One of the three women shot to death Sept. 10 in a house on Progress Street had called police at least three times to report incidents of her accused killer threatening her, beating her and kidnapping her toddler, police documents show.
Clarissa Cobbing, 19, first reported problems with her ex-boyfriend, Courtney Williams, 21, on Aug. 23. Those problems continued until Sept. 5, five days before Williams allegedly shot and killed her, police reports show.
Williams was not arrested in any of the incidents leading up to the slayings because police could not find him, said Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, a police spokesman.
One incident — in which she reported Williams kidnapped her 2-year-old daughter, threatened to kill Cobbing and tried to burn down the house where she was living — was not assigned to a detective for a follow-up investigation until Sept. 12 — two days after she was killed, police reports show.
Williams is accused in the Sept. 10 slayings of Cobbing, Josephine Lathers, 76, and her granddaughter, Britney Lee, 18, at 1056 Progress St., police have said.
Eric Dozier, 20, was wounded and taken to a hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries.
Williams, 3119 Midway St., surrendered to police Sept. 11 and was booked into Parish Prison on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.
The Advocate requested the police reports Sept. 12 and received the documents Friday.
The first incident reported to police occurred Aug. 23 when Williams allegedly walked into Cobbing’s home at 1520 Utah St., and punched her in the face as she sat in the living room with family members, according to a police report.
Williams then took Cobbing’s phone and ran from the home, the report says.
The responding officer, Cpl. Jeremy Bourgeois, filed a report, which was forwarded to the Baton Rouge Police Department’s burglary division, the report says.
Det. Matt Johnson went to Cobbing’s home twice the following day, but Cobbing was not home, the report says.
Johnson spoke with Cobbing’s mother, whose name was not provided to The Advocate, and she told the officer she did not witness the attack, but knew Williams was the person who did it, the report says.
The mother told Johnson the family did not have a phone, but had access to one, the report says. Johnson left his number with the mother, asking her to have Cobbing call him so he could proceed with the case, the report says.
Johnson had not yet heard from Cobbing when he filed his report Sept. 1, the report says.
But before Sept. 1 ended, officers responded to another complaint by Cobbing against Williams.
Cobbing, who was now staying with Lathers and Lee at their Progress Street home, told the responding officer, Cpl. Nicholas Varnado, that Williams had taken her 2-year-old daughter from the home, the report says.
Williams, who is not related to the child, went to the home when Cobbing was not there, and the child was being watched by a babysitter, according to the report.
The babysitter, who is not identified in the report, and the toddler were on the porch when Williams arrived, the report says.
The babysitter went inside the house to get shorts for the tot, and when the babysitter returned, Williams was driving away with the child, the report says.
A short while later, Williams returned, put the child out of the car two houses away and drove away, the report says.
Varnado responded at 2:25 a.m. and searched for Williams in the nearby area before going to Williams’ home at 3119 Midway Ave., the report says.
Varnado spoke with Williams’ grandmother, who said Williams took her car without permission but had recently returned it before running away, the report says.
After leaving the house, Varnado continued to search for Williams but could not find him, the report says.
While Varnado was searching, Williams returned to the Progress Street home at 3:24 a.m. and threatened to kill Cobbing, according to Varnado’s report.
Williams fled before police arrived, and again, could not be found, the report says.
Officers received a third call to Progress Street at 4:25 a.m. after Williams was seen pouring gasoline on the house and threatening to burn it down, the report says.
Several officers again searched for Williams in the area, but they could not find him, the report says.
The attempted arson was investigated by Baton Rouge Fire Department investigators.
No further action was taken that night, the report says.
A detective was assigned to do a follow-up investigation on the incident on Sept. 12 — 11 days later and two days after Cobbing, Lathers and Lee were shot and killed, according to the reports.
Police spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely said it can take days after the initial police report is forwarded to a division before a detective begins an investigation.
“There is a process in which it takes a little while for the detectives to get to it,” McKneely said. “They’re bombarded with cases.”
On Sept. 5, Williams again kidnapped Cobbing’s daughter, this time from a relative’s birthday party on Lorraine Street, according to a police report.
Williams went to the party when Cobbing was not there and was seen walking away with the toddler at about 7 p.m., the report says.
Cobbing met responding officer Brandon Hollis at the Lorraine Street house and told him she had ended the relationship with Williams about a month earlier, the report says.
Cobbing said Williams “wouldn’t accept the breakup,” the report says.
Hollis and several officers searched through the night for Williams.
At about 1 a.m., Cobbing told Hollis that Williams had agreed to meet her and give her back the child.
With police cars staged nearby, Williams brought the toddler to the arranged meeting place, but he became angry when he saw that Cobbing brought a cousin with her, the report says.
Instead of returning the child, Williams fled with the tot, the report says.
Officer Hollis then told Cobbing to go to the police station to fill out a missing persons form, which she did, the report says.
At 6 the next morning, Sgt. Brenda Gann took over the investigation, a police report says.
Gann met with Cobbing, who said Williams had threatened to kill the child and flee to Texas because she had involved the police, the report says.
While Gann was beginning to issue an Amber Alert, Williams’ brother was able to get the child from Williams, the report says.
The brother met detectives at the entrance of an apartment complex where he gave them the child, the report says.
Detectives returned the child to Cobbing, the reports says.
Gann learned of the previous incidents involving Cobbing and Williams, and provided all of the police reports to Det. Belford Johnson of the Victim’s Crime Unit.
Belford filed an arrest warrant for Williams for simple kidnapping on Sept. 7.
McKneely said officers began actively searching for Williams, checking known addresses and notifying his family that there was a warrant against him.
“Locating him was the problem,” McKneely said. “Officers were aware of all the incidents and were all over the place trying to find him.”
Williams was able to elude capture and allegedly killed the three women on Sept. 10.
Martha Forbes, executive director of the Capital Area Violence Intervention Center, said her agency is actively working with law enforcement to improve how domestic violence cases are handled.
“Chief (Dewayne) White is working very closely with us on that,” Forbes said. “Domestic violence is a very complex issue, and law enforcement has a tough job. But we had a meeting with the chief to work on truly developing a safety net for victims of domestic violence.”
Forbes said a coordinated community response team is needed to assess the current system and policies and identify the shortcomings in handling domestic violence cases.
Forbes said she would also like to see a streamlined process that allows for quicker arrests if a suspect has a history of violence against a victim — as was the case with Williams.
“We’re very sad for the family,” Forbes said. “We want these murders to stop.”