Early the morning of September 8, police responded to a call of a car fire near an apartment complex in Hoover, a suburb of Birmingham. Natalie Pierre Williams, a 26-year-old college football reporter for AL.com, was found near the car, covered in burns. Her husband, Chasten Leigh Williams, 30, told responding police he and his wife had been in a minor car accident, after which he’d walked back to their apartment. He said he returned a few minutes later to find the car in flames, and pulled his wife to safety.
After a “thorough and exhaustive investigation,” Hoover police announced today that the blaze was set intentionally by Williams herself, who apparently walked to a gas station after the crash, purchased two gallons of gasoline and a lighter, and then set the car on fire while she was inside it.
The crash itself was not serious. It caused minor front-end damage when the vehicle struck a small tree. It is not known what caused the driver to leave the roadway and strike the tree.
Both occupants acknowledge there was a verbal domestic argument prior to the crash.
Debris samples taken from the interior of the vehicle were sent to a laboratory for analysis.
Those samples tested positive for an accelerant — gasoline.
A wand-style lighter was found in a grassy area near the vehicle.
Melted remnants from a two-gallon gasoline container were found inside the vehicle.
Surveillance video from a nearby convenience store shows Natalie Pierre Williams purchasing a wand-style lighter, a two-gallon gas can and a gallon of gasoline several minutes before the fire was reported.
Hoover Police Capt. Gregg Rector said despite the findings, no charges will be filed in the case.
“Our goal was always to determine the facts and establish how this fire started and what caused it,” he said, according to AL.com. “It was clearly suspicious in nature from the beginning but very challenging to get to the point we are today.”
Rector said police still aren’t sure whether Williams intended to harm herself, though the he noted that she and her husband have a history of domestic disputes, which necessitated three visits from police in June and July alone.
“This was a sad, horrific situation that involved a young lady who is still battling very serious injuries,” he said. “She still has a long road to recovery and we certainly hope she is able to heal. She needs everyone’s support.”
Willams, who’s been hospitalized since the incident, has reportedly recovered enough that she’s able to speak with friends and family.