Joseph Scott Williams, the 32-year-old Dale City man who was beaten and set on fire Thursday, wrote about twice a week over the past six months to the woman charged in his slaying, including one poem mailed shortly before his death, the woman's aunt said yesterday.
A letter containing a 14-line love poem arrived on Friday at Janet Corbin's home in Stafford County. The unsigned poem was inside an envelope postmarked Wednesday and addressed to her niece, Danita Yvonne Corbin, with Williams's name and return address on it.
"He liked her, like the poem said, but he couldn't really say it," said Janet Corbin, 52, adding that Williams regularly mailed letters to her niece at the Stafford address, where Danita Corbin used to live.
Williams's charred and beaten body was found outside Danita Corbin's town house in Dale City early Thursday. Corbin, 28, and a 17-year-old Stafford County youth are being held on charges of murder, robbery and abduction. No bond has been set.
Prince William police spokeswoman Kim Chinn, citing the ongoing investigation, said she could not comment on whether Williams had a romantic interest in Corbin or had written letters to her.
Williams's family members, who have described Corbin as a friend Williams was trying to help with financial problems, said yesterday that they did not know of any written correspondence between the two.
Police said Williams, who had a mild mental disability as a result of injuries he suffered in a 1981 traffic accident, was assaulted, robbed of his wallet and dragged to woods about 60 feet behind the town house development. His body was then set on fire. They offered no new details of the killing yesterday, except to say that a preliminary autopsy indicated Williams probably died as a result of the beating.
An argument about a cellular phone that Williams had given Corbin triggered a confrontation between them Wednesday night, said Danita Corbin's 14-year-old son, Chris Edward Corbin.
Chris Corbin, who said he saw the argument and has given his account to police, was interviewed by The Washington Post on Friday at Janet Corbin's Stafford home, where he lives. Janet Corbin, his legal guardian, consented to the interview with the teenager.
The teenager said Williams came to the town house Wednesday evening wanting to speak with his mother, but she said she didn't have time and told him to leave.
"He said, 'You don't ever have enough time,' " Chris Corbin said.
He said Williams left but returned a short time later and confronted Danita Corbin about the cellular phone and $18 he claimed she owed him for a phone bill. The disagreement escalated into physical violence, the teenager said.
Chinn said she could not confirm the boy's account.
Williams and Danita Corbin met at Northern Virginia Community College about 10 years ago, according to her aunt, who said she had raised Corbin since she was a young child.
Janet Corbin said Williams had been sending letters to her house for Danita Corbin for about a year but in the past six months had written more frequently. She said she did not open any of the letters except the one that arrived Friday.
"He was a friend. . . . He was really nice to her," the aunt said. She said she met Williams recently at her niece's town house and returned two of his letters, telling him to give them to her niece personally.
Janet Corbin said her niece was an intelligent, hard-working woman but had been unable to complete college and had drifted from one job to another.
Her aunt remembered a Mother's Day card from last year, in which Danita Corbin wrote: "I'm sorry I didn't turn out to be the daughter you wanted me to be, but later on I hope I get my life straightened out."