A West Oak Lane man who police said was a hit man has been charged with killing four men in a nine-month stretch that ended in May 2019.

Steven Williams, 25, of the 6900 block of Ogontz Avenue, was behind bars for unrelated crimes at SCI Mahanoy in Schuylkill County when detectives brought him back to Philadelphia on Wednesday and charged him with the string of slayings, police records show.

From September 2018 through May 2019, police say, Williams was paid thousands of dollars to execute four Philadelphia men who are linked only by how they died and who killed them.

William Crawford, 35, was gunned down while getting out of his car in Rhawnhurst; Jermaine Simmons, 39, was shot dead while sitting in a parked car in West Oak Lane; Richard Isaac, 31, was shot in the head and chest while sitting on the front porch of a home in East Mount Airy; and Leslie Carrol, 46, was slain while sitting in his son’s car with the engine running in Francisville.

Williams initially denied any knowledge of the slayings, police said, but when confronted with evidence, said he knew of the crimes but others had conspired to make him the “fall guy."

District Attorney Larry Krasner announced the arrest Friday, saying: “Following a complex investigation by Philadelphia homicide detectives, my office is today able to begin prosecution of Steven Williams, who collected thousands of dollars as a contract killer. His streak of wanton, violent crimes against our communities over the past two-plus years ends today.

“Despite the closure of most court functions, we will proceed as quickly as possible to bring him to justice, and to support those who have been mourning his victims for years,” Krasner said in a statement.

Williams, who is being held without bail, will have a preliminary hearing on July 1, according to court records. He is being represented by the Defender Association of Philadelphia.

A law enforcement source said Williams was part of a group of men who killed for money.

“You go to somebody in that group and you say, ‘I want so-and-so dead.’ They don’t care who it is, they don’t want to know the reason why. All they want to know is, ‘Will you give me portraits of dead presidents on green paper called money?' If you can come up with the money, they will kill somebody for you,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media about the case.

The investigation is ongoing, said the source.

Police said the first victim, Crawford, was slain the morning of Sept. 8, 2018.

At 9:12 a.m., Philadelphia police officers responded to the 1900 block of Hartel Avenue in Rhawnhurst and found Crawford, 35, on the sidewalk suffering from gunshot wounds to the head and back.

William Crawford, 35, was killed in September 2018. Steven Williams was arrested in June 2020 and charged with killing Crawford and three other men over an eight-month period.
Stanley Crawford
William Crawford, 35, was killed in September 2018. Steven Williams was arrested in June 2020 and charged with killing Crawford and three other men over an eight-month period.

After Crawford parked his white Dodge Journey in front of a home on the block, police say, he was approached by Williams, wearing jeans and a black hooded sweatshirt with a white design on the back. After shooting Crawford, the gunman ran westbound toward Loretto Avenue, police said.

After Crawford’s death, his father, Stanley, founded the Families of Unsolved Murders Project, a grassroots organization that seeks to bring attention to cold cases.

Crawford said he felt a “sigh of relief” that Williams had been charged in his son’s death. “One thing that helps a little bit more is that he was charged with three other murders. So, my premise has always been to help other families as well as my family,” Crawford said Thursday night.

Stanley Crawford founded the Families of Unsolved Murders Project in March 2020 to focus public attention on the high unsolved murder rate, and to help the Philadelphia Police Department make more arrests. Steven Williams was arrested June 10, 2020 and charged with murdering Crawford's son, William, in September 2018.
Mensah M. Dean/ Staff
Stanley Crawford founded the Families of Unsolved Murders Project in March 2020 to focus public attention on the high unsolved murder rate, and to help the Philadelphia Police Department make more arrests. Steven Williams was arrested June 10, 2020 and charged with murdering Crawford's son, William, in September 2018.

Simmons was shot to death Feb. 10, 2019, police said. Simmons was sitting inside his vehicle in front of his house on the 7500 block of Forrest Avenue when a black vehicle pulled alongside and two people within opened fire, according to police.

Isaac was fatally shot in the head and chest while sitting on a front porch in the 100 block of Meehan Street in East Mount Airy on March 25, 2019.

Carroll died from gunshot wounds on the afternoon of May 4, 2019, as he sat in his son’s car on the 2000 block of West Girard Avenue. A vehicle had pulled alongside him, and a gunman opened fire and sped away, police said.

Staff writer Mike Newall contributed to this article.