Police are actively looking for a Florida man accused of murdering a mother in front of her two young children last week, according to police.
On Saturday, Benjamin Robert Williams, 38, allegedly shot Joana Peca, 27, in the face several times while she held their infant child on her lap, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The shooting occurred in Peca’s car. Her older child witnessed the murder from the backseat, police said.
Williams has not yet been apprehended and is considered armed and dangerous, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department.
“We are asking the public to help us locate Mr. Williams,” police spokeswoman Sandra Bentil told Oxygen.com. “This is somebody that we desperately would like to get off our streets.”
When officers arrived on the scene, the children were still with their deceased mother — “terrified,” but physically unharmed, according to Bentil.
“The children are safe,” she said. “And that is what’s most important.”
Williams and Peca had been in a relationship and had the infant child together.
“What’s unique… is that this is his girlfriend, or somebody he was involved in a romantic relationship with, who was holding his child when he shot her several times,” Bentil added.
Williams, nicknamed “Bambi,” has also been linked to several open homicide investigations, according to a press release obtained by Oxygen.com.
Bentil could not elaborate on the homicide investigations to which Williams has been connected, saying that they are classified as open.
“We thought it was very important to mention [other investigations] because this is a very dangerous individual,” Bentil told Oxygen.com. “And this is not the first time he’s been linked to a homicide… we wanted to convey to the public how dangerous Mr. Williams is.”
Williams has a 20-year-long rap sheet that includes crimes as recent as January 2020, according to court records, including grand theft auto, drug possession with intent to sell, robbery, aggravated assault, and fleeing and eluding police. He was arrested in 2007 on charges of principal to attempted murder and strong-armed robbery, according to the Times; those charges were later dismissed.
Bentil said there was “definitely probable cause” and that a warrant was out for Williams’ arrest for Peca’s murder.
“This is who we are confident is responsible for pulling the trigger in this case,” she said.
Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 reward leading to Williams’ arrest.