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Menasha man convicted for infant death from fire: Mother of child who died calls Williams a 'hero'

Posted: 4:39 PM, Sep 06, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-15 22:26:10-05
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WINNEBAGO CO. (NBC26) - A mother pleaded for leniency for the man convicted in the death of her son. A man she’s now calling a hero.

"We don't lock heroes up in prison. If it wasn't for Vernon Williams, my two others are alive,” said Whittney Segal.

In September of 2018, an 18-month-old boy died in an apartment fire in Menasha. His babysitter was drunk according to court documents.

"And that it really hurts me inside to know a baby died on my watch,” Vernon Williams said.

Friday in court, Williams was convicted of neglect of a child. The criminal complaint said he was passed out on the couch when the fire started. The fire department said it was sparked by the kids playing with a lighter. Two other children escaped, unharmed. The baby boy suffered severe burns covering 70 percent of his body, and died four days later at the hospital.

The state and defense mentioned in the courtroom that Williams did try to save the baby, which he says he's now left with permanent reminders on his hands and his feet.

"I do have the burns, the 3rd degree burns, the second degree burns showing every day reminder of this,” Williams said.

Ultimately, the severity of the case drove the judge's decision.

"This has to be one of the most horrific ones I've seen," said Judge Barbara Key.

Williams was sentenced to 4 years behind bars with 5 years extended supervision. He was also ordered to maintain “absolute sobriety.”

"This is a reminder and a wakeup call for me to never drink again," Williams said.

Hays added, if everything is going well after two-and-a-half years, she'll allow him to enroll in the early release program.