FBI: Prison escapee charged with child rape spotted in Sylva, Jackson County

A man charged in Tennessee with child rape among other crimes and who escaped a prison transport van nearly a month ago, was spotted Nov. 17 in Jackson County, according to the FBI.

The FBI said Sean Christopher Williams, 51, who has ties to Western North Carolina, was spotted in Sylva Nov. 17 around 11:30 a.m., the FBI said in a release Nov. 17.

According to the FBI, eyewitness saw Williams in the Jackson Plaza shopping area in Sylva.

Williams was scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Greeneville, Tennessee, on Oct. 18, for a hearing and was placed in a transport vehicle by a detention officer in Laurel County, Kentucky, as reported by the Knoxville News Sentinel.

More: Former WNC man charged with child rape escaped prison transport van, still on the run


When the transport van arrived at the Greeneville courthouse around 8:30 a.m. Oct. 18, the detention deputy discovered the back window of the van had been kicked out, court records say.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office is assisting the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in searching for Williams.

"He is familiar with the area and should be considered dangerous," the FBI said in the release. "Law enforcement is asking the community of Sylva to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. If possible and you can do so in a safe manner, homeowners should secure their outbuildings and other property."

Property records also indicate that Williams ― who is currently on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted list ― has ties to North Carolina with previous residences in Cullowhee and Burlington.

Sean Williams TBI photo
Sean Williams TBI photo

The list says Williams is wanted “for two counts of rape of a child, sixteen counts of esp. aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and three counts of aggravated sexual battery (under 13).”

Williams was federally indicted on Sept. 12 for “producing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Tennessee. Prior to his escape, a trial was set for Jan. 23, 2024, according to the release.

He’s also been at the center of two lawsuits that allege the Johnson City police knowingly failed to investigate multiple complaints from alleged sexual assault victims. Williams is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting more than 50 women, according to reporting from The Tennessean.

The FBI said to call 1-828-631-HELP if Williams is spotted.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: FBI: Man with WNC ties who escaped prison spotted in Jackson County