American woman murdered in Ecuador while trying to save her father and her husband
Francesca, Michael Williams, and their three teenage daughters had crafted an idyllic existence in the Ecuadorian countryside for nearly a decade.
They referred to their farm as their "humble Shangri-La," but their tranquility was shattered on May 20, when home invaders brutally murdered Francesca, the Daily Mail reported.
The Fatal Evening
On one dreadful Saturday evening, Francesca, 44, originally from California and a U.C. San Diego graduate, was hanging laundry outside their secluded residence when she noticed men encroaching on their property.
Francesca's adoptive mother, Marianna Bacilla, recounted the shocking incident to NBC San Diego. Seeing her 65-year-old disabled father, John, being attacked by the intruders, Francesca ran towards the danger to protect him. "She came down to save him, and I guess they started shooting at her," Bacilla said.
The invaders shot Francesca in the back, simultaneously restraining and assaulting her husband, stabbing her father, and terrifying her daughters while they ransacked the house.
The farm, where the family had raised chickens, goats, pigs, and horses since moving from the U.S. in 2014, had become a horrifying crime scene.
Traumatic Events and Aftermath
During the attack, Francesca's daughters, Rebekah, 19, Rachel, 17, and Renee, 14, were at home and witnessed the traumatic events. When she heard the gunshots, Rachel had the mind to shut the front door. However, the invaders forced their way in, demanding that she and Renee assist in the looting.
Rebekah, who was in her outdoor-living structure, a yurt, fled into the jungle and reached neighboring homes to seek help. Meanwhile, Michael was restrained and brutally assaulted until he lost consciousness.
After the marauders departed with the family's belongings, including iPads, money, and computers, Michael managed to free himself. He discovered Francesca gravely wounded from a gunshot near her heart.
Despite rushing her to medical aid, it was tragically too late. Francesca, who was multilingual and worked as a translator and illustrator, had recently published her first book, the New York Post reported.
State Department Assistance
The U.S. State Department has expressed condolences to the Williams family and is providing consular assistance while an investigation is underway. No arrests have been made yet. The State Department has deferred further queries regarding the local investigation to the Ecuadorian government to respect the family's privacy.
Navigates Grief and Security
In an interview with KDVR, Michael Williams shared that the family plans to return to Colorado and navigate the stages of grief. "We need to navigate this grief we are about to go through. There are a ton of different stages of this right now, we're on a heightened level of anxiousness and security because we aren't in a safe place."
He also expressed their shock, as they hadn't imagined being watched, living in such a remote location. Recounting the attack, Michael said he was struck outside, possibly with a brick.
"I found my wife, and she had been killed. We ran down the hill and into our car and took her to emergency services, but it was too late for her," said a grieving Michael.
He praised Francesca's bravery, stating that her intervention likely prevented even worse outcomes. "I think they saw Francesca as a threat, and she was physically capable of handling that man. I think things could have been a lot worse if she didn't interfere. She probably did her best to make sure we were all alright," he shared.
His daughter Rachel saw her grandfather wrestling with the intruders. The invaders entered their home and ordered Rachel and Renee around. They referred to a "large aunt" in Spanish, leading Rachel to believe they may have targeted the wrong house.
Fundraising Campaign and Burial Plans
Following the tragedy, Marianna Bacilla established a fundraising page in her daughter's memory. Francesca will be laid to rest in Colorado alongside her biological mother, who passed away in 2021.