Courts & Crime

Woman charged with assaulting her stepmother at funeral

KNIGHTDALE — A fight broke out between daughter and stepmother at the visitation for a Wendell man Thursday night, a fracas that led to one hospital visit, two arrests and a dent in the funeral home wall.

The disturbance started as family gathered at L. Harold Poole Funeral Service in Knightdale to pay respects to Bryant Henry Williams Jr., 90, a front-end and frame mechanic from Wendell, family members said.

Soon after she placed a kiss on her father in his casket, Phyllis Strickland, 58, was charged with assaulting Williams' 73-year-old wife, Virginia, and causing $450 in damage to the funeral home's drywall. Strickland's son Christopher, 39, was charged with assaulting both Williams' wife and a fellow grandson, Larry Wayne Terry of Duncan, S.C.

All called the melee a shame.

Phyllis Strickland said the family was not "there to fight and carry on."

"My mother raised me to be a lady," she said. "It's a disgrace to have this going on when your father is laying there."

Family members described a history of strife between the wife and her stepdaughter. Strickland said she was upset that Williams had failed to call her immediately when her father died Monday.

Strickland said she was assured by a cousin that she was welcome at the visitation and funeral.

But when she arrived and was straightening her father's collar, she said, her stepmother shoved her away from the casket, slapped her and demanded she leave.

Strickland said she was only kissing her father when Williams "just went wild." After that, other family members and friends got involved, she said.

"Next thing I knew, all 25 of them came up in the room where my daddy's coffin was," Strickland said. "It was so many of them you couldn't get through."

Williams told a different story and said she was struck first.

"I told her to step away from the casket because she was messing with my husband's clothes," Williams said Friday. "Her son knocked me down. I went to the hospital last night."

Williams was treated for minor injuries at WakeMed, police reports said. Terry, a grandson, was injured but not hospitalized.

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