Coming to grips with murder

November 18, 1998|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

MIDDLEWAY, W.Va. - Parishioners of Child's Road Church of God here, where Tara Widmyer taught a children's class, and co-workers at the law firm where she worked, tried to come to grips Tuesday with her death.

Widmyer, 25, was fatally wounded by shots fired through a window as she sat on the couch with a male companion in her Ranson, W.Va., duplex on Monday night, according to Ranson police.

A male companion, identified by police as Larry Miller, 32, also was shot. He was listed in serious condition Tuesday night at Fairfax (Va.) Hospital.

The shootings occurred the same night that windows were broken at the Child's Road Church of God, where Widmyer's father, the Rev. R. Earl Wilbourne, is pastor.


All 12 of the building's double-paned windows were broken when bricks were hurled through them Monday, parishioners said.

Police had not said Tuesday whether they believed the same person fired the shots and broke the windows.

Parishioners Sam Oliver and his wife, Mae, learned of the shootings and discovered the vandalism at the church when they arrived to clean Tuesday morning.

"We couldn't believe it. You'd never think something like this would happen," Oliver said.

He said he last saw Widmyer and Miller on Sunday during church services.

"They come here one Sunday and go to his (Miller's) church the next," he said.

Oliver said Widmyer taught "Children's Church," a class for youngsters ages 3 to 13, every Thursday night.

He described Widmyer, who had a young daughter from an earlier marriage, as a friendly woman who loved children.

For the past 3 1/2 years, Widmyer had worked as a legal secretary for the Martinsburg law firm Burke & Schultz.

Attorney Robert Burke said she was an excellent employee who was preparing for a paralegal certification test.

"She was quiet and sincere, honest and hard-working. She got along with everyone," he said.

Burke said Widmyer was shy at first but opened up with time.

He said he was shocked to hear of her death.

"She was a devoted mother and a hard worker. She did everything we asked," he said.

Rose Nesslerodt's great-granddaughter Kelsey Conner, 8, was a member of Widmyer's Thursday night Children's Church class.

Nesslerodt, who learned of Widmyer's death on Tuesday morning, said she wasn't sure how she would break the news to Kelsey.

"I didn't want to just tell her and then have her go to school. She'll be very upset," she said.

Child's Road parishioner John Fraley said his daughters Cathy Jo and Tamora Dawn Fraley were friends of Tara Widmyer.

"They're pretty broken up about it," he said.

Fraley said that Widmyer, who attended Jefferson High School with his daughters, was well-liked. He said she played on the school's basketball team and was a member of the band.

When they were students, "on the weekends she would come over and they would have slumber parties," he said.

Fraley said Widmyer will be missed by the 50 members of the church congregation, but said he feels she is now in a better place.

"The Lord called one of his angels home," he said.

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