HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- When 14-year-old Dylan Williams shot and killed 13-year-old Lucia Bremer in March 2021, the community was left hurt, shocked, and confused. How could this have happened? Why did this happen?
Williams, now 16, pleaded guilty Monday, admitting to murdering Bremer and attempting to kill her friend as the girls walked home from the Godwin High School athletic fields in Henrico's West End.
But the answers to the questions of how and why are a bit more complicated.
Prosecutors said they believed Williams walked to the high school near his neighborhood that day with the intent to commit a school shooting.
"We believe this young man was interested in doing something violent," Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor said when asked about a motive in this murder.
Days prior to Bremer's murder, Williams commented on a Columbine High School-like video that he too intended to commit a school shooting.
"We did offer into evidence, the video that the defendant had posted prior to the homicide occurring," Taylor said. "And we did offer the evidence to the court that that was part motive for the events that happened on March 26, as well as helped identify Dylan Williams as the shooter in the murder of Lucia Bremer and the attempted murder of her friend."
Taylor previously disclosed that police did not discover Williams' March 18 comment until after Bremer's murder.
What remains unclear is how and why Williams chose his victims.
"While motive is not something that the government is necessarily mandated to prove, in every homicide the family and friends always want to know, why did something occur? Why did this happen to our loved one?" Taylor said. "The best evidence that we know, which is for whatever reason that day, we believe this young man was interested in doing something violent. And the course of coming out to the Godwin High School field area, with everything else that was going on, for whatever reason, we believed, [he] fixated on Lucia and her friend, which is then was then supported by the evidence of witnesses observing him following the two girls as they went from the high school back to the neighborhood, and ultimately back to the one home where the girls were confronted by the defendant and where the defendant actually killed Lucia."
Williams, who lived with a 52-year-old man, used the man's gun to kill Bremer, according to Henrico Police. That man was found not guilty of any crime in 2022 and contributing to the delinquency of a minor charge he faced was dismissed by the court.
Prior to the plea deal, Williams faced a life-in-prison sentence if found guilty of murder. As part of his plea deal, by pleading guilty, he will face a maximum of 60 years in prison when he's sentenced in April.
"Both families were involved with the conversations of the Commonwealth and understanding what the evidence was, what potential hurdles if any, would present themselves had a case gone to a jury trial and were involved in the discussions of how the Commonwealth believed was the best way to resolve this case, Taylor said. "I believe that both families were pleased with the outcome in the sense that the defendant did plead guilty to both matters involving both of the girls, and particularly the first-degree murder for Lucia."
"We believed that the 60-year cap was sufficient enough to be able to get the necessity of responsibility owed by the defendant, but also recognizing a number that was significant for loss of life," she continued. "There's never going to be enough time in the world to bring Lucia back to the family. There's never going to be enough time in the world for her friend who went through a very traumatizing experience to put into a number form. The families knew what we were dealing with and they agreed with that number as well."
Bremer's parents released the following statement about the plea deal:
Our daughter Lucia was killed on March 26, 2021. Today, the person charged with murdering her and the attempted murder of her friend entered a guilty plea as the result of an agreement carefully curated by the Henrico County Commonwealth Attorney's office.
The criminal and legal process started immediately after Lucia's murder, when neighbors and bystanders who witnessed the event volunteered critical information to the Henrico County police department.
This information, combined with tips from our neighbors and the strong investigative work of the homicide detectives, led to the identification and swift arrest of Lucia's murderer.
The progress toward justice continued with the careful collection of evidence and analysis by experts.
The solid case was then brought to the Commonwealth Attorney's office, who has since steadfastly worked to prosecute these crimes with their experience and with compassion toward our families.
To all of these civil servants and to our community, we offer our wholehearted gratitude.
We want our community to know that today's plea deal has our full endorsement.
While this process has been arduous, taking twists and turns and with delays that likely could have been avoided, it is the outcome that matters.
We had the satisfaction of watching Lucia's murderer admit his guilt, and that is not something we were ever assured of before today.
And still, this process continues.
We now turn our focus on the sentencing hearing, which will be the only time in the criminal proceeding during which we can convey all that was stolen from us: our beautiful daughter Lucia, her bright smile and funny spirit, her ability to make connections, and her future contributions to our community. It will also be an important time for the court to hear about the dangerous tendencies of her killer. We are hopeful that the court will carefully consider these factors and exact a thoughtful and lengthy sentence, a sentence that will confirm that Lucia's murderer will not ever again be a danger to the public.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Meredith and Jonathan Bremer
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