Cousin of Victim in High Desert Murders Thankful Investigators ‘Gave it Their All' to Catch Suspect

"I don't like to use the word hate ever. I even teach my kids not to use it. But I truly hate that man," said a cousin of one of the victims.

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The man accused of a killing spree in the High Desert faced a judge for the first time Friday afternoon.

Phillip Williamson, 38, pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder. He had been on the run for nearly a year until he was captured in Ensenada, Mexico, this week.

"I don't like to use the word hate ever. I even teach my kids not to use it. But I truly hate that man," said Mahagony Francis, cousin of one of the victims.

San Bernardino County Sheriff's investigators say Williamson allegedly went on a High Desert murder-robbery spree last August and September.

Three people were killed including Jason Culberson, Melissa Graetz, and Brandi Jones. Jones was the mother of a 16-year-old girl, and Williamson's former girlfriend. Her body was discovered in a car in a field.

"For me it's brought on a lot of anxiety, pain, and hurt. Also her daughter. Just her being gone, without her presence with us," Francis said.

Francis said the two were more like sisters. From the beginning, Francis believed Williamson was the killer.


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"It was really really hard knowing that he was able to walk around and be free and eat and drink and have a life while my cousin was gone and two other people were taken from their families as well," Francis said.

Sheriff's investigators began a manhunt for Williamson, but months went by without an arrest. During this time, Francis went on a social media campaign to help find Williamson, spreading his picture across the country and down into Mexico. Francis said she got death threats.

"Saying 'leave him alone, he didn't do it,' 'watch your back,' 'we are watching you,' 'watch what you say,' 'watch what you post,'" she said.

Then this week, investigators got information that Williamson was hiding out in Mexico. The U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force began surveilling a home in Ensenada.

"They saw him leave the residence and that's when they took him into custody without any incident," San Bernardino County Sheriff's Cynthia Bachman said.

Nearly a year after the killings, Williamson was taken in custody in connection with the murders.

"Those detectives and those officers, U.S. marshals, they gave their all to this case and thank you for everything they've done in apprehending him," Francis said.

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