Chicago man charged with murder in 1982 disappearance of 9-month-old daughter

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Denise Frazier-Daniel never got to celebrate her daughter’s first birthday, but she has never given up on finding her.

Olisa Williams was just 9 months old when she disappeared April 29, 1982, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, with a man described as her legal father. Isiah Verna Williams allegedly wrenched the baby from her mother’s arms during a fight.

It was the last time Frazier-Daniel saw Olisa, who is presumed dead by authorities.

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On Thursday, more than 39 years after the infant was taken, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced an open murder charge against Williams, 74, of Chicago. He remained in the Cook County Jail on Wednesday pending extradition to Michigan to face the charges.

Nessel explained in a statement that her office received a request earlier this year from Ann Arbor police, who sought a review of their investigation into Olisa’s disappearance. At the time of the alleged crime, Williams and Frazier-Daniel were living in Cincinnati but had family and friends in Michigan.

The couple also had a long history of domestic violence, well-documented by police in both states.

Frazier-Daniel told MLive in 2017 that she and her ex-husband were going through a separation when he forced his way into her Ann Arbor home, beat her and took the baby. According to the Detroit Free Press, Olisa had Williams’ last name but was not his biological child.

A court demanded that he return the girl to her mother, the newspaper reported. Instead, Williams allegedly left another ex-wife’s home with the baby early July 10, 1982, and returned without her.

Williams loaded the baby’s belongings into his car and she was not seen alive again, authorities said. Frazier-Daniel has said in interviews that Williams told her he’d killed the girl.

In other instances, including in court, he has said that a 1994 car crash erased his memory of the time frame in which Olisa disappeared, the Free Press reported.

‘He claimed that he loved me’

Frazier-Daniel and Williams met when he lived next door to her family in Ann Arbor, MLive reported. The pair married in January 1979.

“I was in love,” Frazier-Daniel told the news site in 2017. “He claimed that he loved me. In the beginning, he was attentive and loving. I just couldn’t believe it.”

It was indeed too good to be true. While the couple was still dating, the violence began with a slap.

Less than a month after their wedding, Williams beat Frazier-Daniel with a rifle, according to Ann Arbor police officials.

Like many battered women, Frazier-Daniel would leave and start to get back on her feet and then Williams would return and talk her into letting him back into her life, she told MLive.

“He’s very good at sweet-talking,” she said. “I guess love can be blind.”

Frazier-Daniel was not the only woman who fell for Williams’ sweet words. In later years, Williams would serve 10 years in prison for beating another ex-wife with an 8-foot board, MLive reported.

Olisa was conceived in a relationship Frazier-Daniel began while Williams was serving one of his stints in prison. Their relationship resumed when he was released, but it grew even more tense after Williams learned she was pregnant with another man’s child, Frazier-Daniel said.

She left again to have Olisa in Ann Arbor, with her family. After the baby was born, she returned to Williams in Cincinnati, where they’d been living.

The cycle continued until the night Williams took Olisa, MLive reported.

Frazier-Daniel was staying with a friend when her estranged husband showed up.

“He hit me in the face and I fall back, and that’s when he grabs her and Olisa’s crying,” Frazier-Daniel said.

Williams took the girl and fled. Frazier-Daniel called police, but at the time of the abduction, it was considered a custody issue.

Williams’ brother later told police he saw Olisa with Williams at a July 4 family reunion in Inkster, about 30 miles east of Ann Arbor. She was in good health at that time, as she was a few days later when Williams brought the girl to his other ex-wife’s home.

On July 9, Williams was served with court papers demanding he produce Olisa in court and answer for his violation of a restraining order. The next day, the baby was gone, according to the ex-wife.

According to MLive, Williams told a judge in February 1983 that he’d reveal where Olisa was if his restraining order violation was dropped. The judge refused.

Williams then said he’d been drinking and smoking marijuana as he drove with the baby to Island Park, a 35-acre recreational space in the middle of the Huron River in Ann Arbor. He allegedly said he’d fallen asleep and found Olisa gone when he awoke.

He said he assumed Frazier-Daniel or a relative had come and taken the baby.

Frazier-Daniel’s attorney reported Olisa missing after that court appearance, and investigators have been chasing leads on the baby’s whereabouts since. Prosecutors have been unable to authorize charges against him in her disappearance until last week.

Both MLive and the Free Press reported that an abandonment charge against Williams was denied in 1983 and a homicide charge was denied in 2015. It was unclear if Williams was the named suspect in the murder charge.

Last week’s murder charge materialized through continued efforts of Ann Arbor homicide investigators, aided by Nessel’s office. A grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women helped fund the investigation, Nessel said.

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The Free Press reported that the attorney general expressed confidence in a successful prosecution, despite the fact that Olisa’s body has never been found.

“While I think that some view that as a barrier to prosecution, it certainly is not a reason not to charge a case if you have compelling evidence to make the determination that an individual is responsible for another person’s death, irrespective of whether or not you’re able to recover the body of the deceased,” Nessel said.

She declined to discuss evidence against Williams but credited investigators and Frazier-Daniel for never giving up, the newspaper reported.

“Ms. Frazier-Daniel has spent decades in the pursuit of justice for her child, and I hope today’s announcement is a small measure of comfort for her,” Nessel said. “A mother should never suffer the loss of her child, especially at the hands of her abuser.”

Williams is fighting his extradition, the Free Press reported. He is next due in an Illinois courtroom on Nov. 12.