'Just come and say goodbye' message led victim to killer

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 14, 2009 - 11:59 AM

After days of pestering by her former boyfriend, Brittany Givens-Copeland went to his apartment, where he killed her, said her mother of police findings in the case.

Brittany Givens-Copeland, 24, was killed by an ex-boyfriend in a murder-suicide on Jan. 25. Survivors include her 4-month-old son.

"All I want is five minutes," said the killer's last text message to his victim's cell phone. "Just come and say goodbye. You don't even have to take your coat off."

Findings of a police investigation, released late this week to her family, say that her killer used that message and the pretext that he was moving out of state to lure Brittany Givens-Copeland to his Burnsville apartment -- only to ambush her at his door.

Police suspect Adam Williams used neckties to strangle the 24-year-old mother from a prominent Minnesota family. She left behind a 4-month-old son and legions of stunned relatives and friends.

Williams, 23, left friends in disbelief that he allegedly killed a woman and set a fire before dying of smoke inhalation, leaning against the bathroom door in his apartment. Police suspect Williams had tried to rape Givens-Copeland.

The investigative details shed new light on Williams' intentions. Friends had said Givens-Copeland went to his apartment to tell him she didn't want to date him anymore, but it now appears he pestered her for a week and a half, asking her to stop by. Other evidence suggests he may have planned to kill her all along, said her mother, Roxanne Givens.

Burnsville police confirmed they spoke with the family Thursday but refused to comment on details. Givens said she wanted details of what happened to her daughter made public by the family.

Givens-Copeland's melted cell phone, recovered after the fire, contained text messages chronicling how Williams lured the waitress to his apartment by claiming he was moving to his home state of North Carolina, Givens said. He had been fired two weeks earlier from a Red Lobster restaurant in Burnsville where they had both worked.

His friends, old and new, said Williams didn't display signs of mental illness. That has left Givens and others to wonder whether he quietly snapped, or whether there was some other explanation. Toxicology tests are pending. Neither Givens-Copeland nor her family saw Williams as potentially violent. Had they checked his background, there was only one misdemeanor arrest.

The day before the killing, Williams bought a long-handled butane lighter, Givens said. And three weeks before the murder-suicide, Givens saw the two in her Bloomington home talking intently, but Williams left shortly afterward. Givens never asked about that conversation.

"As parents," she said, "we have to be very diligent about the people who come into our children's lives."

A future as a social worker

Givens-Copeland came from one of Minnesota's most philanthropic black families. She had traveled the world and was happy as a new mom.

"Brittany loved life, and she believed in living it to the fullest," her mother said.

With a private school education, the idealistic Givens-Copeland planned to finish college and become a social worker. Givens said her daughter had told how she first met Williams, when he came into Red Lobster with his aunt, and she waited on them. He soon got a job there. Givens said the two dated a half-dozen times before settling into what her daughter saw as a friendship.

Last spring, Givens-Copeland was offered a job at a therapeutic boarding school for youths near Rochester, a first step toward her dream to someday open her own such school to help young people "find themselves," as she liked to say. But during her job physical, she learned she was pregnant. The father was Anthony Darst, her fiancé until early 2008. Her career plans went on hold.

Givens-Copeland worked at Red Lobster that last Sunday. At 9:07 p.m., she was videotaped at a nearby Target store buying diapers, bowls and baby spoons for her son, Christian, who was ready to eat his first solid food.

Lives up in flames

Givens-Copeland arrived at The Woods apartment complex minutes later. She left her purse in her car and dashed to the second floor. Williams "ambushed" her, Givens said, quoting police. They later found the neckties under her body.

Apparently, Williams used a fluid to try to start a fire but it didn't catch. He left to buy gasoline and was videotaped filling a gas can, the investigation found.

At 10:24 p.m., the fire was reported. Firefighters were hampered by furniture that had been piled against the apartment door as a barricade.

Police recovered a bracelet that Givens-Copeland wore. She had made it that week, with her baby's name spelled out in block letters on white beads. Thursday, after Givens left the Burnsville Police Department, she gripped a small plastic bag that contained her daughter's scorched bracelet.

"That's all that I have left of her," Givens said.

Joy Powell • 952-882-9017

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