MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) – A Tennessee family is putting up a vintage Corvette and $10,000 as a reward, hoping it will help reopen a 10-year-old case and bring a killer to justice.
Mattie Williams knows of a pain no mother should know: losing her oldest son, Dennis Gilliam.
“When I talk about it, I start crying. It’s been like a sore in my stomach, like a sore here that won’t get well,” she said. “People don’t know the tears I have shed. It hurts so.”
It’s a loss she has lived with every day since he was killed on Sept. 23, 2011. After 10 years, no one has been arrested for his death.
“I thought by now they would have did something ’cause I talked to so many detectives. I have been downtown talking to (District Attorney General) Amy Weirich,” Williams said.
They have talked, but it’s not enough to put anyone behind bars.
Gilliam, who did handyman work, was killed the night after a big fight outside of his home that included the boyfriend of his stepdaughter. Gilliam’s brother, Anthony Gilliam, was also present at the fight when someone started shooting.
Anthony Gilliam says even after his brother was encouraged to leave the house, he refused and later went to sleep in his home. That was the last time anyone saw him alive.
“This was his last words to me: ‘These kids ain’t fixing to run me out of my own… house, just like that,’” said Gilliam.
The next morning, Williams’ motherly instincts kicked in when Dennis didn’t answer her regular 7 a.m. phone call. Dennis was in his bed. He had been shot once in the forehead.
“He was laying on his back. They had shot him in his forehead in the temple. The bullet came out on the other side. This big hole,” said Williams.
The family believes it was a case of revenge after the earlier fight outside his home.
Shortly after Dennis’s murder, one of those involved in the initial fight, Ryan Nelson, who was dating Gilliam’s stepdaughter, was arrested.
The police affidavit says 32-year-old Nelson committed first-degree murder. It even says Nelson’s girlfriend stated he confessed to her that he shot and killed Dennis in his home.
The family thought police had their killer.
“The bullets they fired that night in the street they said was the same bullets… the same ones they found in the house,” says Mattie Williams.
“They told us they matched. So if they matched and ya’ll charged him for the aggravated assault, and they did time for it, why didn’t they get time for the murder?” asks Anthony Gilliam.
Nelson was only charged with the assault for the fight. Police say they didn’t have enough evidence to hold him for murder.
District Attorney Amy Weirich’s office told WREG there was not enough evidence to take the murder case to trial. Ryan’s girlfriend’s statements alone were not enough without corroborating evidence. Officials also said Ryan Nelson had an alibi and the two witnesses against him had a greater motive to kill than he did.
As for the fight the night before, the D.A. says they are checking to see if the bullets really match those found at the murder scene, adding that there were two shooters firing during the earlier fight.
It’s not what Dennis Gilliam’s family wants to hear.
“Nothing has been done on the murder case. It just sits there and sits there. They finally put it over in cold case. It’s been in cold case ever since. Now I need to put some fire under it,” says Mattie Williams.
That fire is a $10,000 reward for information leading to the killer. But that’s not all — Anthony Gilliam is throwing in his vintage Corvette as part of the reward.
“That is actually a classic. Only has 76,000 miles on it. I will give it to the person. Plus my family is putting up $10,000 and the reward is going up,” Gilliam said.
Gillam said the family is pledging to give an extra $500 a month, for a year, to go with the other rewards.
“We need some justice. My family we need justice. It’s been too long,” said Williams. “All the evidence. There should have been something. There is something they missed. I won’t give up. I won’t give up.”
A special prosecutor was initially brought in on this case. The District Attorney says that was to handle the aggravated assault since some of the same people could have been witnesses in the homicide. The D.A. says the case can be re-opened if there is additional evidence.