Crime

This KC man lost his brother to violence. His fear that he’d be next came true

David A. Willard’s body was found on Tuesday. Police suspect he was killed. About 12 years ago, Willard mourned the loss of his brother to violence and worried he’d be next.
David A. Willard’s body was found on Tuesday. Police suspect he was killed. About 12 years ago, Willard mourned the loss of his brother to violence and worried he’d be next.

In 2005, David Willard was mourning the loss of his brother, who was killed in a spray of bullets in Kansas City.

Police found his body and numerous shell casings in an area near 10th and Garfield.

Willard, in his late 20s, turned to his then-girlfriend and expressed his fear that he’d be next.

A little more than a decade later, his foreboding came true.

On Wednesday, Willard was found dead inside a residence in the 2600 block of Cleveland — less than three miles from where his brother had been found. His cause of death was not released by Kansas City police, but a longtime friend said Willard, like his brother, was killed by someone with a gun.

He was 39.

Todd Willard, his brother, was 22 when he was killed, according to The Star’s archives.

grave
David Willard (right) and a friend at Willard’s brother’s grave. Willard is wearing a T-shirt printed with his brother’s face. Donisha Smith

Donisha Smith was dating Willard when he lost his brother. She said Willard treated her son, then a toddler, as his own.

Willard helped the boy with his ABCs, took him on errands and “always had conversations with him,” said Smith, who now lives in Atlanta.

Though they were no longer together when Willard was killed, Smith said they remained friends. Around Thanksgiving, she visited him at a KC nightclub.

When she told her now-teenaged son that Willard was dead this week, he sighed and said, “Everybody in Kansas City — all they do is get killed.”

Paranaka Ward grew up in the same neighborhood as Willard. She played matchmaker, bringing Smith and Willard together.

She lamented the violence in Kansas City that resulted in a record-setting number of slayings in 2017 and that is spilling into 2018; Willard was the 12th homicide victim so far this year.

“His mother lost both her sons to guns. ... Parents shouldn’t have to bury their kids, and this is twice for her,” Ward said. “These people are dying over nothing. They could be our future presidents or doctors. They’re gone before they even know who they are.”

funeral
David Willard with his mother, who was visiting him in prison in this undated photo. Donisha Smith

Smith said she began dating Willard after he was released from prison. Willard was incarcerated multiple times, on charges including possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana and drug trafficking, according to court records.

“If anything, (his incarceration) probably saved him,” Smith said. “It took him off the streets, took him out of the environment.”

She recalled how, when they lived together, Willard would write rap lyrics on scrap paper lying around the house.

When Willard spoke to Smith’s son a few weeks before he was killed, he referred to him as “my guy.”

Willard is survived by three adult daughters.

One daughter is pregnant, Ward said, and Willard was looking forward to being a grandfather.

“He’s always been there for me, like a real brother,” she said. “I want his kids to know their dad was a good person.”

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg

  Comments