The Clark County coroner’s office doesn’t know how Antwan Williams died before his body was found in a central valley apartment in May, but Las Vegas homicide detectives are trying to figure out what happened to the 34-year-old.
Williams, a Las Vegas man described by his sister as the “life of the party,” was found dead during a welfare check the morning of May 6 at an apartment complex in the 2200 block of Bonanza Road, near Rancho Drive, the Metropolitan Police Department has said.
Almost two months later, the coroner’s office ruled both his cause and manner of death “undetermined.”
The ruling is a rare one for the office, Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg said Wednesday.
Fudenberg said that unless a doctor feels confident enough to testify in court on evidence showing how someone died, the office will list the person’s cause of death as undetermined. That often leads to an undetermined manner of death.
“Undetermined” is one of five categories the office uses for manners of death. The others are homicide, suicide, natural and accidental.
No matter how suspicious a death looks, Fudenberg said, the office must rely on evidence that can be proven.
“There’s cases where we really would like to rule a homicide,” he said. “We don’t get to go by what we believe in our heart. We have to go by what we have scientific evidence of.”
Fudenberg declined to discuss the specifics of Williams’ death, saying the autopsy report was not public information. But he said doctors could rule the cause and manner of death “undetermined” if a body is decomposed.
“If they’re decomposed to the point where we don’t have any evidence of how they died, we can’t call something like that a homicide,” Fudenberg said.
Metro homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said Monday that homicide detectives were still looking into Williams’ death, despite the coroner’s ruling.
Williams’ sister, Shontelle Baker, said in a May interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal that her brother loved music, singing, dancing and being a part of the LGBT community in Las Vegas. Williams was “flamboyant,” Baker said with a laugh, frequenting LGBT bars and The Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada after the two moved to Las Vegas from California in 2010.
Baker recently moved away from Las Vegas, but she said her brother was in a long-term relationship with another man and stayed in town.
That man, Benito Smith, was arrested on suspicion of domestic battery with a deadly weapon in December 2016 and pleaded guilty that same month to a charge of battery with substantial bodily harm, District Court records show.
The victim in that case was Williams, according to court records and Williams’ sister.
Records show that Smith, 52, received a prison sentence of one to three years. It is unclear when he was released.
Attempts to contact Smith on Wednesday for comment on this story were unsuccessful.
After she learned of the coroner’s ruling on June 27, Baker said she still believed Williams was killed. She said Williams’ body was in his apartment for days before police were called, and that she had requested a welfare check for her brother in late April.
“By the time they got him, they told me he had rigor mortis,” she said. “He had it so bad they couldn’t get the ring off his hand.”