Newspaper ad source for gun used by Florida man to kill his estranged wife
Classified ads allow felons to buy guns with no background check
Mark Williams of Bradenton, Florida was involved in a contentious divorce and child custody dispute. A custody hearing was scheduled for April 28, 2003 and a divorce hearing on May 2. But neither hearing would be held.
On the morning of April 27, one day before the scheduled custody hearing, Williams bought a CZ-52 – 7.62x25mm Tokarev semiautomatic handgun from an unlicensed seller through a classified ad in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Later on the same day that he bought the gun, he shot and killed his estranged wife, Raquel Soliz-Williams, in front of her nine-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.
Williams was a convicted felon and domestic abuser. In 1987 he served 6 months in prison of an 18-month sentence for aggravated battery (stalking another woman). In 1994 he was convicted of engaging in organized crime in Texas and was sentenced to 5 years probation. Four months before the shooting, a judge issued a restraining order against Williams requested by his wife. Five weeks later, she asked the judge to vacate the order to make the situation less contentious. At the time of the shooting, Williams was also subject to a court restraining order secured by his first wife, Estella Martinez, who now lives in Illinois
As a convicted felon and a person subject to a court restraining order for domestic violence, Williams was a prohibited purchaser. As such, he could not buy a gun from a licensed firearms dealer because he could not pass a criminal background check mandated by the Brady Law on all gun store sales. However, a loophole in the federal law allows unlicensed individuals to sell firearms from their “personal collection” without conducting a criminal background check on the buyer. Williams evidently knew that he could avoid undergoing a criminal background check by buying from an unlicensed seller in a private transaction – in this case by exploiting the “newspaper loophole”.
Williams was charged with first-degree capital murder. In November 2004, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and aggravated assault and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.