SYLVA, N.C. (WJHL) – Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officers and others are searching for escaped inmate and accused child rapist Sean Williams, who was seen at a shopping center in Sylva Friday morning.

The FBI’s Charlotte, N.C. office posted on social media at 3:13 p.m. that the agency “confirmed an eyewitness saw Sean Christopher Williams around 11:30 this morning in the Jackson Plaza shopping area.”

‘If you see the fugitive, call 828-631-HELP’ (4357)

FBI release on escapee Sean Williams

According to a news release from the FBI’s Knoxville, Tenn. office, the FBI is currently searching for Williams along with the Jackson County, N.C. Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies.

A command post was set up in the parking lot of the Jackson Plaza shopping center but it was disbanded around 5:30 p.m.

News Channel 11 reached a Jackson County, N.C. 911 dispatcher, who said at 11:22 a.m. Friday a caller contacted them to say they thought they’d spotted Williams inside the Sylva city limits. Dispatchers routed that information to the Sylva Police Department.

“(Williams) is familiar with the area and should be considered dangerous,” the FBI news release says. “Law enforcement is asking the community of Sylva, North Carolina, to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings.”

Williams’ hair is grown out more than in the photo being circulated by the FBI shown in this story, the release said. Williams, who just turned 52, is five feet 11 inches tall and weighs 170 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes.

Several photos of Williams, including of tattoos on his left middle finger and left arm, are in this FBI link.

The release warns homeowners in the area to secure outbuildings and other property if possible and if they can do so safely.

Sylva is a town in Jackson County, not far from Cullowhee. Williams was arrested in April 2023 in Cullowhee after being wanted for nearly two years on felony ammunition charges.

Since that arrest, Williams, a former Johnson City businessman, has been indicted on federal charges of production of child pornography and state charges of child rape. He’s also charged federally with escape and attempted escape due to an alleged July escape attempt.

In Oct. 18, Williams escaped police custody while en route to a court hearing in Greeneville, Tenn. His escape prompted a search throughout the area, and the U.S. Marshals Service, TBI and other agencies have continued to search for him.

A combined reward of $7,500 for information leading to Williams’ arrest has been offered by the U.S. Marshals and TBI.

The TBI asks anyone who sees Williams or may have knowledge of his whereabouts to call 911 or 1-800-TBI-FIND.