Ryan Rogers murder investigation: What we know about suspect Semmie Lee Williams

·4 min read

In a press conference Thursday, Palm Beach Police announced the arrest of the man they say is responsible for the death of 14-year-old Ryan Rogers of Alton.

Police say 39-year-old Semmie Lee Williams was taken into custody on Wednesday night from Miami in connection to the killing. He has been charged with first-degree murder with a weapon, Palm Beach Gardens Police Chief Clint Shannon announced in a news conference Thursday morning.

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Who is Semmie Lee Williams, suspect in Ryan Rogers case?

Shannon called Williams, 39, a "homeless drifter," adding the homicide was a "random act." He calls this an "innocent child victim having a chance encounter with a very violent criminal."

Palm Beach Gardens police are not looking for any other people connected with the death.

Shannon said police believe Williams stabbed Rogers to death near where his body was found on Central Boulevard on the south side of the Interstate 95 overpass.

Is Semmie Lee Williams out on bail?

Circuit Judge Charles Burton denied bail for Williams during a brief hearing Thursday morning at the Palm Beach County Jail. The hearing was done via video call from Williams' jail cell.

The Palm Beach County Public Defender's Office is representing Williams, and his attorney Thursday advised him not to speak in front of the court. Williams was kept in cell for medical reasons.

Williams has no known ties to the Palm Beach Gardens area, Shannon said.

Why was Semmie Lee Williams in Palm Beach?

Investigators said Williams spends most of his time on the streets of Miami and think he used several types of transportation to reach Palm Beach Gardens.

"It's a mystery to us why this man was in our community," Shannon said.

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How was Semmie Lee Williams caught?

Shannon would not characterize what role DNA evidence played in the arrest of Williams. The Miami Herald said Thursday that police identified Williams by DNA found at the scene.

The Herald also said a collection of videos on Williams' YouTube channel also helped them link him to Rogers' death.

Shannon would not comment on the use of social media, but said Williams was placed at the scene by evidence. He did not say what kind of confrontation led to Rogers' death, except to call it a "chance encounter."

When was Ryan Rogers reported missing?

The Dwyer High School student was first reported missing on Nov. 15. A news release that day said he was last seen around 6:30 p.m. leaving his home on his bicycle.

Around 9 a.m. the next morning, Ryan's body and his bike were located near the Central Boulevard sidewalk at the Interstate 95 overpass. Ryan was later identified and pronounced dead at the scene.

Ryan Rogers, 14, was found dead Tuesday, Nov. 16 in Palm Beach Gardens. He was last seen leaving his home in Alton Monday evening.
Ryan Rogers, 14, was found dead Tuesday, Nov. 16 in Palm Beach Gardens. He was last seen leaving his home in Alton Monday evening.

On Nov. 20, just a few days after Ryan's body was found, police declared his death a homicide. It was not until today's news conference that police confirmed how Rogers was killed.

"We can say with almost absolute certainty that this was not a hit-and-run incident," Palm Beach Gardens Police Maj. Paul Rogers – no relation to Ryan Rogers – said that day.

At the time they announced Rogers' death as a homicide, police said they were waiting for the results of his autopsy by the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner.

Ryan Rogers body and his bicycle were found near the Central Boulevard sidewalk at the Interstate 95 overpass in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on November 16, 2021. The 14-year-old boy had been missing since Monday night.
Ryan Rogers body and his bicycle were found near the Central Boulevard sidewalk at the Interstate 95 overpass in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on November 16, 2021. The 14-year-old boy had been missing since Monday night.

A sad farewell for Ryan Rogers

On Nov. 23, family and friends said goodbye to Ryan in a soccer-themed Celebration of Life Memorial Gathering at the Howard Quattlebaum Funeral Cremation and Event Center in North Palm Beach.

Ryan was known to have played soccer. After his body was found, friends and neighbors organized fundraising efforts to help the family with expenses for his funeral. A meal train was also organized by the Palm Beach Gardens Youth Athletic Association, where he had played soccer.

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Protecting the Palm Beach community

The killing of Ryan spurred concern over public safety in the north end of Palm Beach Gardens, which is filled with residential neighborhoods. Police have said that they have increased their presence in the area since Rogers' body was found.

"We want to be clear that we sympathize with our community’s concerns about the safety of our children, and our officers have increased patrols in the community," the department said in its news release.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Ryan Rogers case: Semmie Lee Williams of Miami arrested. What we know

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