15-year-old charged with murder of Memphis faith leader, police say

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A 15-year-old boy is one of two teenagers who were arrested after a Memphis faith leader was shot to death in Whitehaven Monday evening.

The gunfire erupted during a carjacking on Whitehaven Lane around 4:15 p.m. on Monday, July 18, according to Memphis Police.

Family and friends confirmed the victim was Reverend Autura Eason-Williams, a leader in the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“Warm, loving... If you came into contact with her, her spirit would be all over you,” said Rep. Karen Camper when remembering Eason-Williams. “She is a warm, loving person, you can not come into contact with her, without feeling her warm spirit. It’s impossible.”

Eason-Williams was rushed to a hospital after the incident but did not survive the shooting, police said.

Memphis Police said a 15-year-old pulled the trigger that took Eason-Williams’ life. A 16-year-old was also arrested in connection to the fatal carjacking.

The teen is charged with first-degree murder, murder in perpetration of a robbery, especially aggravated robbery, carjacking and employment of a firearm during a dangerous felony.

The 16-year-old is charged with theft of property $2,500-$10,000.

After the gunfire, one of those teens drove Eason-Williams’ car away followed by his accomplice in a blue/gray hatchback sedan, police said.

Later that night, at 8:27 p.m., officers found Eason-Williams’ car wrecked out at Lynchburg Street and Steuben Drive, according to Memphis Police.

Just four hours later, at 11:50 p.m., Memphis Police said the teens carjacked another woman on Hunters Rest Lane in Cordova, driving off in her Chevy Malibu. Around 1:30 a.m., Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies spotted that stolen Malibu, police said. A chase ensued until the two teens wrecked the Malibu on Larry Lane, leading to both of them being arrested, according to police.

Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis held a press conference Tuesday with other city leaders. The police chief emphasized the pain that these incidents bring the entire city.

“Incidents like these should make everyone have sleepless nights. It should make everyone have feelings of hurt and pain,” Davis said.

According to Eason-Williams’s biography, she was a graduate of the University of Memphis and Memphis Theological Seminary.

She began full-time ministry in 1997 and had served under appointment in the United Methodist Church since 2002.

She served many years with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare as a member of the Faith and Health Committee and on the planning committees that created My Sister’s Keeper, an outreach that addresses health disparities of African American women.

Eason-Williams was a wife and mother to four children.

The Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference issued the following statement about her death:

We ask your prayers for the family and friends of Rev. Dr. Autura Eason-Williams who died on July 18 after being shot during a carjacking outside of her home. Autura was the District Superintendent of the conference’s Metro District.

If you have any information about where or with whom Autura may have been on that Monday between the hours of 2:30 and 4:30 p.m., it may be helpful for the police investigation. Please contact the Memphis Police at Sgt. Q. Smith at 901-636-3413.

We all are shocked and saddened by this senseless act. A district gathering was held at Colonial Park UMC 5330 Park Avenue, Memphis, TN 38119 on Monday evening. May the love of Christ carry all those who love her during these days of grief ahead. We will rely on God together.