April Wills

April Wills

Police: Girl Witnessed Mother's Death At Hands Of Ex-Husband

Police: Girl, Mother Abducted By Ex-Husband

POSTED: 7:47 am EDT July 22, 2008

Patricia Shirley wishes her daughter had never fallen so hard for such a dangerous man.

"All of us always told her to leave him alone," said Shirley, 73. "He's done threatened her I don't know how many times. . . . She's had black eyes, bruises all over."

The violence exploded one final time Tuesday morning, when police said Carl Wills went to the apartment of his ex-wife, April, and killed her boyfriend. He then dragged her and her 13-year-old daughter into his car, leading police on a rush-hour chase. Along the way, he fatally shot April as her daughter watched from the backseat. Once police forced him to a stop, he put the .44-caliber Magnum to his head and pulled the trigger.

The couple, who had no children together, first married in 2005 and divorced soon after. They remarried in 2007 and divorced a second time in March.

During the past year, April, 30, had turned to the courts for protective orders after Carl slashed her tire and punched her in the face, according to police reports. Carl, 44, was never convicted in those incidents, but he had a volatile criminal past. He was acquitted by a jury in a 1982 slaying, only to spend seven years in prison for killing a man in 1990.

Still, family members said they continued to see each other.

Only 12 hours before the shootings, April visited Carl at his home in the 2600 block of North Alabama Street, said his mother, Christina Wills, 67, who also lives there. April stayed for about an hour chatting with them, said Christina, the only person present during the visit who is still alive.

The next morning, April Wills' 13-year-old daughter awoke just after 7 to the sound of a gunshot.

That was the sound, police say, of Carl Wills entering the apartment in the 5000 block of Winterberry Drive and killing her mother's boyfriend, John L. Cunningham III, 30.

The girl went downstairs to find Carl beating her mother. April's three other children were staying with relatives.

Nearby residents watched as Carl tried to force April into his car.

"I don't think I've ever seen anybody beat a woman that violently," said April's neighbor, Faye Miles, who rushed down to the parking lot with phone in hand, dialing 911.Miles said she saw April jump out of the rolling car and run back inside the apartment, but Carl ran after her.

"He drug her out by her hair, and that's when I seen him put the gun to her head and say, 'Do you want to die right now?' "

When the panicked teen ran out of the house toward her mother, Miles said, Carl forced her into the car, too, and drove off, the door still open. Police spotted the 1985 Buick Skylark near 58th Street and Georgetown Road and began to pursue him, but Carl refused to stop.

As police chased him, he made a cell phone call to his 26-year-old daughter, Laquinta Meeks.

"He just kept saying, 'It's over,' " Meeks said. "He said, 'I got five police cars behind me. It's over.' "

Sometime during the chase, Carl shot and killed April, said Sgt. Matthew Mount, an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department spokesman. Then, as police closed in on his car near 25th and Meridian streets at 7:28 a.m., he shot himself.

The 13-year-old climbed out of the back seat and was grabbed by officers. Now she and April's other three children are staying with their grandmother, Shirley.

April and Carl were only two weeks into their second marriage when a judge granted her a nonviolent contact protective order in August 2007. The order allowed the two to have contact but barred violence, an arrangement that underscored the two sides of their relationship. Even after their divorce in March, April kept in touch with her ex-husband -- all the way up until the night before he killed her.

Ann DeLaney, executive director of the Julian Center, a domestic violence shelter on the Near Northside, said it is common for victims of domestic violence to maintain contact with those who hurt them.

"They think if they just talk some sense into him, he'd let it go," DeLaney said. "They don't realize that the risk is death."

Cunningham and April Wills were the 14th and 15th homicide victims this month. Indianapolis has not seen killing on this pace since the summer of 2006, a near-record year for homicides.

Police suspect at least two other killings this month stemmed from domestic violence.

Dede Martin, a friend of Carl Wills, collapses in grief near 25th and Pennsylvania streets. Her friend Beverly Lamb tries to console her. - SAM RICHE / The Star

Carl Wills killed himself at the end of the police chase, officials say. - Provided by IMPD

See copy of protective order here.

Also see post for dear friend John L. Cunningham III.


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