The Look in Brief

Federal marshals hunt for Johnson City escapee accused of multiple sexual assaults

By: - October 20, 2023 6:00 am
(Photo: Johnson City Police Facebook)

(Photo: Johnson City Police Facebook)

Sean Williams, the Johnson City man at the center of widening allegations that local police failed to investigate multiple sexual assault allegations against him over four years, has escaped custody.

A multi-agency manhunt is underway for Williams, who was due for an appearance at the Greenville Federal courthouse Wednesday but escaped by kicking the back window out of a transport vehicle, according to court records.

Johnson City roiled over allegations police botched sexual assault investigations

U.S. Marshal David Jolley of the Eastern District of Tennessee told WJHL-TV that he “has a lot of questions” about how Williams made the escape and pledged to seek charges against anyone who aided him. Multiple agencies in northeast Tennessee have joined the search.

Williams is facing more than two dozen federal charges, including child rape, that stem from his arrest on drug charges in April by Western Carolina University police. A search of his electronics yielded images of more than 50 women being sexually assaulted as well as children. 

Williams until then had not been charged in connection with any of the sexual assaults multiple Johnson City women reported to local police.

The serial sexual assault allegations publicaly emerged against Williams last year when a former federal special prosecutor filed suit against Johnson City Police, the city and its former police chief alleging she was forced out of her job after she pressed to build a case against Williams, whom she believed had raped at least 10 women.

In June, nine women filed a separate federal lawsuit, alleging that Johnson City police knew Williams was a serial rapist and let him get away with it. A tenth woman recently joined the suit.

Both federal lawsuits are ongoing.


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Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee.