Unfound: Family still hopes to find Aliquippa native missing since 2011
Kenneth Williams Jr. was clearly troubled on the day that he disappeared — troubled enough to seek out both his sister and his mother in the hours before he went missing on Saturday, May 14, 2011.
Williams, 29, an Aliquippa native who was living in Ambridge, went to see his sister, Aishia Fisher, late in the evening of May 13.
“I think he came because he was uneasy and needed some support,” said Fisher, 39, of Aliquippa. “It wasn’t just to drop by.”
Williams was agitated about an encounter he had with someone that evening, but he didn’t disclose many details to his sister – just that the person he went to see owed him something and was offended when he asked for it back.
“I think that encounter really stirred something within him that I’d never seen before. I believe that had 99 percent to do with his disappearance,” she said.
Fisher gave him a hot dog and got him to calm down before he left. By the time he got to his mother’s house in Monaca, he was agitated again, she said.
His mother was the last person to see him in the early hours of May 14. She declined to be interviewed.
Later that day, the car Williams had been driving, a black Ford 500 belonging to his cousin’s wife, was found on Statler Run Road near Daybrook, W.Va. – about 72 miles south of Pittsburgh.
The finding prompted a search that took 40 volunteers and dogs over acres of backcountry in a steep, wooded, rugged terrain. The last search, on May 21, 2011, involved a professional search-and-rescue team and helicopters from the W.Va. State Police.
“There was no trace of Kenny Williams and no trace of foul play,” said Capt. Tim Staub of the Beaver County Detective Bureau.
Staub, along with Ambridge police, was involved with the early part of the investigation. Williams’ car had already been searched by W.Va. State Police. By the time it was brought back to Beaver County, its value as a clue in Williams’ disappearance was practically nil, Staub said.
The FBI also assisted in the investigation but referred questions to Ambridge police or the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office.
“At this point, we don’t know. The leads have pretty much dried up on this,” Staub said, noting that the cold case is still open.
Williams, a former business major at Florida A&M and Robert Morris universities, did not leave a digital trail and was not seen at any of the area casinos he frequented, said Detective Timmie Patrick, who is still handling the case.
“He does like to gamble and visit the underground circuits. A lot of his dealings were playing poker in people’s houses,” Patrick said.
Fisher was unaware of her brother’s trips to West Virginia, but she knew of his penchant for gambling – so when she heard the news about the car, the first thing she thought was that he had been at one of the casinos in northern West Virginia.
“That’s not a part of his life that he shared with me,” she said.
In February 2017, Patrick got a tip that someone matching Williams’ description had tried to buy a bus ticket from Detroit to Pittsburgh. Patrick pursued the tip with assistance from the Port Authority of Allegheny County, trying to trace the transaction electronically.
“We didn’t see anybody get on the bus or getting off the bus fitting that description,” he said. “We definitely were on top of that.”
Fisher, administrator at Abundant Life Ministries of Aliquippa, believes her brother’s gambling associates had something to do with his disappearance.
“He was very intelligent and very good with numbers. The people that he hung around with, they had nothing else in common (other than gambling). He was hanging around with people that were using his mind to gamble,” she said.
Fisher said her brother had changed in the years prior to his disappearance. He had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, for which he had been taking medication, and experienced bouts of paranoia.
“A lot of his paranoid episodes, he would just stay in his room and blast music to block out whatever his thoughts were. That’s kind of the way he coped – until he calmed down and got over it,” she said.
Williams also was having trouble keeping a job “because of a mental health issue that caused him to stay up late at night and then be late for work the next day,” she said.
Fisher said she and other family members are holding out hope that Williams will still be found.
“I have not come to a place in my heart to believe that he’s gone, that he’s dead,” she said.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.