Bili Ape Discoverer Rebuilds Life

There have been a series of recent developments to our earlier story about Shelly Williams, the world-renowned primatologist credited with gathering convincing evidence of a new species of great ape, the Bili Ape. She was shot in the back on November 7, 2005 and paralyzed from the waist down, when a stray bullet from a drug-deal gone bad changed her life forever. She was merely an innocent bystander, doing errands at a strip mall in suburban Atlanta.

On March 1, the suspects were identified and warrants issued. Smyrna, Georgia police issued the arrest notices for two men, Kendall Markell Bolden, 23, and Terrance D. Reid, 33. Police believe Bolden fired the shot during a botched drug deal. A third man, 24-year-old Elliott Mitchell, is now in prison in South Carolina on unrelated charges, for which he was arrested earlier.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution, on March 4, 2006, published an interview with Williams.

"You took my life away, and you took something away from me, something that I am very passionate about, which is my research," Williams said Friday, delivering a message to the man who shot her. "I’ve dedicated 22 years to it. And now, I won’t be able to finish it. And that hurts."

Williams Cast

Shelly Williams, in happier days, shows the Bili Ape cast to the media in 2003.

Reporter Charles Yoo put a human face on this random tragedy, and shared Williams’ cryptozoological passion:

Before the shooting, Williams had planned to return to the Democratic Republic of Congo to continue her research. It was there, in the jungle, where a large animal she had never seen before walked in front of her.

It wasn’t a chimpanzee, or a gorilla or a bonobo ape. This new creature seemed to have features of all three. She clicked her camera and captured the "unknown ape." Scientists are trying to determine if the animal is a new ape species.

"It was exciting. I didn’t know what I had until much later," Williams recalled. "I was very lucky."

Now, though, she admits going back to the Congo would be impossible. "I am sad about that, but I’m repressing it."

Indeed, it is so sad this occurred, and the cryptozoological community sends its best wishes to Shelly Williams.

The article had an immediate reaction. On March 4th, Williams’ shooting suspect Kendall Markell Bolden, 23, walked into Smyrna police headquarters and surrendered. Speaking from the Shepherd Center, where she is being treated for her spinal cord injury, Williams said she was pleased Bolden was in custody.

"At least he has a guilty conscience," Shelly Williams told the local media.

"The whole judicial system takes a long time," Williams told a reporter. "I’m just trying to take care of myself now and let the Smyrna police do the rest."

Right before she was injured, National Geographic had called about a television special on her Bili Ape discoveries. She understands some of those opportunities may be gone forever. But her rehab is coming along, she hopes to be taking a shower on her own in a month, and with the support of her husband, Al Hofstetter, who is at her side all the time, she is slowly recovering, as best she can.

Williams hopes to turn her her preliminary study, "Mystery Apes of the Congo," turn into a book someday. Her plan is that once she gets better, she plans to write that long-overdue book. With so much travel, she never used to have enough time to write.

Shelly Williams

Shelly Williams is pictured recently, working hard to recover from the near fatal gunshoot wound to her spine.