| Crime |

Berry Williams Convicted of Murder in Crash that Killed Abel Abebe, Ethiopian Immigrant College Student

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A beer-theft suspect whose attempted escape from police last year resulted in a crash that killed a pharmacy student will spend at least 25 years in prison.

Berry Williams, 49, stole several 30-packs of beer from a west-side Circle K back on February 1, 2010, then sped from police who tried to catch him and a women passenger.

Cops backed off from the pursuit when Williams' driving became too reckless; a photo enforcement camera clocked his speed through one intersection at 112 mph. This maniacal motorist then flew through a red light at 19th Avenue and Baseline Road, striking a car being driven by a 27-year-old Ethiopian immigrant who was studying pharmacy at Arizona State University, Abel Abebe.

Though it was 12:30 a.m., the young man was on his way to work. He typically worked the graveyard shift for business that helped people with developmental disabilities, then went to his college classes in the morning.

Abebe died of his injuries.

Last week, a jury found Williams, who was legally drunk at the time of the collision, guilty of first and second-degree murder, unlawful flight from law enforcement, endangerment and shoplifting.

The conviction prompted statements today from both Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Joseph Yahner, the acting police chief for Phoenix.

"This suspect made choices that killed a man who was working and going to school to better his life," Yahner said in a written statement. "These crimes tear at the very heart of our community and cannot be tolerated."

A sentencing date hasn't yet been sent, but Williams is expected to receive a minimum of 25 years behind bars.

[Update: Williams was ultimately sentenced to life in prison.]

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