Curtis Williamson’s ex-wives and ex-girlfriend waited. They texted one another every day, trying to locate the man they say stole thousands of dollars from them.
But there was no trace of the man. Even social media and dating apps — the ones he used to connect with many of them — were quiet.
No one had heard from or seen Williamson for more than a month, since March 1, when he sped out of North Carolina in a white Mitsubishi.
The women, spread across three Eastern states, were not the only ones looking for Williamson. So was law enforcement. He is still wanted in three states — Maryland, West Virginia and North Carolina.
On April 5, the silence of Williamson’s whereabouts broke. The wives suspected he was in Hagerstown. The news spread quickly among the women.
Petrina Mattia, Williamson’s ex-girlfriend, contacted the police, but another former partner said he was gone before Petrina called.
Petrina was the last person to see Williamson. He lived with her for about three months. The two had talked about marriage, moving into a new home together. But the plans were put on hold when Petrina suspected Williamson was stealing money from her. Again.
The Middletown native was the last addition to a makeshift club of women whose lives have been on the other end of Williamson’s alleged crimes. There is Teresa Seilhamer, Williamson’s first wife. Then Monica Gabriel, his fourth, whom he declared dead twice. And Stephanie Furr, his fifth wife, whose relationship with Williamson resulted in her being arrested for a crime she did not commit.
The four women now work together.
“It feels like we have our own little detective, investigative department,” Stephanie said. “But it’s just from reaching out to everybody we can find who may know anything, and trying to stop him any way that we can.”
Stephanie and Monica met through the private investigator Stephanie’s aunt hired. The private investigator also found Teresa. They connected with Petrina because Petrina’s daughter, Tara Mattia, contacted them when she suspected something was off about Williamson.
After Mattia reached out, Petrina messaged the other women, she said.
“I haven’t stopped talking to them since that day,” Petrina said. “I talk to them several times a week.”
Petrina and Mattia have been working to share information about Williamson. First, they did it through Facebook posts. They included Williamson’s mug shot from his arrest in West Virginia and a picture of Petrina and him. The mother-and-daughter duo wrote about his current charges in West Virginia and North Carolina and what they say he did to Petrina. A post written by Mattia on March 3 about Williamson was shared 191 times.
The women have commented and shared the posts in an effort to share information about Williamson.
"We’re all part of this little club that we really didn’t want to be a part of," Petrina said.
Petrina, having connected with Williamson’s ex-wives, began reaching out to his former girlfriends, the second wife and potential third wife through Facebook, phone calls or text messages. Some women contacted her. She talked to about 20 people, she said.
Petrina and Mattia posted multiple times on social media, calling out Williamson by his aliases. The latest post was April 10. Williamson reported some of her posts about him to Facebook corporate, she said.
Petrina said she was glad her relationship was only three months long, that she managed to hold off his marriage proposal after talking with Teresa, Monica and Stephanie.
“Everything he did to me, he did to those other women,” she said.
She knew about some of the other wives during her relationship with Williamson. But Petrina’s relationship with him was different from his other relationships, in which he had lied about the number of wives or children he had. He mentioned only one child to her, not his three others.
Petrina found the wives through a background check. Williamson told her about Stephanie. But when she asked Williamson about his former relationships, he told her horrid things about his other wives. He called Stephanie a crook, a villain who was trying to take his child away.
“He had a story for everything that happened in his life,” Petrina said. “He would try to make you feel sorry for him because both of his parents are dead.”
Williamson was seemingly truthful enough in other parts of their relationship for her to believe his story — until she spoke with his former wives and partners.
“But then they would fill in the missing pieces, and I felt sick to my stomach that I had trusted him, that I had believed him for so long,” she said.
Petrina said she is still working to clean up the financial mess Williamson left behind, including her closed accounts. Williamson stole a watch from her, as well as approximately $3,000, she said.
She called police on March 1 to report credit card fraud to the Apex Police Department in North Carolina. She reported $2,589.78 stolen, according to the police report.
“I felt stupid for knowing that all the red flags were there, and I didn’t listen to myself,” Petrina said.
Stephanie moved to Florida after her marriage with Williamson was annulled.
Williamson fought her, legally, when she moved, as well as with the custody agreement. Stephanie has full custody of their son. Her son still has the last name Williams ― the fake name Williamson used when he dated and married Stephanie.
Stephanie is still working to "come back to life" after Williamson declared her dead to creditors. She was told by a creditor that Williamson needs to be convicted of a crime before some of the debts in her name can be forgiven.
Although Stephanie no longer faces any charges, she still had to go through the legal system.
That meant hiring a lawyer and a private investigator. She turned over pages of documents to them to show that she did not know Williamson was stealing from her grandmother.
For now, the West Virginia case against Williamson is halted. The prosecutor in the case said he may take it to a grand jury, but until authorities know Williamson is back in the state, they cannot move forward with a trial.
Stephanie’s credit is in bad shape. She used to work for a company that contracted with the Department of Homeland Security. She said she likely could not get a security clearance if she ever wanted to work in a similar role. She cannot get a loan. She cannot buy a house.
“My entire life is pretty much on hold,” she said.
It frustrates Stephanie to see everything she had to go through while Williamson appears to skate by, she said.
