W.Va. woman shot to death

November 17, 1998

Site of Ranson shootingBy DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

RANSON, W.Va. - Police were searching Tuesday for the person who fired shots through the window of a duplex on Sixth Avenue in Ranson on Monday night, killing a woman inside and wounding a man who was with her.

Police identified the dead woman as Tara Widmyer, 25.

Larry Miller, 32, of Charles Town, W.Va., was shot twice, police said. He was flown to Fairfax Hospital in Virginia, where he was listed in serious condition late Tuesday, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

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When police arrived at Widmyer's house at 107-B Sixth Ave. at about 11 p.m. Monday, they found Miller trying to crawl out the front door, said Ranson Police Chief William Roper. They found Widmyer dead in the living room, he said.


Roper said it appeared that Widmyer had been shot two or three times.

Police spent Tuesday scouring Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties in West Virginia, and Frederick County, Va., looking for the assailant.

Neighbors near the duplex behind a Dairy Queen on North Mildred Street said they heard what sounded like gunshots at the duplex Monday night.

When neighbor Ann McKee went outside to investigate, she saw a man lying in the doorway.

"I don't know why anyone would want to do it to them," said McKee.

Red splatter marks could be seen Tuesday morning on the patio near the front door, and the house was surrounded by yellow police tape.

While Ranson police were investigating the shooting Tuesday, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department was investigating vandalism at the Child's Road Church of God, where Widmyer's father, R. Earl Wilbourne, is pastor.

The sheriff's department shot a video tape of the vandalism, which involved broken windows. The tape showed a brick wrapped up in a window blind on one of the broken windows.

Church employees noticed the damage Tuesday morning and called police, said Lt. Kenneth Mills.

Roper said he did not know whether the two incidents were related.

Roper said he believed he knew the motive for the shooting but would not discuss it. He declined to provide information about the search for the assailant.

Widmyer's daughter from a marriage that ended in divorce was sleeping upstairs when the shots rang out and did not awaken, Roper said.

The child was with members of Widmyer's family on Tuesday, authorities said.

Wilbourne did not want to talk in depth about his daughter's death, but said his family moved to Charles Town, W.Va., when Tara was 6 years old.

She graduated from Jefferson High School and attended Hagerstown Business College so she could get a job in the legal field, he said.

She worked as a secretary for the Martinsburg, W.Va., law firm of Burke & Schultz.

Attorney Lawrence M. Schultz said the office staff was in shock over the death of Widmyer, who had worked at his law office on Edwin Miller Boulevard for about four years.

An industrious worker, Widmyer often took on tasks in the law office without being asked, said Schultz. She also was a dedicated mother, he said.

"She was one of the best employees we had here. Our staff is just devastated. And some of our clients as well will be devastated by this," said Schultz.

Roper said it appeared that Widmyer had been shot twice in the stomach and once in the leg. Miller was shot in the leg and upper torso, said Roper.

The two were on a sofa in the living room when they were shot, said Jefferson County Coroner William Miller.

Widmyer filed for divorce from William Trampus Widmyer in July 1996, according to court records. Tara Widmyer was awarded custody of the couple's daughter, and William Widmyer was granted visitation with the child on alternate weekends and holidays, according to court records.

As part of the divorce agreement, William Widmyer was ordered to pay debts to Vernon Widmyer and Earl Wilbourne, according to court records.

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