RURAL HALL, N.C. — A family is struggling to fill the void after the loss of a beloved “big man with a big smile,” who investigators say was killed before his body was dumped and burned more than 200 miles away.
Nicholas Williams, 40, of Rural Hall, last saw his mother Jo on her 72nd birthday on Feb. 5.
“He looked back. I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ He said, ‘No I just want to see you again,’” Jo said, of the moments before Nicholas walked out of her house for the final time. “He squeezed me real tight with his big arms. He was a big man with a big heart.”
Days later, Jo and her husband reported Williams missing after they went to his Rural Hall home to try to find him. Instead, they found 23-year-old Norris Dwayne Rochelle Jr., who had been Nicholas’ roommate but was no longer supposed to be at the home.
“’Uh, Nick, uh, got hurt,’” is what Jo says Rochelle told them.
Then, Rochelle approached Jo as she sat in her car.
“’Boy get out of my face,’” Jo said to Rochelle. “’Get out of my face don’t say nothing to me.’”
Jo added that a worker found one of Williams’ cellphones at a work zone near his house.
On Tuesday, deputies in Craven County located a body outside of New Bern. The body appeared to have been dumped and burned, they say.
“Thrown him in a swamp and burned him,” Jo said. “That’s a lot to digest for a parent.”
Craven County deputies then saw the missing persons report filed by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and contacted them, according to a Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson.
Deputies later obtained a search warrant for Williams’ home in Rural Hall, which they searched for hours Tuesday night.
“I don’t know what was in that boy’s mind,” Jo said, of Rochelle. “I don’t.”
Forsyth County deputies announced Tuesday night that Rochelle had been taken into custody and charged with killing Williams.
“I’m so angry,” Jo said, about 12 hours after the charge was announced. “If I could bring that angry up and out it would blow this whole room apart.”
Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes told FOX8 they believe Williams was killed in Rural Hall before his body was transported to Craven County.
Deputies in Craven County announced they have arrested Peter Schocker, 21, of New Bern. Schocker has been charged with accessory after the fact of murder in the death of a person in connection to Williams’ death.
This is not the first time Jo and her husband have lost a child. In 1983, their 12-year-old daughter Tracey was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Skeet Club Road in High Point.
Jo is known throughout the community as the director of the Triad Food Pantry, where Williams was also heavily involved.
“We see tragedies around us and our only hope is that one day things will be different and we just hope for another day. But, until that time, we need to make a difference in the community if we can and of course Jo’s family, they made a difference in our community,” said Lawrence Servan, pastor at High Point Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Williams, a High Point University alumnus, was also known for his work as a teacher. He later left education and took a job at Aon in Winston-Salem, where he was beloved by his co-workers.
Williams also traveled the world, Jo said, having visited every continent except Africa and Antarctica. He was fluent in three languages.
Rochelle appeared in court at the Forsyth County Hall of Justice on Wednesday. He is being held with no bond allowed and is due back in court on Feb. 28.
“He didn’t have to do this,” Jo said, of Rochelle. “He chose to do this. To kill my son.”
Jo says anyone who wishes to honor Williams’ memory and pay respects is asked to offer a donation to the Triad Food Pantry.