chautauqua County District Attorney James P. Subjack said. He added that, in time, attempted-murder charges are possible. Williams used several aliases, including Face Williams, "E" Shyteek Johnson, Jo Jo Williams, Lashawn Fields, Headteck Williams, Shoe Williams and Face Johnson. Williams, who is believed to be from New York City and to have had no permanent address while in Chautauqua County, "had sexual encounters with at least 100 females," said Berke, addressing a news conference Monday in the Hal Clothier County Building. "Many of these encounters were after he came to us in August 1996 for testing and was told two weeks later he was HIV-positive. He was counseled and warned he could transmit the disease," the commissioner explained. Williams' victims lived in Jamestown and Kennedy, in southern Chautauqua County, and Dunkirk and Fredonia, in the northern part of the county, according to Berke, "and may have been trading sex for drugs." Williams made his contacts in parks, near schools and other public places, Berke said. Officials fear there could be many more young women who may have had sex with Williams and are not aware he was HIV- positive. Counselors at schools through out the county were talking with students today, encouraging any one who may have had contact with Williams to be tested for the AIDS virus. Dr. Barbara A. DeBuono, state health commissioner, was expected to be in Mayville today "to help with many more issues we have to address," Berke said. Berke also said in an interview that "it is a very real possibility this individual was engaged in similar activities in other parts of the state." Health alerts have been issued to health commissioners through out the state. Twenty epidemiologists, HIV counselors, public health physicians and health educators are being sent by the state Health Department to Chautauqua County to work on the case. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent two staff members to assist as well. In St. Louis earlier this year, about 30 women and men tested positive for HIV after contact with Darnell McGee or one of his 100 sex partners. McGee was killed in January during a robbery. McGee is one of only a few other documented cases nationwide in which someone knowingly spread the HIV virus to 12 or more people, health officials said. Gerace said his narcotics officers were investigating Williams "in connection with marijuana and cocaine" but were not brought into the AIDS investigation "until late summer." Berke would not say what prompted Williams to seek AIDS testing. The commissioner praised his staff for "patience and exceptional field work" in the case. "It was like a maze we were going through," he said. "Piece by piece slowly put together. There were times you thought you needed a Ouija board to figure out what was going on to suddenly have this many in our community test HIV-positive." Subjack said Williams will be returned to Chautauqua County once he is released from the New York City lockup. "And if he stays there for any length of time," he said, "we will bring him back for indictment and then return him there to complete his sentence." The question on the minds of many Chautauqua County residents today is "why?" Berke said there has been a marked increase in the use of soft drugs and alcohol by teen-agers. "We need to ask ourselves how this can happen in our community," the commissioner said. "We need to reassess the role of parents and families in the lives of our children. "There is much work to be done if we are to make use of this incident so that it may serve only as a bitter lesson learned and one that is never again to occur in any community that values its children."