A homeless man was tortured for three days, beaten to death and dumped in a pond in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Police are now searching for suspects in this horrifying case that showcases just how bad the problem of homelessness brought on by skyrocketing housing costs has become.
San Francisco has seen an uptick in new condo buildings, innovative dining and astounding home prices due to the rise in high-paying, technology-based jobs. But with all these come the issue of homelessness, as complaints regarding the strong visibility of people living on the streets accompany the influx of rich people moving in.
A founder of a technology startup wrote an open letter to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee earlier this year, saying he “shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people” on his way to work daily.
Stephen Williams, 66, was brutally beaten over three days by two transients, who then dumped his body into Alvord Lake near Haight Street, which has become a popular hangout for young transients. The victim had no known connections to his attackers and the motive for his death is under investigation.
The attack began when Nikki Lee Williams, 36 and called “Evil,” forced Williams into a pond with the help of other people, hitting the man repeatedly on the head while holding him underwater. The next day, Stephen Billingsley, 19 and known as “Pizza Steve,” struck and stomped on Williams over and over again until the man lost consciousness. The day after, Williams, Billingsley and others assaulted the man again, leaving him unconscious. Billingsley then dragged the man to the pond, where a park gardener found his body several hours later, according to court records.
Police officer Carlos Manfredi said all the suspects live in the same area ad visit the same places. They are still looking for other suspects. Billingsley is charged with murder, torture, conspiracy, elder abuse and assault. Nikki Williams is charged with conspiracy, assault, elder abuse and false imprisonment. Both suspects have pleaded not guilty and are in jail, with bail set at $1 million each.
Manfredi said both suspects were “transients without longstanding ties” to San Francisco and had no prior records in the city, according to Fox News.
Three young transients were also arrested last year in the killings of a yoga instructor and a Canadian backpacker, whose body was also recovered in Golden Gate Park, prompting the local government to clear out several sidewalk encampments. Officials cited public health and safety in the clearance, and are debating the next step in housing people with no permanent places to live.
Homelessness is not just limited to San Francisco; other expensive cities like Seattle and Los Angeles have the same problem, and have seen an increase in violence related towards the homeless population. In Seattle, three homeless boys were arrested in February over the deaths of two people at another encampment.
Both Seattle and Los Angeles have pledged millions of dollars towards addressing their homeless crises in the form of housing and social services.