Family, friends of Rock Hill boy found dead at NC hotel still stunned

Herald columnistJune 10, 2013 

— The family of an 11-year-old Rock Hill boy – along with the Bethesda community and one of York County’s most close-knit churches – remained in shock Monday after the boy died and his mother was hospitalized while staying at a North Carolina hotel Saturday.

“A great, great kid,” said Jimmy Williams, grandfather of Jeffrey Lee Williams. “A beautiful boy.”

Many in the family, including Jeff Williams, the boy’s father, were at the hospital Monday in the mountain town of Boone. Jeannie Williams, 49, was upgraded Monday to stable condition, hospital officials said.

“She is progressing and hopefully will be progressing more,” Jimmy Williams said.

On Tuesday, the family issued a statement asking for privacy and time to mourn.

Health and police officials are investigating elevated levels of carbon monoxide – a lethal odorless and colorless gas – found in the room. The hotel was evacuated after Jeffrey was found dead and his mother was rushed to the hospital.

The family was in Boone last week visiting a teenaged daughter, Breanne, at a summer science camp.

The incident has “stunned” the family, Jimmy Williams said, and officials have few answers to the family’s questions about what killed Jeffrey and made Jeannie sick.

The family is hoping that Jeannie’s condition improves enough so she can come back to Rock Hill soon, Jimmy Williams said.

The Williams’ home church, Northside Baptist of Rock Hill, remains committed to helping the family.

This church knows what it is like when sudden death touches the congregation and others have to find a way to support the survivors. Church pianist Sharon Courtney lost her husband, Steve, when a tornado ripped through the area south of Rock Hill in November 2011.

The Williams family was a source of strength for the Courtneys in dealing with Steve’s death, Courtney said, as was the entire Northside family.

“I know the confusion and the difficulty, and all of us who know this wonderful family have them in our prayers,” she said. “This is a strong family in Christ. In these times we all have to help any way we can; I know people helped me.

“The Williams family was part of that help, and now it is my turn to help them. He was a lovely boy.”

Sunday services at Northside were dedicated to the Williams family, and more prayers and works will follow.

Church member Kelly Lovelace said the church will help the family any way it can, just as the Williams family has been there for others.

“This is a great family of wonderful people,” Lovelace said.

The church also will continue grieving with and for the family, said the Rev. Scott Davis, Northside’s senior pastor.

“Much like a biological family, a faith family is anguished when something happens to one of its members,” he said. “We are heartbroken for the Williams family in the midst of this tragedy. They are a much beloved and very active family within the life of our congregation, and our church is a better place because of their family’s happy-hearted service.

“Our greatest prayers are that God will grant them Gospel peace in the midst of their loss, strength for recovery and for the days ahead, and wisdom for the doctors and authorities as they go about their important work.”

The rural Bethesda community southwest of Rock Hill, where Jeff Williams runs a concrete contracting business, is a tight-knit place where neighbors know each other and help out.

The news that the Williams family lost a son under such mysterious circumstances, and is still at the hospital hoping for the recovery of his mother, has shocked people who have known the Williams family for decades.

“The family is always a big supporter of everything that we do,” said Bob Davenport, a magistrate judge who also is a longtime member at the Bethesda Volunteer Fire Department. “Jeff is as generous a man as anybody will find.”

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •  adys@heraldonline.com

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