Prosecutors: 9-time felon arranged to have “a real animal” rape and rob woman in River North hotel

Tirnell Williams and the Home2 Suites by Hilton | Joliet PD; Google

A nine-time felon arranged to have “a real animal” rob and sexually assault a woman in a River North hotel last month as part of a scheme that he hoped would yield a large payout from Hilton Hotels Corporation, prosecutors said.

The alleged offender, who is on bail while awaiting trial for a suburban armed robbery, appeared in court using a wheelchair that prosecutors said is a prop that the perfectly-healthy man uses in an ongoing series of personal injury lawsuit scams.

Tirnell Williams, 43, rented a hotel room for his girlfriend and her friend to enjoy last month because the friend was planning to move out of town the next day. Unbeknownst to the friend, Williams was scheming to have her raped and robbed at the Home2Suites by Hilton, 110 West Huron, to set up a lawsuit against the hotel giant, prosecutors said.

Early on August 14, the victim left the hotel to pick up a few items from a nearby store. She spoke with Williams’ girlfriend by phone as she walked back to the hotel and ended the conversation as she entered the hotel’s front door around 1:30 a.m. Williams’ girlfriend later admitted that she spoke with the victim on the phone so Williams would know where the victim was as she returned to the hotel, prosecutors said.

The victim entered the hotel, followed by a man who trailed her onto an elevator and then pulled her into a stairwell when she reached her guestroom floor. The attacker held a knife to the 32-year-old woman’s throat, sliced her purse off of her arm, removed her leggings, and shredded her underwear, prosecutors said Sunday.

Then, the attacker tied the woman to a handrail in the stairwell and forced her to perform a sex act. When the woman vomited, he sodomized the woman and fled down the staircase with her purse.

Williams’ girlfriend, who claimed she fell asleep after talking the victim back to the hotel’s front door on the phone, later went looking for the victim and found her tied up in the stairwell, prosecutors said.

After being treated at a nearby hospital, the victim returned to the hotel where Williams was speaking with detectives — after giving them a fake name and incorrect phone number, according to prosecutors. When investigators later asked Williams’ girlfriend why he would give them a phony name and number, she allegedly told them, “he plays like that.”

Detectives later developed a witness who told them the hotel attack was a set-up by Williams because he knew the victim had a lot of cash in her purse. According to the state, Williams told the attacker to “stick his d*ck in the victim’s mouth five or six times” and said he hand-picked the attacker because he is “a real animal and he enjoys it.”

The witness went on to tell police that Williams does not need a wheelchair and that he had personally seen Williams doing jumping jacks on multiple occasions. Williams’ girlfriend also told investigators that he is “mobile” and uses the wheelchair as cover, prosecutors said.

Investigators secured court permission to surveil conversations with Williams in which he allegedly admitted to arranging the attack, although he claimed to not know the victim had been sexually assaulted. During the recorded conversations, Williams admitted he gets money by bringing cases to personal injury attorneys and said he planned to stage a second attack on a woman at a Hilton in Oak Lawn on September 26, according to prosecutors. 

The second attack would help establish a pattern of security issues at Hilton properties for the lawsuit, Williams allegedly said during the surveilled conversations.

Police arrested Williams to prevent the second attack from taking place, prosecutors said. During interviews, Williams gave inconsistent stories to detectives but admitted to helping someone stage a rape, according to prosecutors.

Williams is charged with armed robbery, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual assault.

At the time of the hotel attack, Williams was on bail while awaiting trial for allegedly robbing a Verizon store in Joliet earlier this year. 

In 2015, he was sent to prison for tying a Schiller Park man up and stabbing him repeatedly when his gun malfunctioned. His parole in that case ended two months before the hotel attack unfolded, prosecutors said.

His previous felony convictions include theft, robbery, possession of stolen motor vehicles, and federal theft of government funds.

Williams’ defense attorney, Courtney Smallwood, claimed Williams’ wheelchair is necessary because he is disabled — he even receives government benefits due to his condition, she said.

Judge David Navarro called the state’s allegations “chilling” before ordering Williams held without bail.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is