HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - “I killed my wife. I beat her with a hammer.”
Those are the words William Bryant told an emergency dispatcher on May 3, 2017, when he called Gulfport Police. He later admitted to investigators that he had removed his disabled wife from an assisted living facility so he could get access to her monthly disability check. Kari Marann Whitley, 43, was only home for one month before Bryant beat her to death.
This week, a Harrison County judge ordered Whitley to life in prison, the mandatory sentence for a first-degree murder charge.
During the hearing, authorities said Bryant called 911 around 3 p.m. that day to confess to killing his wife. When officers showed up at the Lindh Road address, they found Whitley’s body. She had been dead for a few days, said police.
“Bryant attacked his wife in her sleep and struck her multiple times with a hammer,” said assistant district attorney Patti Sampson, who prosecuted the case.
It wasn’t the first time Bryant had hit his wife. In 2015, he was convicted of domestic violence for assaulting Whitley. A neighbor who lived next to Bryant and Whitley said the sounds she heard coming from the couple’s apartment were horrifying.
“She was screaming that someone was beating her," the neighbor told WLOX just days after Whitley’s body was found. “She was screaming, screaming, screaming, and someone was screaming back at her.”
The neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said she heard a woman screaming in pain inside the apartment for weeks before the murder.
“I just heard the man’s voice. ‘You (expletive, expletive). Do you want to lay on the floor? Do you want to sit here? I’m gonna beat the (expletive) out of you if you don’t get up.'"
She said she called police once but nobody would answer the door when officers arrived so they were unable to do anything.
After pleading guilty, Bryant apologized to Whitley’s family, saying he remembers hitting her but doesn’t remember much else because he had been drinking heavily that day. Judge Christopher Schmidt responded by telling Bryant that voluntary intoxication is not a defense to committing a crime under Mississippi law.
According to Whitley’s obituary, she battled a rare brain tumor at only 19 years old, surviving multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation while earning a degree in journalism. The Texas native worked at the VA until she medically retired in 2013.