Kendrick Lee (b. 2012) was murdered by Brian Coulter, his mother’s boyfriend, on or around November 20, 2020. Before his death, Kendrick and his three brothers (b. 2006, 2011, and 2014) were physically abused by their mother, Gloria Yvette Williams, and Coulter for at least six years. All four boys were homeschooled.
Kendrick grew up with Williams and her other children in Houston, Texas. The family was intermittently homeless during Kendrick’s childhood, spending time in homeless shelters. Kendrick and one of Williams’s other sons were autistic, and Williams received government aid for them totaling $2,000 per month. In 2015, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services was first notified of abuse in the family when residents of a homeless shelter overheard Williams cursing and slapping her children, who were screaming. The DFPS recorded eight further reports of physical abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse towards Williams’s children by one of Williams’s romantic partners over the following six years.
In late 2017, Williams met and married a man named Daryl Wayne Towner, who loved Williams’s four sons “as if they were his own,” according to statements by family members and lawyers who knew the family. Towner took Kendrick and the other boys to McDonalds, on fishing trips, and to family barbecues in the park. During his marriage to Williams, Towner took on a primary parenting role. However, the family was evicted twice during this period, and Towner passed away from existing health conditions in 2019. That year, the local school district filed truancy papers against Williams for the first time.
Around this time, Williams began dating Brian Coulter, who moved in with the family some time in 2020. Coulter, who had previously attempted to have a son from another mother removed from school to isolate him from his mother, physically abused Williams’s sons, including Kendrick. Kendrick’s older brother recalled that Coulter would lock himself in a bedroom with the younger boys and punch them while wearing a square diamond ring with sharp points. In May of 2020, Kendrick and his brothers left school and did not return. Although the school department visited the home in September 2020 to file truancy papers, they got no response. Harris County Deputy John Craig, later the lead investigator on the case, commented: “How easy is it to say, ‘My kids are going to get homeschooled,’ and that’s where it stays because you don’t have the manpower to follow up on everything.” In the case of Kendrick and his brothers, there is no evidence that any education took place at home after they left school.
On or around November 20, 2020, two of Kendrick’s brothers witnessed Coulter beating Kendrick until his eyes turned black and he stopped moving. Coulter then left the body in the back bedroom, covered it with a blanket, and warned Williams not to contact authorities. Williams knew that Kendrick was dead, but chose not to report his death.
Williams and Coulter stayed in the apartment with the three surviving boys and Kendrick’s corpse until March 2021, when they moved to an apartment about fifteen minutes away and left the boys alone. The apartment had no furniture or bedding and was infested with roaches, flies, and other bugs. Kendrick’s corpse remained in the bedroom, decomposing and prompting neighbors including Titania Shorter to report the smell of a dead animal to the building management, who did not respond. During this period, Williams occasionally brought snacks to the children, who also received food from neighbors. Building residents Erica Chapman and Trevor Thompson both gave food to the 15-year-old boy, but recalled that he seemed afraid of poisoning and would only accept packaged food and pizza. Coulter visited occasionally, continuing to abuse the children when present. In late September, he severely injured the jaw of Williams’s 9-year-old son; she did not give him any treatment or pain relief, and the injury eventually became infected and required reconstructive surgery.
The abuse came to light on October 24, 2021, when Kendrick’s 15-year-old brother called 911 to report that he and his brothers had been living in the apartment with Kendrick’s corpse for almost a year. The boys were removed from the apartment and placed in foster care. Coulter was charged with the murder of Kendrick Lee and Williams was charged with two counts of injury to a child and tampering with evidence—in this case, the corpse of her son.
Date: October 24, 2021
Location: Houston, Texas