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Jackie Lawson told the story that others who knew him are telling -- of a man with a bad reputation who could, as she put it, "charm the skin off of an alligator."

Ms. Lawson should know. For eight months, she and her four children -- two of them teen-age girls -- lived in the same apartment house as Nushawn Williams. The man she knew only as "Face" is accused of having sex with dozens of young women in Chautauqua County, despite knowing he was HIV-positive, and infecting at least 10 of them.

More than 300 parents and teen-agers attended an informational meeting Wednesday night in the Reg Lenna Civic Center here to learn more about the lethal virus that has catapulted this community into the national spotlight. The meeting was not so much about Williams, but the fear he left behind.

To Ms. Lawson, Williams, 20, was the hard-partying, drug-using guy who lived downstairs from her until January.

For months, she watched a steady stream of
teen-age girls come and go from his apartment. She and her children stepped around the used hypodermic needles, empty crack bags and vodka bottles he casually tossed out the first-floor window of the building with the missing shingles and cracked concrete porch.

"That's why I didn't let my kids play outside," said Ms. Lawson, whose younger children are 3 and 10 years old. "I didn't want them picking up those needles. I made them stay on the upstairs porch."

Another neighbor, Sherry Weaver, remembers seeing Williams and his friends smoking crack outside in the daytime.

"I made my 11-year-old come in the house," said Ms. Weaver. "They were smoking one of those glass pipes."

Despite the aggravation, Ms. Lawson said, she didn't dislike Williams. Those who knew him say his charm -- and the apparent lure of drugs and adventure he offered -- enabled him to attract so many young women.

"He had drugs, and they wanted them," said Ms. Lawson. "And he said the things girls like to hear -- stuff like, 'Your hair looks so nice today,' or, 'You're just a tiny little thing, aren't you? My, ain't you pretty?' "

Ms. Lawson said a steady stream of girls came to the apartment.

"Different ones all the time," she recalled. "You knew they were still in school, because they wouldn't come around until the afternoon."

Williams left town in January. It was not until eight months later that health officials pieced together enough information to conclude he was the common link in the unusual number of new HIV cases in the rural county.

He was long gone by Monday, when authorities were able to go public with his name. But he left behind a community looking for answers.

"I think some people are just shocked," said Philip Morris, director of the Lucy-Desi Museum, which honors Jamestown native Lucille Ball. "Others, who are more aware of AIDS and drugs and poverty, thought something like this might happen, although not on this big of a scale.

"And others," said Morris, who has a teen-age daughter, "are beyond pointing fingers at this guy and these kids. They're looking at the underlying things that create an environment where this could happen. A lot of our kids are saying yes to unhealthy activity, to sex and drugs, and what can we do about it?"

The first half of Wednesday night's two-hour community meeting dealt with basic HIV education: What the virus is, how to avoid infection and what getting tested is like.

Speakers confronted misplaced fears, such as the mistaken belief the virus can be passed by a kiss or through saliva. One mother asked if her child was at risk by attending school with an HIV-positive student.

"Even the most thorough HIV education is useless to a teen-ager who is abusing drugs or alcohol," said Mary Cole, a school health coordinator. "We can give them the knowledge, but it's all negated when they get drunk or if they get stoned."

Lanie Philbrick, a 17-year-old high school dropout, said she met Nushawn Williams at a party.

"Almost everybody around here knew him," she said. "His reputation was drugs, alcohol, a sex fiend.

"I knew he slept with a lot of people. He tried to get with me at the party, but I turned him down. He right away went with someone else. That's when I knew he was a dog, a real whore."

Despite that, she said Williams had an attractive side.

"He was sweet," she said. "And if you went out with him, he bought you stuff.

"When I found out what he had, I was just so relieved I didn't sleep with him."

Ms. Lawson also was relieved that she had told her 14- and 15-year-old daughters to steer clear of the tenant in the downstairs apartment.

"I knew he was into drugs," she said. "And I didn't need any problems like that."

The media were in full force at the meeting. As questions were being answered in the auditorium, television crews interviewed clusters of teen-agers in the lobby. Outside the center, a white stretch limousine pulled up, and a crew member of ABC News emerged.

"It's pretty bad when Jamestown has to get publicized this way," said Shawna Pace, 14.

Already, she said, she had been approached by the Geraldo Rivera show and numerous television station representatives.

"It's scaring a lot of people," she added. "All this attention is just scaring everyone."

At least 20 television cameras were inside recording the meeting.

During the meeting, people put questions on 3-by-5 cards, and they were answered.

One was from a 14-year-old girl who asked: "How do you plan to stop it (the madness)?"

Her card was never pulled out of the box for consideration.

Another asked: If a teen knows a girl who has been with Williams, but she refuses to be tested, what can the teen do?

If encouraging the girl to get tested doesn't work, tell a staff member at school, responded Lois Kibler, a Jamestown High School health teacher. Confidentiality rules would prevent the staff member from telling anyone else, but at least the adult could get the girl alone and talk to her.

"Then, at least, the friend will feel like they have done something," Ms. Kibler said.

One parent asked for advice on talking to children about HIV-related subject, like drugs and sex.

It's hard work, but parents have to make the effort to know their children and their friends, said Nancy Knee, president of the Jamestown Parent Teacher Student Association. "Be a pest," she added.

The older they get, the harder it gets, but that is when it is most important, said Ms. Knee.

"First-graders don't get pregnant," she said. "Second-graders don't drink and drive. They Need You. News staff reporters Nicole Peradotto and Andrew Galarneau contributed to this story.

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