Home » Violet Matory, 9: Mother Found Dead, Children Missing After House Fire In 1977
Violet Matory, 9: Mother Found Dead, Children Missing After House Fire In 1977
By 1977, Earlene Williams was ready to leave her marriage to James Williams behind her. That year, the couple separated and were estranged, and by the summer, Earlene was living in Compton, California with her three children: Ivy Matory, 12, Violet Matory, 9, and Yolanda Williams, 7. On July 20, 1977, the family was joined by a friend’s son, Sir-Kristopher Marshall, 3, when tragedy struck; a fire broke out in the home and when authorities arrived, they came across a gruesome and puzzling scene.
To begin, the residence burned to the ground and upon inspection, all of the children were missing from the home. Earlene’s remains were found at the scene just inside of the front door and it was later determined that she had been strangled. This amplified the desire for authorities to find these four children as soon as possible, especially as it was reported that the fire began in their room. The investigation turned somber once authorities realized there was a blood trail leading from the house toward a nearby alleyway.
The trail came to an abrupt halt and it was speculated that the perpetrator may have had a vehicle waiting in that space. Immediately, the investigation targeted James Williams because of the allegations made against him. According to reports, Williams was accused of sexually assaulting 12-year-old Ivy Matory, his stepdaughter, in 1976, and he was later charged with both child molestation and rape.
Twenty-four hours after the fire, police questioned Williams about his alleged involvement. He was said to have told the authorities that at the time of the fire, he was on his way to Bakersfield before running into car trouble. Williams claimed to have spent the night sleeping in his vehicle, but investigators questioned the validity of his story, especially after they saw that he had injuries to his hands. Williams reportedly explained them away by saying he hurt himself while fixing his car.
Initially, he was reportedly released, but the following day, after it was learned that Earlene had been murdered, Williams was back in custody. Additionally, there were reported witnesses who saw Willaims with all four children around 5:30 a.m. at a Denny’s located in The Grapevine, a stretch of California highway just north of Castaic to Kern County that is frequented by truckers. However, when his friends reportedly picked him up from Riverside later on in the day, Williams was alone. It is unclear what happened to his vehicle.
One month after the fire, James Williams was tacked with four murder charges, in addition to the charge related to the death of Earlene. Investigators reportedly stated that the three sisters were scheduled to testify against Williams in his child molestation case and they were all slated to appear in court the day after they went missing.
Although this may seem like a straightforward case to some, prosecutors fought an uphill battle and in two trials, juries could not reach a verdict. In 1979, charges against James Williams were dismissed just ahead of a third trial. He has since died, but in 2014, Ivy Matory’s remains were located. The little girl’s bones were reportedly found in Corona, California. All that time, she was only an hour away from where she once lived.
Her siblings, and little Sir-Kristopher, have never been found.
At the time of her disappearance, Violet Matory stood 5 feet tall and weighed 115 pounds. She had black/dark brown hair and brown eyes. Her middle name is “Bobbie.” She was last seen wearing a white T-shirt with writing on the front, blue jeans, and multicolored “thong” shoes, or flip flops.
Anyone with information about this case is urged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department at (323) 890-5500 or their local authorities. The agency case number is 077-20224-2010-999.
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Journalist. Activist. Storyteller. •OurBlackGirls.com •@OurBlackGirls on IG, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Spotify Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, & Anchor FM
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