GASTONIA, N.C. — A man accused of assaulting a woman earlier this month now faces murder charges in her shooting death at a Gastonia hotel.
The shooting happened just before 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Woodsprings Suites on Wren Turnpike, near Highland School of Technology.
Dispatch told Channel 9 that a man came to the front desk and said he shot a woman in a room. Whitney Denise Petway, 27 of Charlotte, was found dead inside the hotel.
Zkevis Jarta Kamal Williams, 25 of Gastonia, was charged with first-degree murder. Williams claimed self-defense, according to dispatch. He said they were both staying at the hotel.
Gastonia police charged Williams with resisting arrest and assault on a female in an incident involving Petway on June 4. Williams was accused of pulling Petway by the hair down the hallway of another hotel.
Those charges are pending, but Williams was released from jail 12 hours later after posting bail. He agreed to have no contact with Petway but the two ended up living together again in the hotel.
Experts tell Channel 9 the coronavirus pandemic has made it harder for victims of domestic violence to get away. Bea Cote works with abuse victims and abusers and spoke with Channel 9 on Tuesday.
“We are seeing an increase in crisis,” she said.
Cote’s group was not involved in this case, but she said there was a sharp increase in domestic violence calls for help and the number of cases when the stay-at-home order started in March.
“We in the domestic violence community were not prepared for this and there is a whole new normal out there,” Cote said.
She said that even as restrictions were relaxed, there were still a lot of people with no jobs, no money and few friends that could help.
“People believing that there are no resources. Nowhere to get help. They may not be able to escape their abuser long enough to reach out for help,” Cote told Channel 9.
On Tuesday, Williams appeared before a judge and did not ask for a bond. Williams’ sister said he loved his girlfriend, Petway. She couldn’t say what led to the assault and murder charge.
Williams also had a previous assault on a female conviction in 2017 in Mecklenburg County, where he was sentenced to jail, and in Lincoln County in 2015, where he was given probation.
Williams is scheduled to appear in court again next month.
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