Johnnie Mae Williams: Louisiana Serial Killer, Sean Gillis, On ‘Killing Fields’

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, serial killer Sean Gillis, and the woman he murdered, Johnnie Mae Williams, are still being discussed years after the brutal serial killings occurred. Last week, Investigation Discovery’s Killing Fields covered the case. On that episode, Major Herbert searches for two missing women who vanished in 2003. A tip leads detectives to the shocking dismemberment death of Johnnie Mae Williams. Investigators retraced their steps and weighed in on the case. Ethan Reames also participated in the gripping Investigation Discovery documentary.


Killing Fields: Missing Black Woman Found Dead, Dismembered In The Woods

Forty-five-year-old Johnnie Mae Williams was found dead in the woods in 2003. A young boy named Ethan Reames is the one who happened upon the body, as he was squirrel hunting that day. When police arrived, they found the body of a black woman who had been dismembered. The site of the crime was almost 400 feet from the road. But the killer used a vehicle to enter the woods as evidenced by the tire tracks found at the scene, according to Murderpedia.

Johnnie Williams’ small body was lying face down, and the skin on the body was slippery to the touch. There were cuts on the body, and the victim was wearing no clothes. But there was something even more gruesome than the foul smell that hovered over her. The woman, who couldn’t be identified at the time, had no hands. The hands had been chopped off.

An autopsy report performed on the victim indicated that she had been subjected to an evil and brutally violent attack before death occurred. The victim had been punched multiple times in the face and head, and her head had been banged against a tree, according to the book Dismembered by Susan Mustafa.

Sharp injuries to the buttock area were also noted. Coroners used dental records and DNA to identify her as Johnnie Mae Williams. Her daughter had reported her missing weeks earlier.


Killing Fields: The Victim Knew Her Killer

The man who killed her was Sean Gillis, a serial killer who had preyed on numerous other women before the discovery was made. Sean Gillis seemed like a normal man by outward appearances. But inside, he was an evil and emotionally disturbed man who had a horrendous childhood.

Sean Gillis was in a relationship with a woman when some of the murders occurred. Gillis took to the streets at night to look for victims when he couldn’t sleep.

Johnnie Mae Williams was one of the women he had picked up. In this case, Johnnie knew Gillis, and had known him for almost a decade. She most likely felt comfortable getting in the car with him, not knowing what would eventually be her fate.

People who knew Johnnie Williams say that she had a gorgeous smile and a beautiful face. But she had a worrisome cocaine habit. Investigators learned that Sean Gillis had killed seven other victims. You can see a list of them below.

Serial Killer’s Victims

  • March 21, 1994 — 81-year-old Ann Bryan
  • January 4, 1999 — 29-year-old Katherine Ann Hall
  • May 30, 1999 — 52-year-old Hardee Schmidt
  • January, 2000 — 36-year-old Joyce Williams
  • October, 2000 — 38-year-old Marilyn Nevils

Sean Vincent Gillis’ Last Two Victims, via Susan Mustafa

October, 2003 — 45-year-old Johnnie Mae Williams:

They occasionally smoked weed together, and Johnnie Mae sometime cleaned his house. She had three children and loved to bake. Gillis picked her up in North Baton Rouge on October 9, 2003, and drove her to a secluded area behind Mason’s Grill, where he beat her to death before slashing her body and cutting off her hands. He then drove her to Pride Port Hudson Road in Zachary where he positioned her body in a wooded area. Before he left, he took pictures of his handiwork.”

February 26, 2004 — 43-year-old Donna Bennett Johnston:

“She was Gillis’ last victim. Her body was discovered February 26, 2004, in a ravine off Ben Hur Road, just blocks from Gillis’ home. He picked her up on the corner of Geronimo and Prescott in North Baton Rouge and brought her to a secluded spot near Scenic Highway, where again he put a zip tie around his victim’s neck. She jumped from the car, but he caught her when she got to a fence. He killed her there and brought her body back to his car before driving to Parkway Drive. He then dismembered and cannibalized her.”


Ethan Reames, the-then 12-year-old little boy who found Williams; body, will never forget that day. It was a scene that will forever be etched into his mind because that was the day that he learned that the world could be a very cruel place.

Killing Fields airs on Mondays at 10 p.m. on Investigation Discovery. American serial killers Herbert Mullin and Edmund Kemper were profiled in this Inquisitr article.


[Featured Image by Matt Rourke/AP Images]