“Until he goes to trial and whatever is determined, it’s like I’m still a prisoner, because I can’t move forward,” Stephanie said. “And that’s the really difficult part. He is living life and taking advantage of people like nothing ever happened, and I’m struggling to get my life back, little pieces at a time.”
Stephanie said she calls herself a survivor.
“I refuse to call myself a victim because, in my mind, the minute I acknowledge being a victim, he has won,” she said in an email.
Stephanie met Teresa in person after connecting with her through the private investigators Stephanie and her aunt hired.
There’s a bond between the women, Teresa said.
“Everyone hopes he’s going to get caught,” she said.
Neither Teresa nor her son have had contact with Williamson in years, she said. He did not attend their son’s high school graduation or wedding.
Williamson has been a liar his whole life, she said, and hearing the lies he told the women, like that their son was his nephew, makes her despise Williamson more. He never stole from her or declared her dead like the other women. Teresa said she does not think he was trying to use their marriage to financially better himself.
He was not smart enough back then, she said, nor did he seem ambitious.
“He learned over time, I think, unfortunately for the other girls,” Teresa said.
Williamson left Monica with financial and emotional difficulties. She still has trust issues from her marriage to Williamson. And like many of the women who crossed paths with the man, Monica is still in the middle of legal battles.
He owes her nearly $100,000 in alimony that she likely will never see. Despite a divorce in 2012, she still has to attend hearings related to the proceedings, as recently as December 2018.
Her protective order against Williamson expired. She had gotten it during their marriage after Williamson repeatedly abused her, including strangulation, she said.
Unless there is a current threat of danger, protection orders cannot be extended, and Monica has not seen Williamson in years. But she still carries the order with her. She’s worried Williamson might still try to harm her, and if he does, at least she’ll have evidence of past abuse, she said.
The safest she has ever felt was when Williamson was in jail, she said.
And while she was able to return from the dead in the eyes of the government and several banks, she still has to carry documents, such as her birth certificate, with her, in case she goes to the bank or opens up an account and is still listed as dead.
The Social Security Administration offered her the chance to get a new Social Security number, she said, but it would be a hassle to have to change it on every W-2 or other form she has ever filed in the past.
But her Social Security number is printed on documents spread across multiple states. Stephanie and her aunt have it because they found it among the documents Williamson left behind. Williamson has it.
“I almost feel like my Social Security number could be tattooed on my head,” Monica said.
Williamson’s alleged crimes linked the women. Williamson has a playbook for each of his relationships, the women said, from the urgency to get married to the financial control he offered once they wed. He set up his next girlfriends while married. He contacted Stephanie while he was married to Monica. He began looking for Petrina around the same time, Petrina said.
Then there are the similarities in the different cases. With both Monica and Stephanie, he said at the last minute that the preacher could not marry them, so both marriages happened in Virginia instead of their planned locations. Not all Virginia counties require divorce documentation for marriage licenses.
And then there are the restaurants.
Monica, Stephanie and Petrina all spoke about eating out with Williamson. He never paid. He would complain at every restaurant there was something wrong with the food: There was hair in it, or it was undercooked. The meal was always compensated, sometimes with gift cards thrown in. Then he’d write to corporate, Petrina said.
“It wasn’t a big scene,” she said. “He’d just call them over and say, ‘There’s hair in my food.’ And he was polite about it, extremely polite about it.”
People did not like going out to eat with him because of his complaining.
He is banned by some Outback steakhouses in Maryland because he did it so often, Monica said.
Monica told Mattia about the restaurant scheme Williamson had when they talked. Mattia said she realized that is what he was doing with her mother.
For Petrina, eating out with Williamson isolated her from her family. Her kitchen was being redone when the two met, so she was eating meals out or at her parents' home. Before Williamson moved into her house, she had meals with her parents once a week.
But Williamson said he did not like eating at her parents’ house and did not want it to be a weekly thing.
“Which causes issues for me because I love my parents to death and I want to spend as much time with them as I can because they’re getting older,” she said.
The fraudulent marriages that drained their bank accounts, as well as Williamson’s patterns, brought the women together.
And they all want to know why Williamson was not stopped.
Why did it not stop when Monica went to the police and the district court commissioner’s office seven years ago? If law enforcement had listened, maybe Williamson would not have been able to get to Stephanie, and later Petrina, Monica said.
“But if they listened to me and done something in 2012, he would now not have done it to other people,” Monica said.
For Stephanie, if he had not been released from jail, maybe he would not have been able to find Petrina, Stephanie said.
“That’s where I don’t understand,” she said. “How many police reports have to be filed? How many times does he have to get arrested before they finally say, ‘Let’s keep him until he has to pay’ or at least go to trial?”
She is frustrated, she said. She does not understand what the authorities are doing, why there is no rush to find this man before he finds a new woman. Despite the documented abuse. Despite the criminal charges. Despite the outstanding warrants.
When Monica looks at what he did to Petrina, she sees him moving quicker through his playbook. This scares her.
“He kind of has almost perfected his game,” Monica said. “And he's cycling faster.”
That is a shared fear, the women said. They suspect he is looking for another woman, that he will strike again. He has his habit. He has his playbook. They feel they have to warn other women.
Because, if the past is any indication, the criminal system will not stop Williamson.
The women feel it is up to them to bring him to justice.
They don’t want another member of their club.
Staff writer Wyatt Massey contributed to the reporting of this article.