When she caught wind that Artez Williams’ belongings had been removed from his dorm room, allegedly by some of his former Ragin’ Cajun football teammates, Sheila Bae-Cross contacted the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Police Department.
One reason: motherly instinct. “Because that’s my son,” Bae-Cross said.
Another reason seems driven by gut instinct. “I knew something wasn’t right,” she said.
Just more than two weeks after Bae-Cross reported Williams’ possessions had been taken, and after an investigation that produced video evidence of the alleged burglary at Huger Hall on campus, 13 current UL football players each were charged with one count of criminal conspiracy to commit felony theft.
Bae-Cross doesn’t know for certain why the ex-teammates allegedly took the items belonging to Williams, who himself had been arrested and charged with second-degree rape hours before the alleged theft.
But she does have some theories.
“I’m thinking they set him up,” said Bae-Cross, who spoke exclusively to The Daily Advertiser this week by phone from her and Williams’ hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi.
Asked why she thought that, Bae-Cross explained Williams had recently purchased many of the items with funds he had received from UL.
“Because they knew he had just got his school money,” she said, “and they knew what he bought.”
Among the items allegedly stolen, according to a ULPD property report, were: An Xbox game system, the Xbox games “Grand Theft Auto V” and “Metal Gear,” one LG television, a gold chain, an Aeropostale watch, three pairs of Jordan shoes, two pairs of Adidas shoes, a Nike backpack, four pairs of boxers, eight-and-a-half pairs of socks, three coats, three dollar bills, a Ragin’ Cajuns hat, a ski cap, one pair of jeans, one belt, a training speed ladder, a toenail clipper and one bottle of hair lotion.
The items have a reported value of $2,400 and have been recovered, according to ULPD. But according to Bae-Cross, the possessions haven’t been returned to Williams because they’re still in custody as evidence.
The alleged theft occurred April 5, the same day Williams — kicked off the team by coach Mark Hudspeth in late March — was arrested in the second-degree rape case.
The alleged rape, according to a ULPD initial arrest report, occurred March 16 and was reported 11 days later.
Bae-Cross said Williams was in jail at the time of the alleged burglary, and that while he was still behind bars he spoke to his roommate by telephone and was told, “‘Man, they done came in here and ransacked all your s—.’
But, she said, “I’m the one who reported it.”
That roommate, according Bae-Cross, is Denarius Howard, a backup safety on the UL football team and one of the 13 players charged with a conspiracy felony.
Also charged with a felony in the matter: Robert Hunt, D’Aquin Withrow, Matthew Barnes, Trey Ragas, Jordan Wright, Joe Dillon, Jarvis Jeffries, LaDarrius Kidd, Terik Miller, Damar’ren Mitchell, Levarious Varnado and Simeon Thomas.
Howard also is from Greenwood, Mississippi, a small town located about 100 miles north of Jackson.
He and Williams attended different high schools, however.
Bae-Cross said she reported the theft because Howard had not.
Asked why she thought Williams’ belongings allegedly were stolen, and if it had anything to do with former teammates being mad at him because of the rape allegation, Bae-Cross said, “I’m thinking jealousy’s got a whole lot to do with this. Jealousy.”
According to Bae-Cross, Howard also had been socially involved with the alleged victim in Williams’ second-degree rape case.
A request for an interview with or comment from Howard was made through UL’s sports information department.
A UL spokesman said Howard was aware of the request, but that he and the others charged “were advised from the beginning not to discuss anything about this.”
Bae-Cross also was asked if she thought the ex-teammates who took the game system, TV, shoes, jewelry and other items from her son’s room might have done so as a prank.
“A prank?” Bae-Cross said. “Really?”
She laughed, but not in an amused manner.
“Yeah,” Bae-Cross, “they’re just saying ‘a prank’ because they think he’s gonna drop the charges. But he (Williams) is not dropping no charges. At all.”
UL police also have indicated they do not think the theft was a prank.
As for the rape charge her son is facing, Bae-Cross said, “I know he didn’t do that. … He’s better than that.”
Williams came to UL in 2016, after playing one season at Central Arkansas and one at Itawamba (Mississippi) Community College.
The reserve defensive back appeared in six games, including one start at cornerback, for the Cajuns last season.
According to his Facebook page, and as confirmed by Bae-Cross, Williams is the father of two young boys and also recently was engaged.
After Bae-Cross used what she said was “the little money that I did have” to get her son released from jail, he was not allowed back on UL’s campus to finish the semester.
She is hopeful that the second-degree rape charge against Williams will be dropped, and that he can complete his education.
“With my son’s situation, I want him to be able to go back to another college,” Bae-Cross said. “I want this stuff to go away all forgotten, because I know it’s not true.”
As for the alleged theft, she wants justice — and suggested Williams wants the same.
“They ended up messing with his stuff from the get-go,” Bae-Cross said. “They violated his privacy.… Everybody who came in his room had his stuff.”
Some ex-teammates took certain items and some took others, according to Bae-Cross.
“He’s not dropping no charges,” she said. “They can forget about that.”
For now, then, both cases weigh heavily on many.
While Williams has declined multiple interview requests, Bae-Cross made it quite clear how her son feels about it all.
“He’s heartbroken,” she said.