Four years later: Family reacts to arrest made in 14-year-old’s murder

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — An arrest has been made four years after a shocking crime. Wilmington Police have charged Cedric Burnett with the murder of 14-year-old Aljhean Williams.

Burnett faced a judge for the first time Thursday morning.

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The Williams family was full of emotion as Wilmington Police announced the arrest at a news conference Thursday morning.

“Joy,” Aljhean’s mother Portia Williams said. “It’s one word. Joy.”

It’s the one word Williams can use to describe this moment after four years of waiting. She got a call from detectives Wednesday night.



“I could tell by the tone of his voice it was different,” she said.

What came next was a flood of emotions for all of Aljhean’s family.

“Angry,” Williams said. “Happy. Wanted to cry. Wanted to break down. Felt exhausted. It’s been four years.”

“You don’t know if you want to cry or be happy,” Aljhean’s uncle Lloyd James said.

Wednesday night, Williams got the bittersweet news that police had arrested Burnett and charged him with the murder of Aljhean.

“The wheels of justice sometimes turn painstakingly slow,” Captain Tom Tilmon said.

Aljhean was walking home from playing basketball in January 2016 when was shot near Emory Street and Stewart Circle.

“We never stopped looking,” Tilmon said. “We never stopped trying.”

Four years later, detectives say a piece of forensic evidence ties Burnett to Aljhean’s murder. They vowed to never give up. District Attorney Ben David says justice never sleeps.

“If we can’t bring joy back to the Williams family, we do intend to bring them justice,” David said.

Williams has spent the last four years patiently waiting for that justice.

“I want to cry,” she said. “I have cried. I will continue to cry, because it’s a process. But the only way out is through it.”

James says there is nothing that will bring Aljhean back, but he hopes they can get justice for him.

“I still won’t have Aljhean,” he said.

It’s still a long road ahead, but Williams says now they can start to heal.

“He may not be here physically, but he’s here spiritually,” she said. “The sky was the limit for him, and we can’t bring him back, but we might be able to change the future for the children that are out there.”

Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous says the dedicated work of their detectives made the arrest of Burnett possible.

Burnett is being held in the New Hanover County Jail under no bond.