Family of Lisa Williams say she was bullied by boyfriend’s ex-wife before slaying

Composite image. Inset undated photo shows Lisa Vilate Williams. Police say the 26-year-old was making homemade ornaments with her boyfriend's twin 3-year-olds when his ex-wife, 32-year-old Chelsea Watrous Cook, burst in and shot her to death in front of the children. | Williams photo courtesy of Tawny Williams via The Associated Press. Background photo by Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The family of a woman from Colorado City who authorities say was killed by her boyfriend’s ex-wife in Midvale while decorating a Christmas tree is sounding a warning about the devastating impact of domestic violence that goes beyond two people.

Lisa Vilate Williams, 26, was making homemade ornaments Sunday at her boyfriend’s apartment with his twin 3-year-olds when his ex-wife, 32-year-old Chelsea Watrous Cook, burst in and shot her to death in front of the children, police said.

Read more: Woman from Colorado City killed in front of suspect’s twin children

The slaying came after Cook targeted Williams with online bullying, in-person confrontations and harassment for months, her sister and mother told The Associated Press.

“I worried for her safety every day,” said her mother, Tawny Williams.

Chelsea Watrous Cook bookings photo, Salt Lake City, Utah, undated. Police say Cook, a Utah high school teacher, shot and killed her ex-husband’s girlfriend while the former couple’s children looked on. | Photo courtesy of Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office via The Associated Press, St. George News

Cook’s lawyer did not return calls seeking comment, and family members reached by phone declined to comment or did not return messages.

She was arrested on suspicion of aggravated murder after her ex-husband took the gun away and pinned her to the wall until police arrived, authorities said.

Lisa Williams died at a hospital.

According to family, who have said they hoped people would remember Williams for how she lived more than just how she died, she had a loving and nurturing personality.

She loved reading books and buying dying plants to nurse back to health. On her 16th birthday, she saved money to buy gifts for everyone in her family, her sister Bekah Williams said. She loved children and was so eager to begin Christmas decorating with her boyfriend’s twins that she left early from her own family’s Thanksgiving celebration in Centennial Park, Arizona, with a popcorn popper strapped into the back seat of her car.

“I spoke to her an hour or so before it all happened, and she was so excited … to give those kids something happy,” Bekah Williams said.

But during the six months she dated Travis Cook, a colleague at the bank where she was a teller, she was allegedly targeted by his ex-wife. The harassment started in June and included confrontations at the bank, bullying on Instagram and phone calls made from the high school where Chelsea Cook was a health teacher, Bekah Williams said.

Court records show the couple’s divorce was finalized in January.

Chelsea Cook was charged with domestic violence in the presence of a child the month before the slaying. She pleaded not guilty. Her lawyer in that case did not return calls seeking comment.

Bekah Williams said she reported the behavior and use of school phones to the principal at Skyridge High School in Lehi in August, but “it seems to me that nothing was done,” she said.

Alpine School District did not return messages seeking comment Friday, but Ben Rasmussen, director of law and professional practices with the Utah State School Board, said teacher behavior outside the classroom can be difficult for schools to address.

School officials also weren’t aware that Chelsea Cook had been arrested Oct. 16 on suspicion of domestic violence. While teachers are required to self-report such arrests to their superintendents within 48 hours, she didn’t, Rasmussen said. The state also flags arrested teachers though a fingerprint database, but it was a misdemeanor case, and her prints weren’t flagged for more than a month. The notification came through after her murder arrest.

“It took a lot longer than we would hope,” Rasmussen said.

At school, meanwhile, Chelsea Cook was an engaging teacher whose class students looked forward to attending, KUTV in Salt Lake City reported.

Details of the October domestic violence arrest haven’t been made public, but Bekah Williams said it didn’t involve her sister.

This undated photo shows Lisa Vilate Williams. | Photo courtesy of Tawny Williams via The Associated Press

Lisa Williams was reluctant to report Chelsea Cook’s behavior to police, worrying that involving authorities could make the situation harder on the children, her sister said.

“In hindsight, I think the best thing for the kids would have been to call the police every time,” Bekah Williams said.

She’s at a loss to explain exactly what led to it. The last conversation between the two women had been encouraging, with Chelsea Cook thanking Lisa Williams for picking up the twins at day care. They hadn’t had contact in the days before, since she was with her family for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Lisa Williams had moved to American Fork, south of Salt Lake City, a few years ago to care for her sister, who was hospitalized with a potentially life-threatening lung ailment. She stayed after the recovery, living with two of her sisters.

In the end, it’s that kind of caring for others that Lisa Williams’ family hopes she is remembered for.

“She had a wise soul,” Bekah Williams said. “I feel lucky to have had her in our lives.”

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Comment December 1, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    She must’ve felt like that guy was quite a catch to tolerate the psycho ex-wife for months…? Is there a lesson we can learn from this whole thing? Not sure…

  • Comment December 1, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    My ex-wife with BPD would fly into fits of rage where she’s make a lot of noise and throw things and break things. I guess I should feel fortunate that she never tried to shoot me or stab me. She wasn’t really ever violent towards people. And when we got divorced it was a clean break since we had no kids. These divorces with kids can get really really messy. You’re often forced to stay in contact with people you hate or still have feelings for. It can never really be a clean break when there’s kids involved. In this case “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned” I guess. You gotta see your ex’s pretty new girlfriend when you go to pick up your kids and stuff. She probably has mental problems and I feel sorry for her even though she’s a killer. My ex-wife struggled a lot with her issues, but it just reached the point where she was unbearable. There was nothing I could do for her even if I felt sorry for her.

    • Redbud December 1, 2018 at 2:58 pm

      Comments, my ex-wife was violent too and would break things and throw things. I have another good one haha:

      Proverbs 21:19

      It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.

  • Comment December 1, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Had to look up this stuff. This type of thing is not really a new or unique thing in human history. Just kind of funny to consider. 😉

    “Theatregoers of the day would have understood the meaning of ‘scorned woman’ as something more specific than the present day meaning. In the 17th century a scorned woman was one who had been betrayed in love, especially one who had been replaced by a rival.

    It may be rather over-generous to attribute the line to Congreve as another Restoration playwright, Colley Cibber, could make a claim to have anticipated him.

    In Cibber’s play Love’s Last Shift, 1696 we find these lines:

    He shall find no Fiend in Hell can match the fury of a disappointed Woman! – Scorned! slighted! dismissed without a parting Pang!”

  • DRT December 1, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    Anyone else see a resemblance to Tania Harding?

  • LunchboxHero December 2, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    I sympathize deeply with Ms. William’s family. She sounds like an absolutely wonderful person. My condolences.

  • Carpe Diem December 3, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Wow, from the frying pan to the fire. So sad this woman couldnt find a normal life. Hope she wasnt a homewrecker…it says she “dated” Travis for 6 months as he was a co-worker at the bank. hmm

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