Editor’s note: A candlelight vigil will be held for murder victim Bridgett Williams at 6 p.m. Saturday at John Thornton Memorial Park at 54th and Audubon in Washington Park.
It was like she was the celebrity in Washington Park. No matter who you ask about the woman who police found shot to death in a park on July 11, they say she was sweet, kind, gentle, always willing to help and wouldn’t hurt a fly.
St. Clair County Coroner Calvin Dye, Sr. identified the victim as Bridgett Williams, 56, of Washington Park. He said Williams was shot multiple times and was pronounced at 3:21 p.m. Thursday.
Washington Park Police Chief Allen Bonds said police were made aware that a female’s body was in the park at 2:28 a.m. So far, police do not have any suspects or a motive. After Williams was identified, Bonds said she was well-known to the police and the entire community of Washington Park.
As a News Democrat reporter questioned people in the community and the family of Bridgett Williams about her death, it was immediately clear that the horrific news was a shock. No one expected to hear that she was dead and in such a violent manner.
A number of people in the community said Williams was loved by many people in the Washington Park community. Her death has brought out a lot of emotions, ranging from anger, hurt, confusion and a strong desire for justice for Williams.
Her daughter, Charline Byrd, said of her mother, “She was a God-fearing woman with an uplifting spirit.”
“She was happy everywhere she went. If you were having a bad day, she would lift your spirit up,” Byrd said.
A life lesson her mother taught her that she will always remember and live by is, “Women are always strong.”
“She told me that women have to stay strong through every circumstance,” Byrd said.
“I can hear her saying adapt yourself to all situations,” Byrd said.
Williams taught her daughter “a lot about becoming a woman,” Byrd said.
The hurt for her and her family right now is monumental because they have so many unanswered questions and a main one is who did this. “We want to know who did this to my mother and why. She loved everybody and would do anything to help anybody,” Byrd said. “This whole thing has ripped my whole heart out of my chest.”
“The feeling that I have inside of me is indescribable. It is hard to endure the pain. I am reminded , though, that what don’t kill you will make you stronger. I refuse to fold or crumble,” she said.
Byrd wants the person who murdered her mom caught and brought to justice.
“She is mom. Mom is mom. A mother’s love is pure. I loved my mom. She didn’t deserve this,” Byrd said.
“My mom loved children. She gave candy, juices and chips to the children out here. They loved her. They called her Miss Bridgett, ”Byrd said.
Williams ran errands for the older people and cleaned houses and at local businesses.
She said her mother loved to watch movies, eat Jolly Ranchers and peants. She also loved her beer.
“She could tell you anything about any movie. She loved to watch television,” Byrd said.
Two long-time friends of Williams’, Harry Hollingsworth and Ricky Hollingsworth, were overcome as they shared their raw emotions.
Harry Hollingsworth said, “It just can’t be.”
“She was a good girl. She didn’t have to be shot. She was loved by everybody. She was important to a lot of people. Bridgett could make you laugh. She had a caring heart. For someone to do something like this, it’s just crazy,” Hollingsworth said.
Ricky Hollingsworth said he’s known Bridgett for 20 years.
”My cousin dated her years ago. We all were living together at that time. She was the sweetest person in the world.”
“She didn’t argue or fight with anyone. She is so little, you wouldn’t have to shoot her,” he said.
“Most of Wasington Park knows her. We believe the shooter was somebody who didn’t know her,” Ricky Hollingsworth said.
And, he said he thinks she was dumped in the park, not killed there.
“She helped everyone. When I tell you she was a good person — man, this is so hard.”
Hollingsworth last saw her hours before police received the devastating call.
Ricky Hollingsworth said he and the entire community of Washington Park will miss her laughing and cracking jokes.
“I saw her about 9:20 p.m. I assumed she was headed to the liquor store. She loved her beer. She had to have been walking back past the park, on her way back from the store,” he said.
Anyone with any information on Williams’ death is urged to call the Washington Park Police Department at 874-0114, Illinois State Police at 346-3990 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800 371-Tips. This is an anonymous tip line that pays up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.