Phoenix man accused of murder in roommate’s death, victim set on fire

Ishmael Williams
Ishmael Williams(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 2:27 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - A fight between roommates at a west Phoenix apartment ended with one man dead and the other facing charges of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence. It happened Saturday afternoon near 51st Avenue and Encanto Boulevard.

According to court documents, firefighters found the victim face down on the floor of one of the bedrooms, along with a burned mattress and a red gas can. When firefighters moved the victim from the bedroom to the living room, they discovered a deep cut on his neck. Police also said it looked like the victim had been set on fire. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The victim’s roommate, 32-year-old Ishmael Williams, said the two men were the only ones home at the time, and he denied hurting the man.

Police say Williams and his roommate had been talking about how dirty the victim left the apartment and whether he would be able to pay his share of the rent. Court documents say Williams told investigators that the victim went into his room and shut the door. He went on to say that he tried to get into the room after hearing a loud noise. Williams said the door was locked and he had to force his way in.

“As the door was opened, Ishmael stated the victim was standing inside the room engulfed in flames,” according to court documents. Police say Williams told them he went to get help and then got a bucket of water from the kitchen to pour on the burning man. Williams said that when he went into the bedroom, his roommate was face down on the floor, which is how firefighters found him.

Williams told detectives he did not touch the victim, but according to police, there was blood on his hands, legs, feet, and shorts. Police also said there was a “large butcher knife ... with what appeared to be blood on the blade” on the floor of the victim’s room. Although he repeatedly told police he did not hurt his roommate, Williams confirmed that the gas can found in the room belonged to him.

“Ishmael continuously claimed he was innocent, telling investigators he did not use a knife to hurt his roommate, nor did he use gasoline to cover up a crime,” public court documents say. It’s not clear how long the men had been roommates or what their history was.

Williams was being held on a secured appearance bond of $1 million. His preliminary hearing is set for next week.