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Friends, family, authorities try to make sense of the slaying of SC transgender teen | News | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing


At the same time, deputies continue their investigation of the suspected crime scene at a house outside Monroe, N.C., where the two individuals charged in his homicide lived.



Investigators for the Union County (N.C.) Sheriff’s Office returned to the Monroe home of Joshua Newton on July 12, 2023. He was charged with murder in the death of teen Jacob Williamson, who lived in Laurens, S.C.  Lamaur Stancil/Staff



On a recent afternoon, traffic is slow a few miles north of town at the Waffle House off Interstate 385 where Williamson worked for the last few weeks of his life.

Williamson identified as transgender and had been transitioning from female to male. His birthname was Makennah and his friends also knew him by other names, including Kierstyn and Payge. But he had settled on Jacob.

“He wanted to be called Jacob,” Williamson’s former co-worker Rachel Webb said. “That’s what I’m going to respect.”

In the days since Williamson’s death, which has made headlines statewide and nationally, phone calls and visits to the restaurant from reporters have begun slowing down, said Webb, who has worked at the restaurant for 18 years. 

Some 8,000 people call Laurens home. Located midway between Columbia and Spartanburg off Interstate 26, green farmland sprawls for miles around the tight-knit town. 

While it is a small town, it’s home to a close LGBTQ community, which made him feel loved and accepted, said Webb, who is a lesbian. But Webb and others told The Post and Courier that members of Williamson’s family had rejected him for his gender identity.

“He was put out of his family home due to coming out,” Webb said. “There’s a lot of history that seemed to be there, and that’s only because he was outspoken about it.” 

Williamson, who graduated from high school in June, had been working at Waffle House for several weeks.

The teen had been living for the last month with a family friend, Promise Edwards, who took him in after his parents rejected him, deputies investigating his death said.

“This world was so cruel to Jacob his entire life,” Edwards said. “I find peace in knowing that in the last month and a half he found peace.”


Killing of SC transgender teen in NC leaves family searching for answers

Following Williamson’s death, Edwards shared hashtags #JusticeforJacob and #MakennahMattered on social media. She organized a candlelight vigil in his memory on July 7.

While Williamson and his mother Brittney Shealy were estranged, she’s broken up over the loss. 

“She should be here. She should be at work. She should be living her best life, and she’s not,” Shealy said through tears. “It’s just not right.”

The criminal investigation

Investigators with the Union County Sheriff’s Office in Monroe said they were contacted in early July by people in Laurens who were concerned about Williamson and thought he might be in their area. 



Jacob Williamson, Laurens, S.C.

Authorities in Union County, North Carolina found the body of 18-year-old Jacob Williamson of Laurens on July 5, 2023, days after the teen was reported missing following a planned meet-up with a stranger he’d met online.  Provided




Williamson had been chatting online with Joshua Newton, a 25-year-old resident of Monroe. On June 30, Newton picked up Williamson from Waffle House, apparently to go on a date together to Carrowinds.

After investigators began to suspect foul play, a social media post was created seeking help from anyone who might have seen Williamson. 

According to the post, Williamson was 5-ft-3-inches tall, with green eyes and light-brown hair with a lavender tint. He wore blue-frame glasses and had pierced ears and a scar on is upper left arm. He was last seen wearing gray sweat pants, a black shirt and New Balance shoes. Anyone with information was urged to contact the Union County Sheriff’s Office.

After searching for Williamson for several days, deputies found his remains by a roadside in rural Chesterfield County, about 10 miles away from Newton’s home. 

Mangum School Road in Union County, N.C., becomes S.C. State Road 207 as it crosses the state line near Pageland. It’s a rural two-lane road with large-acre properties and no traffic signals.

It’s unclear how long Williamson’s body had been there before it was found.



Jacob Williamson crime scene 3

Investigators for the Union County (N.C.) Sheriff’s Office said South Carolina teen Jacob Williamson, who lived in Laurens, S.C., was killed in Monroe, N.C., and his body was dumped on Mangum School Road in Chesterfield County, S.C. Lamaur Stancil/Staff 



Detectives have indicated they believe Williamson was killed by Newton at his home and then Newton and his girlfriend, Victoria Smith, transported him to site his body was found. Newton has been charged with first degree murder and obstruction of justice. Smith, 22, is charged as an accessory after the fact and obstruction of justice. They remain jailed in Monroe, Newton without bond and Smith with bond set at $3 million.

Deputies have been tightlipped about the possible motive for the killing, though they have stressed they don’t see it as a hate crime. They have described Newton’s actions as those of an “online predator.”

Nearly two weeks later, investigators from the Union County Sheriff’s Office could be seen returning to the Bethpage Road home and collecting additional evidence. Sheriff’s officials wearing T-shirts that read “crime scene” walked back and forth from their marked vehicle, with much of their attention focusing on a white trailer on the property. The investigators carried a few clear plastic bags from the property to their vehicle. 



Jacob Williamson crime scene 4

Investigators for the Union County (N.C.) Sheriff’s Office returned to the Monroe home of Joshua Newton on July 12, 2023. He was charged with murder in the death of teen Jacob Williamson, who lived in Laurens, S.C. Lamaur Stancil/Staff



Detectives at the scene would not comment on why the were back on the scene or what they were looking for. 

Unanswered questions

Back in Laurens, Webb said she is inclined to believe reports from North Carolina investigators who said they don’t have any evidence to suggest what happened to Williamson was an anti-transgender hate crime. She sees Williamson’s killers as the problem. 

Investigators have indicated they still aren’t sure about the nature of the relationship between Newton and Williamson. They also haven’t revealed how Williamson was killed or to what degree the crime was planned from the start, if at all. 

Williamson, Webb said, was a normal 18-year-old who explored dating relationships on the wrong app at the wrong time.

“There’s going to be another 18-year-old somewhere who comes from a traumatic past, and they’re going to be removed from their home because of their identification and there’s going to be another online predator waiting to prey,” Webb said.


SC House passes hate crimes bill again, leaving focus now on Senate

In 2022, at least 38 transgender individuals across the United States were shot or killed, and 50 were killed in 2021, according to reports from the Human Rights Campaign, which released a post about Williamson on July 11. 





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