Lead prosecutor in Markeith Loyd case to resign, head to private practice

High profile prosecutor Ryan Williams just won victory in Loyd death penalty case

ORLANDO, Fla. – One day after Markeith Loyd was sentenced to death, the lead prosecutor on the case announced Friday he is stepping down as a prosecutor and headed into private practice.

A lifelong resident of Central Florida, Ryan Williams has been a prosecutor for the last 14 years but more notable recently as he was tasked to take on 13 high-profile cases stripped from former Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

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Those cases include six capital cases, where Williams successfully got unanimous jurors on three death penalty cases, including convicted cop killer Loyd for the murder of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton and convicted cop killer Everett Miller for the murders of Kissimmee Officer Sgt. Sam Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter.

Usually composed, Williams choked up after Loyd’s final sentencing Thursday. We now know where the tears came with one of his last victories.

“It’s just a long time and people make sacrifices for their families,” Williams said Thursday. “It’s rewarding. It makes me happy that the family has a little bit of closure and that’s the biggest thing.”

Williams has been serving as an assistant state attorney for the Fifth Judicial Circuit after resigning from the Ninth Circuit serving Orange and Osceola County following Ayala’s 2017 announcement she was not going to seek the death penalty in cases. It was then when former Gov. Rick Scott re-assigned several of her cases to Williams. Of those cases, Williams has successfully won a conviction for all nine first-degree murder cases he was assigned.

Williams also told News 6 he has worked with the state and Dan Newlin Law to come back for one final death sentencing trial in October, the case of Bessman Okafor, who is already convicted for the 2012 murder of Alex Zaldivar.

“Ryan is a man of integrity and he promised he would fight for my family to the end, and this is the end,” said Rafael Zaldivar, Alex’s father Friday.

This case has been in limbo for a decade and sent back and forth through the courts as it’s been central to the State of Florida’s Death Penalty Law.

“The State of Florida is going to miss him. He’s a great prosecutor. Criminals are happy that he is leaving no doubt because anyone he encounters, he usually ends on death row,” Zaldivar added.

After Ayala announced she was not seeking re-election in 2020, Williams decided to run for state attorney losing against now State Attorney Monique Worrell.

Though Williams was not available for an on-camera interview Friday, he told News 6 he is stepping down to spend more time with his family including his two kids — both 9 and 7 years old. His last day as a prosecutor with the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office is April 1.