Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

NOVEMBER 20, 2008





            KANSAS CITY, Mo. – John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that two Kansas City, Mo., men pleaded guilty in federal court today manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine, which resulted in the death of a Liberty, Mo., woman.

            John D. Williams, 29, and Benjamin T. Clarkson, 38, both of Kansas City, Mo., pleaded guilty in separate appearances before U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs this morning to the charges contained in an April 10, 2008, federal indictment.

            Williams and Clarkson admitted that they participated in a conspiracy to distribute and manufacture 50 grams or more of methamphetamine from Jan. 1 to Nov. 15, 2007. They also admitted that they created a substantial risk of harm to human life while manufacturing or attempting to manufacture methamphetamine.

            Williams and Clarkson admitted that, while attempting to manufacture methamphetamine at their residence, they placed toxic and dangerous chemicals that are used to manufacture methamphetamine – including lye – in unmarked containers out in the open areas of the kitchen and surrounding rooms. Carly E. Morris, 24, of Liberty, unwittingly ingested one of these toxic and dangerous chemicals while she was a guest at their residence. Morris died on Oct. 22, 2007, as a result of the injuries caused by her ingestion of that chemical.

            On Oct. 12, 2007, Williams picked up Morris at her apartment and took her to his residence near the Plaza. While at the residence shared by Williams and Clarkson, Morris took a drink of what she thought was a bottle or container of Sprite; however, the bottle contained lye, which burned her throat and esophagus. Morris immediately started vomiting and tried to rinse the substance out of her mouth at the kitchen sink.

            Rather than taking Morris to the hospital, Williams and Clarkson dropped her off back at her apartment. When Morris showed up for work that afternoon, she was in a lot of pain and could hardly talk. Her co-workers immediately took her to the emergency room at St. Luke’s Hospital in Smithville; due to the severity of her condition, she was transported to the St. Luke’s Hospital on Barry Road in Kansas City-North.

            The major risk with lye ingestion is the potential, as the chemical burns through layers of tissue in the internal organs, for the esophagus to perforate, which is almost always fatal. Morris remained in the hospital for seven days in extreme pain before her esophagus perforated.

            During the night of Oct. 18 into the morning of Oct. 19, Morris developed a fever and chest pains and had trouble breathing. A CT scan showed signs that her esophagus had perforated. She was transported to St. Luke’s Hospital on the Plaza for surgery. Her surgeon described what he saw as “liquified tissue.” Her stomach was about one-third dead tissue, and her esophagus was also “liquified tissue.” The surgeon said he had never seen a patient with as much damage to her stomach and esophagus area.

            Morris died three days later from an overwhelming pneumonia that was caused from the ingestion of the lye, which had, in addition to the damage to her esophagus and stomach, burned a hole in her trachea. Given the damage to her esophagus and stomach, the surgeon was surprised she had survived as long as she did.

            Kansas City police detectives executed a search warrant at the residence on Nov. 15, 2007, and arrested Williams. During the search of the residence, they discovered a sawed-off shotgun in Williams’ bedroom and numerous items consistent with an operating clandestine meth laboratory. They also found paperwork with chemical formulas and pictures describing procedures for manufacturing ecstasy. Clarkson had been arrested on an outstanding federal narcotics warrant the night before after being pulled over by a Kansas City police officer for a traffic violation.

            Under federal statutes, Williams and Clarkson are each subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison without parole, up to life in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $8.5 million. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew P. Wolesky. It was investigated by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.


This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at