Man accused of killing missing Tyler woman

Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 6:41 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - A man has been arrested after being accused of murdering a Tyler woman that was reported missing nearly two months ago while traveling to Sulphur to pick up her son, according to the Tyler Police Department.

Jesse Lee Williams, 40, has been booked into the Smith County Jail. He is believed to have killed Paula Belonga, 51, who was reported missing on April 7, 2023.

Tyler Police spokesperson Andy Erbaugh says it was a case of a man killing someone he called a friend, “We know that they had some type of relationship together where it’s a friendship, or...They were acquainted with each other.”

After detectives found evidence on Williams’ phone suggesting he may be involved in Belonga’s disappearance, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Man accused of killing missing Tyler woman
Man accused of killing missing Tyler woman

“The arrest warrant came out late last week, and the joint East Texas Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force was able to locate him yesterday,” said Erbaugh. “There’s been a lot of evidence recovered, a lot of evidence analyzed, a lot of places searched, you know, because of tips that have come in.”

At one point during the search for Belonga, Williams gave investigators a number he said belonged to the missing woman. After several failed attempts to reach Belonga, investigators started getting texts that appeared to come from her saying that she was fine and out of state with her man.

An arrest affidavit shows that two key pieces of evidence were found. A necklace belonging to Belonga and a small bone about 50 feet away from it. Both were found after a search of Williams’ phone revealed internet searches that mentioned general locations such as “Body found in Rusk County,” “Henderson Daily News,” and “Rusk County Breaking News.”

Other searches included, “How to muffle a gun with a sock,” and “Will hitting a person in the head with a gun kill them?”

There were also searches for “How do the cops trace a cell phone,” “How long does it take for a body to decompose to bones,” and “How long does it take for a body to decompose in hot weather?”

The affidavit also shows a check from Belonga for $1,445 was found in Williams’ personal items. According to the list of internet searches found on Williams’ phone, there was also a search for, “How to write a check for $1,445.”

Police say the bone found near Belonga’s necklace will be analyzed to determine where it came from.

Williams is currently being held on a $750,000 bond as police continue to investigate this case.